Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hell House

Many Americans celebrate Halloween by visiting haunted houses, and Houston resident Linda Ybarra is no different. She purchased tickets for herself and her fourteen year-old son to attend a haunted house in Pasadena, Texas called “Hell House.” It was located in a strip mall, and like most haunted houses, the flyer warns patrons that it may be too frightening for children and that no one under the age of thirteen is permitted without an adult.
Linda and her son entered expecting the usual fare of chainsaw wielding mental patients, growling zombies, and lurking vampires, but they were confronted by something totally unexpected. They witnessed a graphic re-enactment of an abortion. Nurses and doctors stood around a pregnant young “patient” removing blood and fetal tissue from her stomach before tossing it on the floor. Another station depicts a rebellious teenage son, who commits suicide.

Linda quickly realized that abortions and teenage suicide was not the kind of “fright” she or her son needed, so she asked to leave without completing the rest of the haunted house. Employees, citing safety concerns, told her that no one was allowed to leave in the middle of the tour. After a few more scenes of domestic abuse and general human misery, the pair was led into a room where they were encouraged so save their souls by accepting Jesus. After leaving, Linda was angry enough to take her complaint public, accusing the “haunted house” of misrepresenting itself.

It turns out that the haunted house was operated by Potters House Christian Fellowship Church and, according to Pastor Lamont Melrose, the production saves dozens of young souls each night. He acknowledges that many people enter the haunted house expecting to be confronted by ghouls and ghosts, but insists that nothing is more frightening than real life situations. He also reminds critics that the sign has a disclaimer so he does not feel that Linda made her decision uninformed.

This is an interesting situation. I can certainly understand the mother’s consternation because most people do not buy tickets to haunted houses so that they can have unexpected conversations with their impressionable children about hot-button political issues. I would rather tackle “Will you protect me from the scary ghosts?” from my twelve year-old daughter than “What are the moral and spiritual implications of legalizing late-term abortions in our country?” Also, the sign could have been slightly more informative than “intense” and “frightening.” Adjectives like that could be applied to everything from a colonoscopy to cooking third shift at a Waffle House in Alabama. Maybe something like, “If you are not mentally, emotionally, or spiritually prepared to discuss highly divisive moral/political issues with your offspring, you might want to consider a Michael Bay film instead.”    

To be fair though, the pastor has a point as well. If people simply want to be frightened, there is nothing scarier than real life. Personally, I do not think he took it far enough. Where was the ethnic cleansing booth? The prison rape exhibit? The Jonas Brothers movie? If someone wanted to present me with a frightening real-life scenario they could just say, “out-of-network hospital charges.” I cannot wait for next year’s stem-cell passion play. Maybe there will even be a euthanasia audience participation segment where the kids get to unplug grandpa’s respirator when he’s just too tired to keep fighting.     

The congregation did go to great lengths to hide the religious angle of the project by not having it at a church or having their name associated with it. I am sure this was to lure in outsiders who would not normally have agreed to submit themselves to (or bought tickets for) an alter call. I assume this deception was internally justified by the end result of bringing souls to Christ, but I wonder how deep conversions based on this technique really go. It is difficult for me to envision a believer beginning their testimony with the words, “And I knew Jesus loved me the moment someone tossed a plastic fetus at me in that strip mall in Texas.”   


  1. I think from what I am gathering from this that I disagree with you as it seems like you are against the Church using a haunted house to spread the word of God or at least spread awareness of sin. I also disagree with the fact that as you say to make a political point with it as I feel that this would have been an issue regardless of politics. I give you the example if back in the 60's I started calling you gay and just kept on doing it now is it politically incorrect because politics have perverted it? In fact I am glad to hear of anyone doing anything like this to spread the awareness of the immorality which is spreading through our country and is safely protected under the guise of political correctness. I find it refreshing just because it means that maybe Bin Laden wasn't completely right when he said we are an amoral people. Good article anyhow can't wait till the next one.

  2. Exceptional MediocrityNovember 3, 2011 at 8:56 AM


    Whether charging admission for people to witness a simulated abortion in a strip mall is "spreading the word of God" is a matter of opinion. I think that abortion, suicide, and domestic abuse are all important issues to discuss with your children, but in this case the parent was somewhat blindsided. Even among Christians the "exhibits" could have been interpreted differently. For instance, if your child was to ask what happens to a person's soul if they commit suicide your answer could vary depending on if you are Catholic or Baptist.

    Playing devil's advocate I wonder how the public would have reacted if the haunted house was sponsored by a local mosque and the exhibits were designed to frighten people into accepting Islam and rejecting Western Christianity.....

    At any rate, thanks for the feedback and for bothering to read anything that I post.

  3. LOL no problem Brian your stuff is great. And one supporting Islam is actually a great idea because it could be both funny and serious. Like have people dining at a Barbecue shack and a suicide bomber walks in and blows them all up and all the people who where eating pork wake up in the Islamic version of hell.
    On a side note for another one of your research projects if you take suggestions how about a report on how the laws currently discourage the family? Research shouldn't be hard for it I mean you have the lower tax rates for unmarried people once they reach an income where they actually pay in(ex. the max rate of 200k for single or 250 for married). Or the fact that they make it hard to get grants or financial aid for stuff like school because you are responsible enough to get married before you start popping out children so your (family income) is higher. Just an idea if you are running short.

  4. Good stuff Brian, good stuff!


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