The National Catholic Review

Grisly haunted houses aren't my thing, but perhaps even more disturbing is the uniquely fundamentalist Christian creation of Hell House, an attraction that has been described as a modern day fire and brimstone sermon. Brian Kirk at Patheos describes it:

Instead of vampires and werewolves, guests are treated to scenes such as a young girl having an abortion, a gay man suffering from AIDS, a teen dying in an auto accident who failed to give his life to Christ. In each scenario, these presumed sinners are tormented by actors dressed as demons. The implication, none too subtle, is that each deserves both their suffering and their one-way ticket to damnation. The gay man, molested by his uncle as a child, chose to have sex and contract HIV. The teen girl chose to get drugged at a rave, raped, and become pregnant. The boy in the car wreck chose hell because he refused to listen to his parents' religious teachings. The message of these hell houses is that the same fate awaits us all. But wait! There's hope. These terror tours usually end with a glimpse of heaven and the opportunity to give one's life to Jesus. 

Read more about the Hell House here, watch the trailer of a documentary exploring the attraction here, and listen to a 2002 NPR interview about the subject here.

Don't expect Hell Houses to catch on in Catholic circles anytime soon. This month's cover story in US Catholic focuses on the Church's shift in emphasis away from punishment and towards salvation (read it here).

Comments

Marie Rehbein | 11/1/2011 - 7:55pm
Maybe seeing the haunted houses is more upsetting than reading about them, but it seems to me that the lessons are all good in that it sounds like it is made clear that free will is operational in all these hellish situations.  If it causes people to realize they are free to do the right thing despite their circumstances and that they can stick to these decisions with the help of God, then there is nothing with which one can disagree. 
C Walter Mattingly | 11/1/2011 - 11:22am
Beth, 
No doubt the morality plays presented here are extreme, but there is little doubt that the young person dying from AIDS is likely fearful and certainly suffering, nor is there much doubt that we all have or shall suffer in our lives and that as Christians we will look to the cross for our hope.
Your final sentence, "Thank God there is the Word of God to bring us out of this darkness," however, seems to me to be in total accord with the message of the dramas presented. 
Molly Roach | 10/31/2011 - 12:08pm
There is no understanding of mercy reflected in such a haunted house and the exhibitions reflect the obsessions of the creators rather than the promises of Christ.  Just another way to give God a bad name.
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/31/2011 - 5:06am
This article is sad.
It speaks of the sick spirituality that haunts our souls, the way that we project onto God our own fear, hatred, violence.

Thank God there is the Word of God to bring us out of this darkness.