No, really, here’s the Facebook announcement from producer Tyrone Tappler.
Advertised as a "Christian interactive experience," the company asked on Facebook last August for volunteers to perform as the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in hell. Other scenarios showed a botched abortion and the Charleston church shooting in 2015.
Fernwood Elementary School in Chicago planned to host the haunted house until an anonymous source learned of the inclusion of the Pulse massacre in June, where 49 victims were killed by Omar Mateen: "I went in for some dinner, and promptly lost my appetite when I saw that."
A spokesman for Chicago public schools reported that the event was "mischaracterized" by the event organizers. Though the elementary school cancelled this event, this was not some crazy one-time instance from a few fringe extremists.
The idea spread at Liberty University under the leadership of televangelist Jerry Falwell. "We want people to be entertained, but at the same time let them know that we're all mortal and there's an afterlife to consider," says Steve Vandegriff, a teacher at Liberty University's divinity school, of the Southern Baptist college's annual Scaremare.
The attraction's website boasts, "Ironically, this House of Death points to the Way of Life!" More than 28,000 people traversed the rooms full of sexually-active, alcohol addicted, or gay and lesbian teenagers chained within torture chambers.
Not all hell houses are equal. A particularly rough church in Denver sells a do-it-yourself package where you - yes, you! - can depict gay couples being married, but then dying of AIDs "as demon imps swarm into the hospital room." (All for the low price of $45.)
The Trinity Church hell house in Cedar Hill, Texas held its 26th annual event this year., and this Vice article details one writer's experience volunteering there. When one kid has a panic attack and can't breathe, the proud preacher directs him to lead the kid to the prayer room. He brags, "You're going to have adults doing the same thing. We had seven adults come out of the coffin room last night."
In the coffin room, kids and adults are stuffed into a tight, pitch-black coffin, where demons pound the sides and shriek.
"We had to take them all down to the decision room," continued the pastor. The decision room is the final room, where if kids do not "choose" to accept Jesus immediately and in writing, they are told that they will not be allowed to leave the hell house.
After all, that's the eternity waiting for them.
A hell house came to my town during high school, and my school offered extra credit for attendance. Thankfully, my parents discouraged it. The trauma would've been irreversible.
Remember, these are minors. If parents force them to go, or send them off with the youth group on what seems like just a wholesome Sunday night activity, they have no way to opt out.
The Vice reporter described small children sobbing and clinging to their parents.
Just knowing that Christians enact this kind of abuse on children makes me sick. Honestly, I wish I could burn down every hell house. But all we can do is spread awareness and hope that if enough prominent Christians learn about it, there will be an outcry to make it stop.