Ever since seeing the documentary Hell House; I've been fascinated by the idea of religious-themed haunted mazes, and I've always wanted to go to one to learn the various ways I'm supposed to be suffering in Hell after I die. Unfortunately not many of my friends wanted to go because they didn't want to give their money to a church, but I eventually did manage to find two others who thought it would be as much of a laugh as I did. So off we went to the Journey Trails Haunt, in New Kent, Virginia, which is about thirty miles past bumfuck.
The description of the place made it sound like it had some serious potential for amusement--three attractions, a Heaven path, a Hell path, a museum of Biblical history and relics, and there was even a bonus called "The Last Ride", a coffin that was supposed to simulate the experience of being buried alive, but that was an additional $5.00. They even had THIS wonderful little gem in the FAQ on their website: "Oh! If you are prone to wetting or soiling yourself when you get scared (as many of our victims do), you may want to bring a change of undergarments too!" I just HAD to see what their idea of "so scary you'll shit your pants" was.
So my friends and I get there and we're immediately greeted by an eager man in a suit who is hanging around the coffin ride. We walk up to examine it, and discover that it's a coffin on hydraulics, and pretty much all it does is lift up and down and bump around a bit, and there's a voice that tells some kind of story to the person on the inside. A video monitor is set up outside so that people can watch the person inside on a night-vision cam and see their reactions. Since the ride wasn't very exciting, the reactions weren't particularly interesting to watch. So we decided to pass on this "experience" and move on to the main event. (Unfortunately they didn't allow cameras on the trails and all I had was my cell phone camera, so I was only able to snap a couple grainy pics).
There were three lines leading to each of the main attractions, and the line to Hell was by far the longest, so we opted to go to Heaven, then hit the museum, and save Hell for last. As we're waiting in line to get to Heaven, some teenage clowns who weren't nearly as creepy as they thought they were came out of the Heaven door and tried to frighten the waiting line. Yawn. Though I was a bit curious as to what these bizarre child-molester clowns (that seemed to me the angle they were going for) were doing in Heaven. We finally get inside, and discover that the pathway to Heaven is a tight maze through the woods, bordered by black plastic tarping and very, very dark. There were girls that popped out of nowhere and screamed at us at the top of their lungs, angry rednecks yelling us to get off their property, "creepy" clowns trying to freak us out, angry voices yelling at us and making loud noises from the darkness, and toward the end, people with chainsaws running at us. Basically a lot of the kind of thing that you'd see in a normal haunted maze, only not as good, and light on monsters. And this was supposed to be the Heaven trail?
We finally get a little over the halfway point and there's a quote from the Bible on a banner suspended between two trees, but it's so dark that it's hard to make out what it says. A short time later we come into what I called the "D&D Treasure Room", a small room with a treasure chest full of gold coins, a gold chalice, and other spoils from the dragon's horde. There's also a pleasant, smiling woman standing in the room facing some folding chairs, and she asks us to have a seat. She gives us the brief lecture about life and death, making choices, and gives us all a certificate that we survived the road to Heaven and we made it. And then we're booted back out into the main courtyard. Okay. Not exactly what I was expecting. Here's a pic of my treasure for completing the quest:
We then went into the museum, which was a very small room containing such Biblical artifacts as Samson's jawbone, the Pharaoh's staff, Gandalf's cloak, and more. At the end of the room there was a woman who had a baby constrictor snake that you could hold for a few moments if you wanted to. And that was really the only interesting part. So out the door and off we were to Hell! The line for Hell had all but vanished at this point, and we started to wonder if in fact those people were actually sent to Hell and they were never coming back.
But a moment later it didn't matter, as we were stepping into the giant serpent's mouth and on our way to Hell! Which was, as it turns out, pretty much exactly the same as the path to Heaven. Dark tight corridors bordered by black plastic tarping, teenagers with chainsaws, and so on. Not really thematically different at all, but this one was supposedly "MUCH" more terrifying. Halfway through we walk into a room and there's a man in a suit with dark hair slicked back, and he's got a table with a book on it. There are two doorways leading out of the room, one that leads into light, and one into darkness. He tells us that he can guarantee our safety if we sign the book and take the light path, and we will be out of the maze. If we choose the dark path it's going to make what we've been through so far look like "a kid's picnic". There were two other people in our tour group and they immediately said "Well, we're taking the Dark Path! See ya!" and off they went. I wanted to ask this guy if the light path really did lead out of the maze, because for the money I spent I wanted to get the whole experience, light and dark, but he wouldn't say. A moment later a voice called out over the wall "You guys coming or what?" and with that we turned and headed down...THE DARK PATH!
