Fox News, October 29, 1999
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – A haunted house featuring a re-enactment of the Columbine school shootings was briefly shut down after sheriff’s deputies confiscated two guns organizers had used as props.
A judge on Thursday allowed The Potter’s House Christian Center to re-open its haunted house as long as it agreed to remove the real guns and post extra security.
Pastor Henry Houghton stressed that the guns had only been used as props and that they were loaded with blanks.
Houghton said the church is using the Columbine skit, complete with earsplitting gunshots, to scare teens and others into accepting Jesus. The depiction is similar to one at “Hell House” at Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, which sparked anger this week among some in Littleton, Colo. Two young gunmen killed 13 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School before killing themselves last April. More than 20 other people were wounded.
The skits feature young actors dressed in trench coats re-enacting the shooting. It ends with the gunmen being sent to hell.
Nancy Shakowski, a parent of two Columbine students, said she was “repulsed” by the notion of Columbine being used in a haunted house display.
Trinity’s youth pastor, Tim Ferguson, has said he must scare teen-agers in order to save them from sin and another attack like the one at Columbine. Houghton said The Potter’s House skit is intended to get a similar message across.
“We’re doing this to present the gospel,” Houghton said. “It’s the world we live in. … Yes, we’re trying to scare them. But they see twice this much violence on TV every week.”
“Hell Houses” across the country have staged controversial haunted houses for the past several years, including displays likening abortion, suicide and homosexuality to sin.
The Potter’s House, like Trinity Church, has done shocking scenes in past haunted house displays. In 1997, community members were angered over a scene in which a young boy who is molested by his father rapes a girl before beheading her.
The display here also features a man who dies of a heroin overdose and a woman killed after playing with a Ouija board at a party. A special-effects graveyard depicts people who die during the skits coming back to warn onlookers what hell is like.
“It’s so hot,” the heroin addict moans. “It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for you.”