Flames flicker on a screen over the stage and the crackling and
popping of fire is heard over the speakers. Suddenly, pain-wrenched
screams of horror begin to echo eerily around the room.
This scene from the play “Hell House,” is designed to put
viewers in the lap of hell. To give them a taste of what awaits if
they turn away from God.
Other scenes depict a gay marriage, a rave club, a teen suicide
and the effects of abortion.
For the eighth year in a row “Hell House,” is being presented in
Colorado in an effort to reach young audiences with the word of
The event, which in previous years was a haunted tour of small
skits, is sponsored jointly by two Colorado Christian churches,
Destiny Church and Vision Fellowship, This year, due to space
constraints the format was changed and “Hell House” is now
presented as a 90-minute play.
“‘Hell House’ allows us to communicate the message of the gospel
in a really creative way,” said Keenan Roberts, pastor of Destiny
Church and founder of “Hell House.” “We can speak to some very
contemporary issues. This gives us an effective vehicle to do what
the church is supposed to do – give people an idea of the
difference between life and death, heaven and hell.”
As he spoke Roberts adjusted the ghoul mask that covered his
face. The play is narrated by two of Satan’s underlings in ghoul
costume, one of which is played by Roberts.
These ghouls follow the characters throughout each scene,
commenting on the naivety and egotism of the humans that they are
They laugh gleefully and make encouraging comments as a young
man contemplates and then commits suicide. They make jokes while
they watch a young man twitch and convulse on the ground after
taking drugs at a rave.
The two ghouls provide a running commentary about the choices
that human beings make which lead them away from God, saying that
desires create sin, and sin leads to hell.
The creators of “Hell House” have received a large amount of
criticism for their work over the years and even eight years later
are still subject to protesters. However, Roberts said that he
believes this is an effective way to relay his religious
“The message is what is sacred, not the method,” he said. “The
church today needs to be more progressive, and look for what works
In the eight years that “Hell House” has been running Roberts
said that over 45,000 people have come to see it, a large number of
Josh Miller, a youth volunteer at The Cross Ministry attended
the presentation with the youth group he works with.
“We wanted them to see the differing opinions that are out
there,” Miller said. “(‘Hell House’) has a shock value that wears
off quickly, but today’s youth need so much stimulation that this
is one way to reach them.”
Roberts said that reaching people is his main goal with Hell
“Through “Hell House” I can reach the world with what the Bible
has to say,” he said. “People come here that don’t go to
And Roberts reported that about one in four people who view
“Hell House” either make a first-time commitment or a recommitment
to Christianity, as indicated through a survey filled out at the
end of the presentation.
Those involved with “Hell House” are proud of their work and
brush off comments that the message they present is hateful, too
graphic or a cheap scare tactic.
“We just show what is out there,” said Josh Purcelli, who
represented the character of “Sin” in the play and has been with
the program for six years. “We don’t candy coat things. These
things really happen.”
One particularly controversial scene is that of the gay wedding,
which depicts the wedding, consummation and eventual death,
presumably by AIDS, of the gay couple.
“So many people are hateful in the way that they talk about
homosexuality that we are almost guilty by association,” Roberts
said. “They don’t like what I am saying so it is automatically
hateful. Just because I don’t bend to the pressure and give in to
our critics that doesn’t mean that this is judgmental or
The play does have a positive message however. After going
through scene after scene of the sinful things people do, the
finale is a scene of heaven in which Jesus tells everyone in the
audience that there is still hope for them.