Which was pretty much more of the same. Again. Though there was an overly breathy werewolf who followed us at one point. And a large medieval man with a torture rack, so that was something at least. But for the most part Hell was pretty bland and disappointing. We get to the end and there's another room, with a vaguely (unintentionally) creepy man who asks us to form a semi-circle. Then he asks us with great interest which path we chose in the middle room. We all said the Dark Path, because we wanted to get our money's worth. He then tells us that man in that room was the Devil, and he was trying to trick us, and that both paths led to the exact same place. I'm not really sure what the lesson they were trying to impart on us there was, since there was no correct option. "Trust no one", I guess? Or perhaps "No matter what you do, you're fucked!" He also gave us a very brief pep talk about the choices we make in our life and how important they are. And then we go through one more tiny section of chainsaw people and exit out of a port-a-potty door. And that's it. The exit to hell is a port-a-john. Not terribly surprising, I guess.
I have to say I was rather disappointed. I was hoping for something like they had in Hell House, where they would try to teach us important and hilariously misguided life lessons, about homosexuals, abortion, drugs, the occult, and so on. But there was none of that. I wanted it to be highly offensive and completely out of touch with reality, but instead it was just kind of bland. They didn't even get that preachy with us at the end. They kept it brief and weren't pushy at all, so there was nothing I could even be mad at. I'm all about people believing what they want as long as they don't bother anyone else. And they were surprisingly (and disappointingly) low-key and cool about it. For $15 I wanted to be told how my support of the gays was going to lead to my being sodomized daily by a gorilla demon in Hell...and they just failed to deliver on that. There wasn't really even any kind of theme or point to the paths, or much of a difference at all between them. At the end they had a little survey you could fill out, and get a chance to win an extravagant feast (i.e. "combo meal") at Chick-Fil-A. Big spenders!
If you're in Virginia and you've heard of this and think it might be amusing, I'd advise against spending your money on it. It's really not worth it, and there are much better haunted trails you can spend your money on. So my quest for a ridiculous, over-the-top, preachy and offensive "Hell House" continues. If any of you have had any noteworthy or amusing experiences in one of these Hell Houses, please share your story in the comments! I'd love to hear about it!
A-bomb on 10/29/2011 5:59 am
So if you live just like the bible says, avoid temptation and do good for your entire life, when you die you'll go to heaven only to get a certificate and get booted out again? That sounds like a gyp. I think I'll take my chances with the afterlife full of black tarps.
ljdarten (Guest) on 10/29/2011 9:44 am
Sounds like the normal amount of thinking things through from a church.
10,000 Volt Ghost on 10/29/2011 11:34 am
I enjoyed reading about your displeasure at least.
ColdFusion (Guest) on 10/29/2011 1:37 pm
Woot, let's all bash christians! That's not going to make things much, much worse or anything.
Shadowdancer21b on 10/29/2011 2:55 pm
I like how the weren't pushy and stuff. My kind of Christianity.
Tacobot on 10/29/2011 7:36 pm
Hmm too bad it wasn't based on the band Journey
Sakata on 10/29/2011 10:59 pm
I've been to two different Christian haunts in the past. The first was more the atypical Hell House with 'evil' scenes. Burning oregano for the 'drug room', a screaming bloody abortion, demons screaming at psychics, and a suicide in a locker room for apparently the most satanistic high school in existance [seriously, are boys' locker rooms plastered with inverted pentagrams on every available surface?]. This one ended with being pushed into upright coffins that slammed shut behind you. Then the other end opened to blackness and heat and screaming, and you were expected to walk blindly to the next room, which was meant to be heaven. Then they made you sign some certificate to show you'd been saved and gifted you with Chick Tracts. Ah, Jack Chick...the gift that keeps on giving.
The second haunt I went on was known as the Hellevator. This one followed a linear story of a guy dealing with his girlfriend's suicide after her abortion. It was a little like 'It's a Wonderful Life', with virtually no scares until you got to the titular attraction. Your group was crammed onto a hydraulic platform with screens on one side. It hummed and shook as you 'descended' through dirt and bedrock to the fires of hell. And then some guy with a mask would pop in on the other side screaming. That was it.
Pentegarn on 10/30/2011 9:43 am
The best part of your story is how mad you get at the fact you couldn't get mad. Loved it!
monster_movie_night on 10/30/2011 2:31 pm
So heaven have evil clowns,redneck that want you off there property and chainsaw welders?!?So either way the afterlife sucks rather your in heaven or hell!
Trekkie313 (Guest) on 10/30/2011 3:00 pm
Must be the most boring group of Christians ever...
James (Guest) on 10/30/2011 9:30 pm
Ach, no, the devil offers to make life much better if you only sign away your soul. It's like an allegory about how giving in to temptation is worse than toughing it out. They just executed the idea poorly, with amusing results.
By the same token, recognizing that organized religion is a lie and toughing out life through faith in yourself is better in the long run than surrendering your will to a self-proclaimed spiritual authority.
ChrisGlass on 10/31/2011 4:37 pm
It's sad, but amazing how I enjoy the boring reviews of haunted mazes more than positive ones.
some girl named lauren on 11/05/2011 4:12 pm
You didn't mention the 3D glasses they tried to force on visitors to Heaven. Which only further shows how little coherence this whole attraction had and how little it had to do with choosing a religious path through life.
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