Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hell House XVIII, The Revenge: Welcome to Eternity

With the very best of intentions, seven intrepid atheists took a trip yesterday to Cedar Hill, TX last night, to attend the Hell House made famous by a 2000 documentary from George Ratliff. Despite flawless planning and good attitudes all around, this excursion was a strong candidate to be the very worst ACA event ever. Be warned, mortals, for the tale which follows is not for the faint of heart, and shall surely imprint terror and foreboding in the minds of all who may dare to attend this piece of unredeemable crap in any future year.

Five people met near the Lake Creek Alamo Drafthouse at 2:00 on a Saturday: John, Tammy, Arran, Shilling, and Russell (that's me). We knew we had a three hour drive ahead of us, but we feared not the trip, for all had heard the tales of amusement from previous attendees. We figured we'd get there around 6:00 after stopping for food, then wait for maybe an hour in line, be out of there by 8, and get home by 10.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry...

In fact we arrived closer to 6:30, and took a while to get everyone ticketed ($10) and initial bathroom breaks taken care of, but in reality there is no amount of fortitude that could have prepared us for the bone-chilling terror that was...


Yes, THE LINE was enough to reduce any strong man or woman to a quivering mass of leg-cramping, soul-crushing madness. It lasted four and a half hours from the time we entered to the time that we finally set foot inside of Hell House to lean gratefully against the wall and watch... a cheesy movie trailer.

The event took place at an ultra-maxi-megachurch, the kind where you see it over the horizon and you expect John Williams' "Imperial March" to start playing. I was more than a little intimidated by the place at first, and nervous about getting singled out. Shilling was wearing his Godless Pub Crawl shirt. Arran wore some rather obvious liberal political statements. I wore a fairly garish Spider-Man shirt -- I like Spider-Man, okay, and the fact that New York exists proves that Spidey exists. :) In fairness, I should say that no one ever hassled us in the 6 or so hours we were present.

Anyway, within the confines of THE LINE were thousands of people, the vast majority of them being teenagers. And not just any teenagers. There's no way to put this delicately... they were teenagers from deep in the heart of Texas. Redneck kids. Dumb jocks who went around aggressively slapping each other in the ass. (Several of us discussed how much homoeroticism there was for such a Christian group, particularly when we some some teenager massaging another one.) Then there were peroxide blondes with way too much makeup, girls having conversations at 150 decibels right near our ears, large bearded men joking loudly about shooting cutters in line.

Meanwhile, Shilling was doing his best to make sure that everyone around us was offended by reminiscing about blasphemous stand-up routines by Eddie Izzard and Ricky Gervais. After an hour, we were joined by Brian and Amy, the last two members of our party, who were coming from somewhere local.

THE LINE did not appear to be as long initially, because although it stretched out a pretty long way, it also weaved back and forth... conveniently making the most twists right near the overpriced concession stand. For bathrooms, there were three port-a-potties that were lacking toilet paper for the majority of the night. Once we got up to the front of the line the people started to be divided up into large groups to go on a hay ride together in order to reach the site where the actual house was. Little did we know that THE LINE would continued for over an hour once we reached the house.

The exterior of hell house was extremely cheap and not at all interesting. It looked like a temporary building in some places, and others had black fabric for a wall, so we could periodically see people walking behind it when they lit up. Also, every once in a while there would be a loud "bang" sounding like a fairly unconvincing prop gun. After about 60 seconds, a second shot always followed the first. A few of us started trying to time the second shot by singing the "Jeopardy" theme song... much to Shilling's consternation.

So we finally made it inside. We were herded in a group of 50, whereas I'm told that last year it was only 35. In keeping with the expansion that caused much longer lines, they are cramming people more tightly on the conveyer belt. Each room after the preview screens contained some sort of poorly acted skit that seemed to have an oddly twisted moral message. Most skits involve demons -- guys in dark robes and skull masks -- who both comment on the scene as a Greek Chorus, and serve to herd the audience through to the next room when the performance is over. I'll try to remember the rooms more or less in order.

Room 1
Synopsis: Girl goes on MySpace. Girl meets boy. Girl invites boy over to her place. Boy rapes girl. Invisible demons in the room laugh. The end.
Most disturbing moment: The rapist was black. That didn't necessarily appear to be a racist message, until the girl went out of her way to draw attention to his race: "Hey, you don't look like the way you described yourself! I thought you were blonde and blue eyed!"
Ambiguous moral message: If you meet people on the internet, you deserve to be raped. It's not like the girl actually did anything particularly forward or sinful, other than letting him come inside.

