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?Judgment House' delivers deep message

By Greg Gelpi

Candied-apples and egged houses may be the tricks and treats for some at Halloween, but for others the tricks and treats take on a serious and permanent nature.

While Halloween festival-goers make the rounds of haunted houses and costume parties, those avoiding the traditional activities will experience a moral equivalent at Corinth Baptist Church.

A walk-through play goes beyond entertainment at the church. The church's Judgment House illustrates the consequences of choosing or not choosing the church's teachings.

"It was started as an alternative to the haunted house," Pastor Chuck Kitchens said. "Why give glory to evil?"

The 40-minute guided tour leads visitors through a living story, which ends with two characters spending eternity in hell and two others spending eternity in heaven.

"Prepare yourself for sights and sounds you'll never forget," said Angie Lawrence, one of the guides.

The story follows the lives of a group of friends from childhood through maturity, from playing war to dying on the battlefield.

Haunted houses leave visitors on edge and frightened, but the Judgment House leaves visitors with a choice. As they leave, church members counsel the visitors and pray with them about the decisions they have made in their lives.

"The characters who accepted or rejected Christ go to heaven or hell based on that," Kitchens said.

As visitors are only feet from the action, the drama pulls them in physically and emotionally, as actors turn toward visitors and address them, drawing them into the play and personalizing the message.

No ghosts or goblins spring out from around corners at Judgment House, but an actor portraying Satan scares visitors with the possibility of spending eternity in torment.

"I will see you again soon, very soon ? in hell," Satan, played by Ken Egan, taunts visitors to Judgment House.

Ending with reflection and prayer, visitors sit in a circle and pray with members of the church.

"As you reflect on what you've seen tonight, maybe you can identify with one of the characters," Lawrence said.

Corinth Baptist Church is one of a host of area churches observing Halloween. Many are hosting fall festivals, avoiding the Halloween theme all together, while others are having costume contests and trick-or-treating.

The Judgment House will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight in its final run. For reservations call (770) 461-4456. Donations are $2, which covers the costs of producing the event.