LORAIN, OH - A “Trip to Hell” is what the Church on the North Coast calls its Halloween attraction and some of the displays are based on events ripped from the headlines.
Pastor Troy Thompson told FOX 8, "We make no bones about it; we exploit the season of Halloween for the advancement of the gospel. We want to be as slick as snakes, but harmless as doves."
The church is facing criticism because one of the scenes involves three young women being held against their will by a kidnapper. Pastor Thompson acknowledges the display refers to notorious Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro and the three women who were rescued from his home in May after ten years in captivity.
Thompson says the church has been criticized for exploiting the victims' ordeal, but he maintains the message of the scene is one of hope.
"Even though you're a prisoner and you've been a prisoner for a long time, there is still hope; there is still hope," said Thompson. “If you pray, if you believe, God has a way to answer your prayers and one day those doors may be kicked down."
In another scene, a young gunman opens fire on a classroom of students. The pastor concedes the display is based largely on last December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
When asked about criticism that the scene is in poor taste, Thompson said, “It's not something I made up. It's not something we invented.”
The pastor said some of the controversial themes have angered people in Greater Cleveland and across the country.
"They're blasting me personally, my family, you know; it's ridiculous," said Thompson. “However, they don't know me. They don't know my heart."
The pastor said all of the scenes, including one depicting an accident caused by drinking and driving, are designed to make visitors think.
“Trip to Hell” is open every Friday and Saturday from 7:00 p.m. to midnight through the first weekend in November. Admission is $10.
Church on the North Coast is located at 4125 Leavitt Road in Lorain.