The Nightmare is a walk-through haunted house held annually by Guts Church in Tulsa. It is scary and immersive, but for all the wrong reasons. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. every weekend night in October. You have to be at least 12 to enter, and kids in their early teens seemed to make up the bulk of the guests. After buying a ticket and getting through the metal detectors, you wait in line for about 30 minutes to be allowed to go through bland pitch-dark hallways that lead you into another waiting room. After another half hour waiting in this room, you are finally split into groups to start the actual walk-through.
Beforehand, you write your name on a slip of paper, which they use to pull up the group’s Facebook pages onto computer screens in the first room. I understand the shock factor of this, and that it’s supposed to make you feel a loss of privacy, but it would perhaps be more humane if Guts told you what they were using your information for beforehand. This room was the least scary one, so I had enough time in it to wonder if this information sharing was lawsuit material or not.
Every group spends about two minutes in each room watching various scenes of trauma, drug addiction, death, murder, and demonic possession. The actors get very close and personal with the guests, which helps to enhance the scare factor, but the very normally dressed guides rushing the groups into the next room make the terror subside pretty heavily, which is disappointing. It is hard to tell whether Guts was trying to say that each scenario you walked through, including an abortion, a rape, and a school shooting, were things that are in hell, things that send you to hell, or things that are just crummy life events. Whatever they are meant to be, they all seem to glamorize judgements and violence upon the victims of each situation.
A woman who had just induced an abortion with a wire hanger is laughed at by a demon, while other women are raped, killed, and abused throughout the rooms. Drug addicts and victims of bullying are portrayed as less than human entities whose only paths are death and these rooms of hell. It seems to be forgotten by Guts that victims of trauma aren’t always living a life of sin or bad choices. In case you forget you’re at a church, the last few rooms are reenactments of Jesus dying and being crucified. This was an emotional scene for myself, being a Christian, but there wasn’t much explanation to those who aren’t Christians as to what the crucifixion had to do with all the horror before.
The most disturbing part is after the final scene, when everyone is ushered into a room to be prayed with by church members. A woman approached me and asked if she could pray for me. I had no problem with that, but when she said “repeat after me” and had me say almost the exact prayer I recited when I actually chose to be saved at my own church, I realized Guts was doing something very wrong. I was forcibly and unknowingly being “saved” again, and they asked me to sign my name to a sheet of paper before I left. Though this didn’t affect me negatively because I already am a Christian, I can’t imagine that a person who doesn’t already follow Jesus wouldn’t take offense to being forcibly “saved” after being ruthlessly confronted with fire and brimstone judgements.
It’s clear that Guts wants to confront people with the reality of a life without Jesus, but I believe they are going about it the wrong way. Terror shouldn’t be what drives a person to accept Jesus, and they definitely shouldn’t be forced to recite the prayer of salvation when they’re not even told what they’re doing. Perhaps just give a pamphlet out next time and invite them to church, so that they can hear the Good News and not just the condemnation of lifestyles that the church deems worthy of a ticket to the entrance to hell.