Source: The Washington Post
SOUDERTON, Pa. — She stepped into the pitch-dark room, illuminated only by eerie flames, as the sound of moans and shrieks rose over the ominous music. A hooded figure, dressed in black, leapt from the darkness to hiss in her ear.
Shadeilyz Castro burst into tears.
When the shaken 10-year-old left the room, clinging to her aunt, she was not talking about witches or goblins — she was talking about the Bible. “I have to read it more,” Shadeilyz said. “With my brother. I have to talk to him. He doesn’t read it much.”
A Halloween-time feature at evangelical churches all over the country, Judgement House aims to spook visitors as other haunted houses do during this time of year. But Judgement House aims to scare people for the sake of heaven.
The walk-through drama varies from church to church, but it always starts with a death. And then after death, visitors to Judgement House walk through the options: heaven for those who believed in Jesus Christ in their lifetimes and an up-close and terrifying hell for everyone else.
Here at Immanuel Leidy’s Church in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Judgement House has been a great success as a form of evangelism: 61 people raised their hands at the end of the tour last year to say they wanted to commit themselves to Jesus for the first time.
More than a hundred church volunteers, in this congregation of about 500 teen and adult members, are back at work this year, putting on show after show in the hope of saving souls.
“Hell, which we believe is a real place — that’s a scary reality. At this time of year, when people are talking about scary things, I’m presenting something that is real,” said Andrew Edmonds, the church’s youth pastor. “We can give people a sense of what it’s like and use it, really, to warn them.”
Judgement House is not anti-Halloween, per se. Some attendees — such as Shadeilyz’s aunt Dianhery Castro, who brought her niece and her 13-year-old son from Allentown to go through Judgement House — say they will not celebrate Halloween, because they think its celebration of all things otherworldly does not jibe with their religious beliefs. But others are fine with going to Judgement House one night and a more typical ghosts-and-goblins haunted hayride the next.