A recent episode of American Horror Story: Cult introduced a haunted house concept to many of its viewers: the judgment house. In the episode, Kai and Winter Anderson are invited to explore a judgment house operated by a deranged and devout pastor on the dark web. The attraction is meant to scare people into leading less sinful lives, but the siblings quickly realize that people are actually being tortured and killed as a result.
Well, here comes the bad news: judgments houses are a real thing that exist. Also known as hell houses, they are typically hosted by Christian churches and organizations in the days leading up to Halloween. Unlike American Horror Story's twisted depiction, judgment houses obviously don't harm or kill people. They do, however, illustrate certain fundamentalist ideologies through rather unconventional methods.
According to an official website — yes, that exists — the judgment house concept is "a walk-through drama that presents the truth of people's choices versus the consequences of those decisions both in this life and the next."
Though judgment houses differ based on the location and church, they all ultimately present visitors with different scenes that depict certain moral dilemmas and the extreme consequences that can ensue. For example, characters who hide a pregnancy or get caught up in drugs are later "killed" in a car crash, natural disaster, or what have you. The final portion of the house leads visitors into "heaven," where they will have a moment of peace to reflect on their faith. The entire attraction takes about an hour.
In 2016, The Washington Post ran a story about judgment houses. Andrew Edmonds, a youth pastor involved with the experimental haunted house, told the publication, "Hell, which we believe is a real place — that's a scary reality. At this time of year, when people are talking about scary things, I'm presenting something that is real." He went on to note that, "We can give people a sense of what it's like and use it, really, to warn them."
Well, we won't be sleeping tonight.