REVIEW: FREEDOM CHRISTIAN CENTER'S NIGHT OF TERROR
Well we found it, the rarest haunt of them all: the hell house. We stumbled across it outside of Los Angeles in the small town of Norwalk. For those who aren't familiar with this phenomenon, hell houses are haunts hosted by fundamentalist christians where you travel through a maze of “real life” vignettes which typically portray dead children at raves, girls killing themselves over abortion guilt, and drunk teenagers dying in violent car accidents. These Reagan era ideas are a bit dated in 2017, but get strapped in because we are about to go on a wild ride.
We randomly found this maze while driving through Norwalk. We came across the parking lot of the Freedom Christian Center and saw a giant spinning spotlight projecting into the sky. (This becomes ironic later on when we were interrogated about how we found them.) We were very curious what this maze entitled "Night of Terror" would be like and we paid our entrance fee. As we waited in the enormous line they played the entire 2012 Skrillex discography on shuffle. The dubstep mixed with the suburban grey office like, strip mall church made an interesting pre-show setting.
Once inside it was a dark, cavernous high school like set of hallways, lit only by a few red lights that were diffused by an insane amount of fog. Here we encountered some very creative and professionally rendered demonic creatures who would pop out from nowhere. Each character was well-crafted and held a great amount of detail.
The path abruptly hustled everyone outside through a bloody scene with two completely destroyed vehicles. Between the slaughter stood two police officers and a "drunk" teenager. Children covered in blood were sprawled out on the concrete, their bodies ripped apart as they lay dying.
Before that image had a chance to settle in, we were looped back into the building and entered a "rave". Inside the party, a Slipknot masked dj spinned dubstep while girls wearing masquerade masks offered everyone drinks. The staggering amount of extras in this room was impressive. Among the actors was a lone teenager in the corner making money rain over the cocaine on his otherwise empty table. As we exited to enter the next room we passed by a girl who was sitting on a chair, vomiting and overdosing.
Next we saw a young girl sitting in her bedroom, holding a gun to her head, while the reflection of a demon stared back at her through the mirror. In blood, she had written a lot of degrading things about herself on the wall. While we were trying to make sense of this we then entered into a new room of people who were wearing gasmasks and holding human body parts. Behind them, real children were tied up to what I believe was the gates of hell. They were all crying while their faces poked out of holes in the wall. Human brains and limbs littered the room.
Then we entered hell: a beautifully designed room with awesome demons, skulls, and flames. Two goat skulled demons danced around a chained, real life human. They poked their spears around as they celebrated human torture. This was my favorite room as they really made the evil look cool and appealing!
But the real story is what happened next. They herded everyone into a room and onto their sermon pews. We sat in the darkness as a “sins of mankind” video looped on the stage. The video was intended to frighten the viewers as it discussed things like overdose statistics. At this point the fun part, which was the maze, was over and we kindly asked a volunteer where we could exit without a disturbance. The staff said that we couldn’t leave and that we had to stay. We explained politely that we had other mazes to go see but they would not listen. Confused, we sat down to look around for an exit door. They then starred at us as they put multiple volunteers in front of the only exit door. Knowing that we were being lied to by then we once again asked them if we could leave.
The staff sent a man who was extremely confrontational and aggressive over to talk to us. He insisted that we could not leave and in a bout of paranoia asked me an assortment of questions that were none of his business: why we were there, how we heard about it (spotlight in the parking lot anyone?), and why I had a camera. I politely told him that while we loved their maze but we couldn't sit through the service due to time restrictions. He became very focused on my camera and then blurted out that Haunts of LA wasn’t allowed in there and that we had to be escorted out.
The escort who came over repeated the same stuff every volunteer said: "You. Have. To. Stay." and shadowed us as we pushed our way back into the maze. The strangest part was going back through their rave room, which was still packed with extras who looked like they stepped out of “Eyes Wide Shut”. These masked people all had their hands up praying loudly at us as we walked through. They were speaking in what seemed to be tongues with an audible "salvation" mumbled here and there. These teens speaking in their imaginary language in this setting was surreal to say the least.
As we finally made it out the exit we had to walk back through their make-believe car accident, where dead, ripped up teenagers were still strewn about on the parking lot. We were with another small group of confused visitors. We all had the same experience and found it baffling that the staff refused to let us leave. Why did the church try to keep us all hostage at the end, against our will, lying and telling us that there wasn’t a way to exit? This didn't seem like a professional way to run a business.
Let’s be clear, we have been to some church-ran haunts this season and we gave them all favorable reviews. We went into this maze loving it. While the message they intended was not something we'd agree with, the maze had great lighting with amazing costumes. The problem here was how the Freedom Christian Center displayed such a confrontational attitude towards its own paying customers who, outside of the sermon, actually enjoyed the experience.
I guess in the end the Freedom Christian Center accidentally created one of the most frightening and confrontational mazes for us during the 2017 haunt season.
November 07, 2017
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