Room 2
Synopsis: Angry loner in high school holds his "friends" hostage at gunpoint. Tells them that he's mad for they way they bullied or ignored him. "Friends" are very sorry. Demons whisper mean things in the boy's ear. He shoots one of them, and then after some more threatening, shoots himself. Demons laugh. The end.
Most disturbing moment: The boy asked each one of the friends if they were Christians, so this was clearly an angle on the Cassie Bernall myth. Unlike the story of Cassie, he shot the one who claimed not to be a Christian. Then when somebody DID claim to be a Christian, the demons told him to leave her alone because they still have work to do on her. So here's a guy who shoots atheists and doesn't shoot Christians. And that says WHAT about the shooter, exactly?
Ambiguous moral message: If you pick on your friends in school, you're bad. If you get picked on in school, you're probably bad too.

This story is continued in part 2.


  1. A megachurch, ditzy blondes, dumb redneck jocks... you're familiar with Sartre, right?. 4 1/2 hours, Christ, you couldn't pay me enough to go through that(well, describe the teen joc... never mind).

    Although, I have to say, you certainly made it sound fun. I loved the part about Shilling telling Izzard and Gervais jokes. Not to mention his reaction to you guys singing the Jeopardy theme. It almost makes me feel like it would be worth it.

    Personally, when the douches in the robes and skull masks came in, I probably would've yelled "OMG Death Eaters!." To see if there were any other super cool people in the crowd, y'know?

  2. I was a little (almost) saddened at the fact that I didn't go to meet you guys there. But after reading that the line was 4.5 hours, I don't feel so bad anymore...

  3. That does sound absolutely hellish...the line that is. I think the lesson to be learned is: if you go again in the future... bring chairs to sit on! I hope you were at least inebriated to some degree.

    PS. Totally unrelated, but whoever posted today's AE show seems to instead have posted an assortment of clips from what sounds like Mexican radio. Disappointing since I was looking forward to listening to it. (The audio is the same on iTunes and on the ACA site) Sorry, but I didn't know where else to post this.

  4. 'describe the teen joc... never mind' LOL.

    Can I ask what exactly this is? Some kind of church theme park?

  5. I’m officially disturbed… Kind’a curious about the 2nd part now, as well as, what were the “Christian” lessons they wanted you to learn from this?

  6. Recently in the news, a woman claimed a black man carved a “B” on her face, and then had to back down and admit she was lying. This was reminiscent of Susan Smith—the mother who murdered her two children, initially claiming a black male had abducted them after carjacking her vehicle.

    Whenever I hear these types of stories, I am reminded that I will never be able to wrap my head around what it actually must be like to be an average black man in America. So, on the heals of the latest round of racial defamation, you post that Hell House cast white woman’s rapist as a black male—and that they further stressed race in the situation.

    While I find it nearly unbelievable that any group would openly demonize this demographic, yet again in an open, social context, I have to ask: Was the young man who portrayed the rapist _actually_ black? If so, my jaw drops even further as I recognize such a person would be willing to openly demonize his own demographic even further; but, if not, I’m at a loss there as well—since that would be beyond despicable if this were a white male in black-face defaming blacks. I’m astounded either way. But I have to ask.

  7. Yes, he was played by a black guy. The girl was hispanic.

  8. Yes, the girl was Hispanic, the rapist was played by a black guy, and one of the demons was also a black dude.

    The lines were in different sections, and we figured that this was on purpose. When you buy you ticket you don't see the horrible line that is just around the corner. The line itself is all twisted, so it's hard to tell just how long it is. Then the hay ridet akes you to another line you didn't even expect to exist. Only because of Shilling's previous experience did we know we'd have yet a third line to wait in.

    About the only fun I really had in line was due to a teenaged girl asking if my (fake vampire) fangs were real, and then about 3 hours later another group of teens having a *serious* discussion about whether I'm a vampire....

    My purse was covered in various Obama campaign buttons, and I wore a t-shirt that makes fun of Sarah Palin (check out the "collect vp nomination" shirt in the political action section of Anyhoo, no one seemed too bugged by my shirt or buttons, but Shilling's shirt and my fangs were apparently a bit of a sight.

  9. Who's Arran Walker? Is she ACA?

  10. Arran's a friend of the group, don't think she's a member. I mentioned at the top that she was one of the five who did the drive.

  11. And none of you saw me walking around in my JREF shirt. I am 6'6" with a pony tail. That being said I didn't see any of you all either.


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