I love me some #HellHouse!
A number of years ago, during the Halloween season, I went with a friend and his friend to something called Heaven and Hell. In reading about it beforehand, I was intrigued by a haunted house depicting Hell. Maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for Christian (and Jewish) mythology, but it sounded cool.
My friend, his friend, and I stood in line outside (I think) the Hollywood museum in downtown Hollywood for what seemed like over an hour. When they finally let us in, this old man in a track suite told us he was our guide.
First red flag.
Why the fuck would we need a guide to a haunted house? He said some stuff about what we were about to see. I don’t remember any of it. I was still taken aback by the fact that we had a guide.
One of the first rooms we entered, I remember some teenage girls were dressed up as… criminals? I don’t know. They had some sort of the usual blood dripping makeup and perhaps some that was meant to look like scars. Unlike most haunted house monsters who don’t usually have any discernible lines, these girls were talking about drugs and sin.
Second red flag.
Again, I was mostly baffled by the fact that the “monsters” had lines at all, let alone the content of those lines. We kept going.
At some point, we reached a room that had Satan and some other bullshit in it. It was pretty clear what was going on here. It was then that my friend and I, though not necessarily his friend, decided to enjoy this ironically. Might as well, right?
I don’t remember what was being depicted near my friend’s breaking point. I think the various actors were talking about Hell. I asked how they knew what Hell was like.
“Faith!” one of them shouted out. I was about to retort, how did he know that his “faith” was testable, reproducible evidence of his claim? Before I had a chance, my friend was in our guide’s face. He was getting empassioned. I can’t blame him, though I did want to see this thing through to the end.
“What about the victims of 9/11?!” my friend shouted. He was essentially making the point that God has no justice when He lets innocent people die of horrible things for no reason. I won’t get into the apologetics of that. For his part, our guide seemed completely baffled. He offered some rationalization that I don’t remember. He seemed sincerely concerned at my friend’s ire. He seemed sincerely not to understand why my friend was angry. I’d go so far as to say that our guide sincerely thought that if we simply accepted what he was saying based soely on his sincerity, we would see the truth, etc.
My friend would have none of it.
“Where’s the fucking exit?!” he demanded. I still wanted to stay, but I could see my friend was beyond furious. Our guide, still baffled, pointed us to the nearest exit. We left.
I apologized for the experience explaining that I’d really thought that it was just a haunted house that depicted Hell. I’d had no idea that it was some weird proselytizing exercise. Though at this point, I felt like it was kind of obvious.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered that this style of “haunted house” was actually known as a “Hell House.” Following is what The Young Turks have to say about a recent one.
Ever since I’ve known about this phenomenon, I’ve wanted to go again. I really want to shoot it on my phone, talk to the organizers afterwards, and cut it into a video. I want more people to see what these things are like. I also, as with my conversations with theists, want organizers of these events to take responsibility for what they’re doing. I looked and looked this year in LA, but found no Hell Houses.
Maybe next year.