Judgment Houses and Hell Houses are considered by some churches to be “evangelistic tools” combating traditional Halloween haunted houses.
“[Hell] is the ultimate haunted house, which is where [visitors] will spend eternity if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior,” read the Calvary Baptist Church Web site in Clearwater, Fla. “Judgement House (TM) is an extremely effective way to bring people to Jesus because it clearly presents the gospel to those who attend.”
Hell Houses, slightly different from Judgment Houses, depict violence and wrath inflicted by God on those who have committed “sins” such as abortion or homosexuality, according to an October 1996 article in Christianity Today.
Hell Houses depict more violence than Judgment Houses do.
The Hell House Outreach (TM) kit manual designed by Keenan Roberts in 1992 advises the church production team to “purchase a meat product that closely resembles pieces of a baby” and place the meat in a glass bowl during the abortion scene.
“While these haunted-house tours generally end with a visit to heaven, they are, in the main, hell-descending journeys intended to scare visitors–especially the young adults they target–onto the path of righteousness,” wrote Karen Roebuck in a 1998 U.S. News article.
While the churches that use Judgment and Hell Houses boast of large numbers of Christian converts, both have been criticized as poor evangelical tools.
“It’s simplistic theology,” said Russell Baker, associate pastor of Arvada United Methodist Church in the U.S. News article.
Others have voiced concern about the psychological tactics used in the productions.
“After I saw two children praying through tears at the end of a performance, I realized just how powerful the fear tactics used by Judgment Houses really are,” wrote Adam Butler after visiting Westwood Baptist Church’s Judgment House in Birmingham, Ala. “The mentality of churches to produce such an atrocity is simple–scare children early in their lives and they’ll fear it until the day they die.”
Sarah Griffith is BCE’s communications coordinator.