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Church hosts haunted house aimed at guiding souls to salvation

By Sarah Thomas
Oct. 25, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Behind Tyler Metro Church there are nine live scenes depicting sins from abortion to domestic violence to suicide.

A coffin that leads to a 15-foot deep pit awaits you.

Welcome to Hell House - a nonprofit haunted house created to guide souls to salvation.

"Our ultimate goal is to save people," said Caleb Hawley, whose family started Hell House more than 20 years ago. "If all we do is get some young girl to think twice about having an abortion, that's a victory for us."

Hell House is about salvation more than it is about scaring people with depictions of Hell, Hawley said.

"There's an alternative to where you are. You don't have to be stuck in that bad situation," he said.

The annual event held at Tyler Metro Church is a Christian alternative to traditional haunted houses, Hawley said, and each year it takes a staff of about 250 people to pull it off.

In today's world, he added, the volunteers and the event itself are more important than ever.

"I believe people are getting more desperate. In the society and the culture we live in it's a much needed event," Hawley said.

Cost to enter Hell House is $9 and Hawley said the proceeds always go to pay for the next' year's event. Organizers try to improve the event each year, he said, and costumes, including some masks that cost $600 a piece.

"We're a nonprofit group, but it all adds up real fast," he said.

Although organizers do not allow children younger than 12 to enter Hell House without a parent or guardian, Hawley said the experience is for all walks of life, young or old.

"There are some really graphic scenes. We don't water it down," he said.

Just as Hell House is open to all demographics, Hawley said, it is open to all denominations as well, adding that it is a collaborative effort from many area churches.

"It's a citywide ministry run by many churches. Tyler Metro Church just allows us to use their property," he said.

Tyler Metro Church Pastor Anthony Johnson supports the message the organizers of Hell House are trying to spread throughout the community.

"People have to realize there's a choice to make," he said. "Ultimately that's what the goal is. You can accept Christ or not, but it is a choice you do have to make."

Though Hell House does aim to attract certain people, Johnson said young people are becoming more and more desensitized by what they see in movies and on TV, the books they read, the video games they play and the lyrics they hear in song.

"They are spiritually unhealthy," Johnson said. "There's so much going on out in the world to distract them from Christ. A dose of reality is what they need.

"They go see a movie like 'Paranormal Activity' that opens up the doors into their soul. They say 'oh it's just a scary movie.' They don't realize Satan is behind all of that."

The event has been successful throughout its run with more than 3,500 people passing through the gates of Hell House this past year and Hawley expects the same interest this month.

"We've gotten pretty good feedback. It depends on where you fall on the spectrum. We just want people to know there is hope," Hawley said, adding the event serves a wide range of people with a wide range of beliefs which can dictate the feedback they receive.

"Above all, no matter what you've done, there is a loving Christ and savior. No matter what you've done you can go to Him," Johnson said. "That's what Hell House is really all about."

People need to know, he added, pornography, drugs and alcohol cannot make the pains they struggle with go away.

"There's only one healer who can make that happen," Johnson said.



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