By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
With all its exaggeration and insensibility, this scene might easily supply the opening for a brilliant drag routine. Chrissy could sit up and launch into Ray Price's "I've Gotta Have My Baby Back" while the nurses do the Necronomicon, but no such comic relief is afforded Hell Housepatrons. The vignette stretches well beyond comfort. The blood flows. Chrissy screams for her lost child as our demon host pulls a tiny bloody foot out of a stainless-steel bowl. Involuntary gasps and shudders run through my group. Our guide draws us on to other scenes: a classroom, where D&D and MTG-playing loners open fire; a gay marriage, officiated by devils; a hospital bed where AIDS patients are literally swallowed up by hell; an Internet café where readers of The Onionmock evangelicals and parody Jesus for the sake of their blogs; and finally, a dark, narrow passage filled with shrieking and mutilated hell dwellers. Some of them cling to shriveled babies, bottles of booze, and water bongs while their wounds ooze; others sing show tunes or pray to Allah. All of them reach desperately for the faces of the passersby.
At last we are offered salvation.
Instead of a prayer room, as suggested in Pastor Roberts's hell house kits, Les Freres Corbusier invites us to sing along with a Christian-rock band while the smiling faithful offer us Kool-Aid and cookies under a neon crucifix. The room is cool, white, and airy, a relief from the claustrophobia of the hell house. But somehow this proves to be the creepiest room of all.
"It would be OK if it wasn't real," says Tania Lamb. "But people believe in that. It's scary shit. Not like a haunted house. But really scary. I wouldn't bring my mother, you know, even for Halloween."