Beware of Evangelical Haunted Houses

halloween

I grew up in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches that believed Halloween was a Satanic holiday. I heard my pastors tell countless stories about the evils of Halloween. This was in the days when Mike Warnke traveled the land passing himself off as a former Satanist. In 1972, Warnke wrote a bestselling book titled, The Satan Seller. Warnke’s writing would lay the groundwork for later writers such as Lauren Stratford (Laurel Wilson), who wrote Satan’s Underground, and Johanna Michaelsen, who wrote The Beautiful Side of Evil. These three authors, along with radio shock-jock Bob Larson, helped fuel the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. While their shticks varied, one thing they all had in common — well, besides being exposed as frauds — is their opposition to Halloween.

Many Evangelical churches believe it is important to replace evil things with good things. (Please see The Evangelical Replacement Doctrine and The Replacement Doctrine: How Evangelicals Attempt to Co-opt the “World”) In their minds, Christianity shouldn’t be all about what Christians can’t do or what they are against. As a teenager, I saw this put into practice at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Instead of having Halloween parties or letting families decide for themselves whether Halloween was evil, the church-sponsored replacement events focused on fall or harvest. I really don’t remember much about these parties, but two highlights come to mind. One year, the event was held in the country, complete with a hayride, apple-bobbing, and trying to make-out without being caught by the youth director. Several of us decided to wrap the youth director’s car with crepe paper. Cool right? Well, he didn’t take his car home that night. The automobile sat all night, and come morning, a heavy dew caused the color to leach out of the paper, ruining the car’s paint job. To this day, they are looking for the boys who committed this vandalous act. By God, I will take their names to my grave! I’m no snitch. Another year, the church held a fall event in the church’s annex. The highlight of the night was a blindfolded trip through what was billed as Joe’s Body. We were led down lines that displayed various things that were meant to represent the various parts of Joe’s body. It was quite gross, more funny than scary.

Having come of age in an anti-Halloween environment, I refused to let my children practice Halloween – a fact which should surprise none of my readers. Not one of my six children went trick-or-treating — ever. Every year, I would remind congregants about the evils of Halloween, and every year, without fail, church members would quietly and secretly ignore my admonitions. Unlike the pastors of my youth, I wasn’t a big proponent of replacing worldly things with Christianized versions. I took the approach that Christians were called by God to holiness; that we had a duty to stand against Satan and the world, even if it meant we did without.

chick tract halloween

Jack Chick Tract on Halloween

Some Evangelical churches have decided to reclaim Halloween for Jesus. Instead of preaching against Halloween, these churches and pastors repurpose the holiday, sponsoring hell houses, haunted houses, and other “scary” events. Some of the events have turned into huge money makers for their sponsors. On such church is Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas. Trinity describes Hell House this way:

Hell House was first opened in October of 1991 and is a creative alternative to the traditional haunted house. It is a theatrical dramatization of real life situations. Each year over 10,000 [at $13 a pop] people walk through its doors with an ambiguous expectation.

With Hell House now entering its 29th year, we attempt to keep that ambiguity going by offering new, fresh, in-your-face scenes and ideas. This year there are 11 scenes, with the walk-through taking an estimated 45 minutes (not including waiting in line). The maze-like walk will take your group through the scenes. Each scene will give you a look into the real life “hellish” issues that some deal with everyday.

Hell House is not meant for children under the age of 13. There are guns, blood, violence, intense scenes, and disturbing images.

What this blurb doesn’t say is that Trinity uses their Hell House as a means to evangelize teenagers and adults. Scare attendees, cause them to be fearful, and then swoop in and tell them that the answer to their fears is THE GREAT PUMPKIN — also known as Jesus.  As the following one-minute videos show, Hell House is all about evangelizing impressionable, vulnerable teenagers.

Video

Video

Evangelical-operated haunted houses and similar events exist for one purpose alone: to manipulate teenagers into making a decision to ask Jesus to save them. I have long argued that Evangelical churches and pastors almost always have ulterior motives; that their friendly smiles and benign “ministries” are just pretexts for what they really want: conversion and addition to membership. It’s all about the numbers. These preachers know that more asses in the seats equals more Benjamins in the offering plates. Rare is the Evangelical pastor or church that does something with no expectation of return — either by adding to their membership or improving their image in the community.

It is for these reasons that people should avoid Evangelical-sponsored Halloween events, even if the activities seem innocuous in nature. Most communities hold safe, fun secular Halloween activities. Why not support them, instead? Let’s not let Evangelicals steal yet another holiday! My God (Loki), they stole Christmas from Santa and Easter from the Easter Bunny, turning them into holidays about a virgin-born baby, his death 33 years later, and his resurrection from the dead.  Don’t let them do this to Halloween! Keep the witches in Halloween!

Other posts about Halloween

Halloween: Ten Reasons Why People Should Never, Ever Carve Pumpkins or Wear Costumes

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Eleven Reasons Why Celebrating Halloween is a Sin

Annual PSA Concerning Halloween and its Satanic Origins

Halloween is a Satanic Holiday

Fundamentalist Pastor C.H. Fisher Dishes Out the Truth About “Helliween”

Happy Halloween! by ObstacleChick

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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11 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    I was fortunate to be a child in the 70s and early 80s when the church we attended still celebrated Halloween for kids, complete with costume parties and a haunted house (the older teens and some of the adults created it, and it terrified young ObstacleChick). Sometime later in the 80s that changed, and some of the adults started saying that Halloween is Satanic and we shouldn’t celebrate it. I see from the social media of people who still attend my old church that they have some sort of harvest festival where kids can dress up and do trunk or treat, and there are carnival games and such.

