From October 12, 2014, “The Harrowing of Hell House”
As the Christian Nightmares blog reminds us, it’s that time of year again. October means Halloweeen — trick-or-treating, haunted hay rides, and — at places with names like “Greater Works Deliverance Ministries” — it means Hell Houses.
Hell Houses are an irredeemably bad idea — a combination of the very worst forms of evangelism with the very worst forms of community theater. The only thing worse than their warped soteriology and eschatology is their stunted, politicized, culturally shaped notion of what constitutes human sin.
Or maybe the writing and acting.
They’re so very awful — and, ultimately, cruel — that some might be tempted to respond by, perhaps, Creating a Scene.
DISCLAIMER: I do not, of course, advocate interrupting, disrupting or otherwise interfering with any actual Hell House production. That would be uncivil and even, potentially, a misdemeanor. So the following suggestions are just a joke. No one should actually do any of these. Certainly, definitely, absolutely, probably not.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
SCENE No. 1: If not for you meddling kids.
Cast size: 4
Props required: purple dress, bulky rust-colored turtleneck, large-framed eyeglasses, chartreuse V-neck, cravat. (Optional: Groovy van, Great Dane).
Attend Hell House event dressed as Velma Dinkley, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, Fred Jones, and Daphne Blake.
When the first demonic characters appear, Velma loses her glasses and stumbles, blindly into the performance space. After she blunders into the “demons,” Fred and Daphne step forward to unmask them, after which Shaggy says, “Zoinks! It’s the youth pastor!”
SCENE No. 2: The Hell House in the Woods.
Cast size: 3-5.
Props required: Short-sleeve white dress shirts, unfashionable ties, pocket-protectors, ID badges, clipboards, lab coat, sweater vest (for optional Roger the Intern).
Attend Hell House event dressed as Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins and Amy Acker’s characters from The Cabin in the Woods. Pretend to be orchestrating the demonic characters of the Hell House and the torment of the teenagers playing humans in the cast, but maintain a business-like, corporate attitude. Calmly explain to other attendees that the torments of Hell may seem cruel and unpleasant, but that we must placate the ancient ones and its the task of these sinners to be offered up to them.
SCENE No. 3: Who you gonna call?
Cast size: 4
Props required: Matching gray jumpsuits, proton packs, high-tech-looking goggles, four large trenchcoats (to hide the jumpsuits and proton packs), smart phone, speaker, Jackie Wilson/Rita Coolidge mp3.
Attend Hell House dressed as the Ghostbusters. At the first appearance of demonic characters, whip out the proton packs and start firing. As you are escorted off the premises, hit play on “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and sing along, enthusiastically, on the way out.
Cautionary reminders: Don’t cross the streams. And if anyone asks you if you’re a god, say yes.
SCENE No. 4: He descended into Hell …
Cast size: 1-12
Props required: White robe, beard, sandals, shepherd’s crook, stigmata. Bathrobe/sandal/beard costumes for assorted patriarchs and prophets (see Acts 7, Hebrews 11 for casting suggestions).
Arrive dressed as Jesus of Nazareth. At the first mention of Hell, shout “Come with me if you want to live” and begin escorting the dead from the Underworld and into Paradise (outside). The gates of Hell House will not prevail against you.