On a Saturday night, three teenagers stand before God in an upstairs room of the Lineville Baptist Church in Lineville, Alabama, while a gaggle of visitors and their tour guide look on. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling in white quilt batting, and God, played by a white man in his 30s with an angular jaw and strong cheekbones, wears a white choir robe behind a podium at least six feet off the ground.
“Lisa,” God says, “your name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
Lisa, a hard-partying teenager that has been taking pills to deal with the pain of her parents' divorce, died of an overdose earlier in the evening. “But God,” she says, “I was going to stop taking drugs.”
“I’m sorry, Lisa. It’s too late.”
While Lisa continues to beg for forgiveness, pleading that she can do change, a faceless demon (imagine the costume from Scream without the long white part of the facemask) drags her screaming from the room and behind a curtain of red light into “hell.”
Lineville is a town of less than 2,500 residents just outside of Talladega, infamous home of the Speedway and Nascar race, and hosts one of the South’s many Judgement Houses.
Judgement House (the way the organization prefers to be known despite the error in spelling) began in Clearwater, Florida in 1983. It is a church-sponsored event held in 20 states as a counterpoint to Halloween. In response to the oftentimes trivial nature with which Halloween presents death—dancing skeletons, mischievous ghosts, lumbering zombies—Judgement House serves to remind local citizens that death is serious and has devastating consequences in the hereafter for those who aren’t saved.