    It must be hard being a Christian where you’re scared of everything being Satanic. I am looking forward to dressing up as Wonder Woman tomorrow, no demons required.

    Reply
  2. Brunetto Latini

    When I was a kid, we had a haunted house in the church basement. One Sunday school room had a coffin with a vampire inside. As we filed past, I made some flip remark about him looking fake. And so he started hissing and rising up, and I knocked over several rows of folding chairs running to the door screaming. It still embarrasses me when I remember it.

    Reply
  3. Steve Ruis

    Wait, Christianity doesn’t approve of ghosts? WTF? I can distinctly remember singing the praises as a child in church of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” so what happened? Was there a hostile takeover and the ghost was ousted from the Trinity?

    Reply
  4. TW

    Sadly, like Bruce, in my time as a youth pastor, I preached against Halloween and it’s “evils”. I was a teen during the “satanic panic”, and remember that time very well. Because I’ve since thought a lot about it, and for all of the talk about people needing to beware of things like razor blades in apples or poisoned candy, I can’t ever recall one news report from where I lived about such things ever taking place. Nonetheless, after I was in ministry, I was a dutiful “Christian soldier” and warned my young people of the evils of Halloween. And my own children were never allowed to go trick-or-treating, something I now regret very much. Such ridiculousness

    Reply
  5. Melissa A Montana

    The church I grew up in celebrated Halloween. The high school kids were given the task of turning the church classrooms into a haunted house, complete with all the movie monsters. In the banquet hall, there would be a party with candy, cookies, cake, and games for the littlest kids, with prizes. Except for supervision, the adults stayed out. It was seen as a good opportunity for the older kids to learn cooperation, planning skills, and leadership skills by taking charge of the entertainment of the children. No one believed it was satanic, and everyone had fun. I’ll never understand why some churches can’t relax and have fun.

    Reply
  6. Karen the rock whisperer

    I despised Halloween as a kid. My first vague memory was, as a very young child, being made to wear an impressively ugly Cinderella mask and go out in the dark to a couple of neighbor houses for trick-or-treating. I hated the mask, and I was terrified of going out in the dark when I couldn’t see well. Apparently I made a huge fuss.

    I would hear about that from my mother every Halloween for the next 40-odd years. Sometimes, in subsequent years, I would think about going trick-or-treating, but I had no near neighbor kids to go with, and the thought of asking my mother for permission to get a costume and try was overwhelming. I’d have to hear that damned first Halloween story repeated a hundred times.

    Our Catholic church had some sort of Halloween gathering, meant to be a safe and fun alternative since our part of the city was not particularly safe. I was almost never allowed to attend church-sponsored functions. My mother didn’t believe in socializing with strangers. I might meet the wrong sort of people, acquire black kids as friends, that sort of thing.

    Over the years as an adult, I’ve often offered candy for trick-or-treaters, and enjoyed seeing the costumes and hearing the little kids be prompted to say “thank you”. At the moment though, I have two very skittish cats, who will freak out at a repeatedly ringing doorbell, so I keep my house dark on Halloween night.

    Oh, and since I’m writing this, I’ll remind readers to keep pets indoors, especially cats. People can do terrible things to cats inspired by the holiday.

    Reply
  7. leigh

    It cracks me up that you mentioned Trinity Church, because it was my first thought upon seeing the blog post title. Several years back, when the husbandperson and I still believed, we debated visiting there. We then independently saw the signs for the hell house and each nope-d that thought straight out of our heads. Took a little longer to fully nope the religion away, but we got there in the end. I’m honestly not overly fond of Halloween, and legit can’t decide how much of that is just my personality, and how much is growing up SBC in the eighties. So many “harvest festivals” – no scary costumes allowed!

    Reply
  8. Michael Mock

    The webcomic Something Positive had a great little run on this topic a few years back… Ah, here we go:
    https://somethingpositive.net/sp10032006.shtml
    (It starts there; you’ll need to use the Next Comic buttons to keep going.)

    I’ve never been in one of these before, but the boys are about old enough to go through a real haunted house now…

    Reply
  9. Brian Vanderlip

    When I decompressed and did some therapy after escaping the Baptists, I began to see that every Sunday service at the church was Halloween. I grew up in what they used to call a ‘freak show’, a tax-free-for-all with squirrels in suits and children crying. Jesus said they didn’t know what they were doing and should be forgiven but as I read it, God kept the lights out. Just had to flick a switch but didn’t.

    Reply
  10. Sarah Leitner

    It’s refreshing, after moving a LOT of times, that the church we attend has a block part like thing that’s simply a part of trick or treating for the town. So reasonable that no else seems to have ever done it. No problem with Halloween costumes, trick or treating or anything like that

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Refreshing, indeed. I may be an atheist, but I applaud churches when they do things without ulterior motives. You know, just because of the human bond they have with their neighbors.

      Reply

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