Hellish Near Death Experiences
Who among us hasn’t gone through something so horrific that it felt like we had been “to hell and back?” Believe it or not there is a growing group of people for whom that is not merely an expression, they sincerely believe they have made the journey.
We have all heard of the stories of people who have had “near death experiences” (NDE) that seem to prove there is a Heaven. Many people who have had NDEs report similar things such as being drawn to a bright light, seeing deceased loved ones, and being bathed in a comforting feeling of overwhelming love. Such stories seem to line up very well with the descriptions of a heavenly after life. But, if NDEs lend credence to the existence of Heaven, what about those who are destined for “The Other Place?” Have people had NDEs and wound up in Hell? Yes, there are quite a few who say they have!
A Day In Hell
According to the Daily Beast, In March of 1992, Matthew Botsford walked out of a restaurant in Atlanta and found himself in the middle of a gun fight. He was struck in the back of the head with a 9mm bullet. Before he knew it, he had died and gone to hell.
“I felt a hot, needlelike pierce, excruciatingly painful, for a brief moment on the top of my head,” Botsford wrote in his book, A Day in Hell, an account of what he experienced in the underworld during the 27-day coma that followed the shooting. “Utter darkness enveloped me as if thick, black ink had been poured over my eyes.” He later described being “hung over an abyss” as heat blasted up from below. Pairs of demonic eyes crept toward him before a divine entity grabbed him by the waist and said, “It’s not your time.”
Clearly, Botsford’s account of the afterlife during his near-death experience departs quite radically from those we usually hear about that involve white lights, angels and greetings by deceased loved ones. But, while experiences like his are not the fodder for best sellers and feature films like the case of 4-year-old Colton Burpo in Heaven Is for Real: A Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, they happen more often than you might imagine, and should give us all something to think about.
Occasionally, according to the Daily Beast, such accounts do make it into pop culture. For example, art professor Howard Storm rose to fame in 2005, after claiming he had been “viciously attacked” by evil creatures in hell while unconscious before emergency surgery, an experience he described vividly in his book My Descent Into Death. He tried to pray, which only provoked the angry creatures. “They screamed at me, ‘There is no God!’ … They spoke in the most obscene language, worse than any blasphemy said on earth.”
But, most of the time stories of NDEs that result in meetings with demons or even Satan himself, are usually relegated to “fire and brimstone” sermons of Christian preachers who want to maintain their parishioners’ healthy fear of Eternal Damnation.
What Does Hell Look and Feel Like?
Interestingly enough, unlike the NDEs of the pleasant kind, which show a remarkable consistency of experience, temporary trips to hell are “all over the map.” So says, Nancy Evans Bush, author of Dancing Past the Dark, who has examined and wrote about “distressing” near-death experiences, including some that involve descriptions of “hell.” “Some are hot, some are cold, some are like deserts, some are like swamp. Some are too bright, in terms of fire, and some are full of wet, slimy, nasty stuff. I’ve heard descriptions of wells with slimy creatures in them, but I’ve also heard barren wastes with nothing.”
So does that mean that these are guilt ridden hallucinations? Or is the myriad of these descriptions consistent with religious and mythological descriptions of Hell being more “personal” than heaven, with a torturous afterlife that is tailored to a rotten soul’s individual evils and atrocities?
It was Dante, who in the famous epic poem “Inferno,” described 9 circles of hell. Perhaps these different accounts were by people who were whisked off to different “circles” or levels of Hell. After all, would we expect a white collar tax evader to spend eternity with Hitler or Jeffery Dahmer?
Though she is not a professional scientist, Bush assisted with several scientific studies and became something of an advocate for the reality that not all near-death experiences involve heavenly lights and divine love. After reviewing dozens of near-death accounts published in scientific studies, she realized that roughly one out of five was frightening, traumatic, or otherwise “hellish.”
Is there a Heaven, Hell, any kind of afterlife, or even a God for that matter? This reporter always likes to fall back on “Pascal’s Wager,” which basically says better to live your life as if there is a God and Heaven, and die and be wrong, and you have nothing to lose — than to live your life as if there is not, and risk losing your eternal soul.