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Upset mother feels tricked by anti-abortion haunted house

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Linda Ybarra, a Pasadena, Texas mother looking to treat her family to a good scare over the weekend, purchased tickets to "Hell House," anticipating a pro forma, haunted-house experience featuring, as she said, "the usual Halloween things. You know, zombies and ghouls and goblins. That kind of thing."

But what the Ybarra family, including Linda's fourteen-year-old son, encountered instead was a haunted attraction known generically as a "hell house," typically operated by fundamentalist Christian churches in October a few days before Halloween, so as to blend in with traditional haunted-house attractions. These hell houses, with their evangelical ulterior motives, attempt to convert teenagers to a more wholesome lifestyle by depicting heavy-handed scenes such as a young girl having an abortion, a gay man ravaged by AIDS, a teen dying in a car crash after failing to give his life to Christ, and so on. Supposedly originating in Dallas in 1990, there was even a documentary, Hell House, made about the phenomenon.

In Ybarra's case, Hell House was operated by the Potters House Christian Fellowship church in Pasadena. Describing an abortion scene within the attraction, she said "There was a young lady lying on a gurney, and two nurses. And one of the nurses was reaching into the lady and pulling out a bunch of gunk, and throwing it on the floor."

Not much to say about that. If you have to pull a bait-and-switch on people looking to experience a few innocent thrills and chills, and subject them to a series of graphic, proselytizing tableaus in trying to win them over to your side, then something's rotten in Denmark. As Ybarra put it, "You don't convert children like that. Tell them that they are going to Hell and things like that. You just don't do that."