On October 2, 2017 I woke from a horrible nightmarish vision of hell. It rattled my core and it disturbed me too much to try and fall back asleep. I felt called to immediately write about it.
The timing of this was interesting. I began a challenging week of my life, one that had already created more suffering for me than usual, and I had the God-given strength in me to offer it all up during prayers earlier that night. Feeling especially broken down and weak tonight, I offered up all that pain for the necessity of others more earnestly than on a typical night.
I think my reward was God permitting me to be afflicted by Satan with another experience of hell. That may initially sound like punishment but when you experience something so eternally horrible within the safe confines of a brief nightmare, it’s really quite harmless. I see it as a blessing because I didn’t come out of this experience the same way, spiritually. It reinvigorated in me why I’m persevering through life as a Christian.
The Vision of Hell
To set the scene, the vision of hell began in absolute bedlam. But it was a tired bedlam. It had similar vibes to my first vision of hell at MysteryLand. Vibes of a bleak existence. It was especially dark in this episode.
I sat along a soft hillside, by what seemed to resemble a river. But it never crossed my mind to consider drinking whatever horror flowed through it. There were extremely dilapidated houses about me.
Here, terrors had felt so much like the norm that human souls around me were exhausted. It was like no one slept because of perpetual torment.
It quickly became clear what teeth would be gnashing at me this dark, disgusting night.
Across the hill’s horizon, there rose a dog that resembled a black Rottweiler. It immediately spotted me with its cold, angry eyes, probably a quarter mile or so away. Frozen in place, it set its dead eyes on me, seeing how I’d react, wanting nothing more than to shred my flesh. Some creepy, out-of-tune version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” played in my head.
“Didn’t take too long ‘fore I found out what people mean by down and out.”—Led Zeppelin, Black Dog.
A strange feeling washed over me. It was a feeling that I met this hound before and that I knew at least somewhat how to defend myself. What I seemed to be experiencing throughout this vision was a “day in the early life” of hell, like a little preview of what to expect shortly after arriving.
This dog quickly bounded toward me, and I kicked into high alert. I became more aware of my body than normal for, which I had in its entirety. The dog circled slowly around it, seeking to change that, as it carefully scoped out a good attack angle.
I positioned myself accordingly, knowing from a previous encounter I had to give it a few solid punches in the nose to make it go way.
I had some sense of its general circular pattern it would take toward me. In that way, it felt very much like the Tom Cruise film “The Edge of Tomorrow,” in which he keeps reliving the same existence: he wakes up pre-battle, thrust into the same battle with the same conditions, he dies, rinses and repeats. Each iteration, he learns a little more and can survive just a smidgen longer. But he’s still perpetually dying.
So there was a sense of familiarity with this dog, but it was a tired, exhausting familiarity. My body was tapping into adrenaline reserves that were dangerously low.
The hellhound snarled and lunged at me. I landed a quick jab and it recoiled a bit, but that didn’t discourage it. To the contrary, perhaps it liked the challenge.
I had to be careful not to totally whiff, or I might not get my hand back in the same condition. Despite the sub-par conditions around me, I felt a very real fear that things could get significantly worse.
The vision became more blurry at this point. I experienced no physical pain, but the state of my body was completely ripped from me. My state of being now became bodiless. My best guess is that the hellhound had proven successful, and my body became inhabitable.
Bodily Real Estate
As just a soul, I was able to seek another body to inhabit, but pickings were slim. It was at this point, in my own selfish pursuit, that I became more aware of the state of other human beings around me.
There were people of all ages. How children wound up in this place is unclear to me. But it’s hell so anything could be an illusory, dirty party trick.
There seemed to be loose family structures in that beings banded together in small groups, looking out for each other, at least to some degree.
As I pursued another body to inhabit, I couldn’t help but notice that all of the options were disfigured. All of them. Some were missing limbs or had ripped up faces. It began to make more sense why the hellhound sought me out. I had had a full body at that point, ripe for destruction.
In my bodiless state, the sensation of looking for a new body felt like drowning underwater. I looked up toward the surface for air only to find most of the surface frozen over. In the few spaces that weren’t frozen, others already occupied it and it was fiercely crowded. It was a bit like a subway train at rush hour that was extra packed because the local major league sports team was about to start, and everyone is glaring at you for trying to force your way in.
So there was a sea of souls without bodies drowning, When I broke the surface of this sea, I was forcing my soul into a crowded body, making it more uncomfortable for the other souls already there. This “rock and a hard place” sensation matches up with my first vision of hell: Satan forces you to choose between two horrible states. He disturbingly derives pleasure from you squirming helplessly between the two.
I bounced frantically between a few available hosts, but it greatly distressed the others. It was clear that I was not welcome. I felt completely out of place, as if I had just barged down a door into some secret meeting of tight-knit members that welcomed no outsiders. The “glares” I felt from the other souls was crushing enough to make me cower back to a bodiless, drowning state of being. There’s no telling how long they had already been swimming around for this spot.
The Edge of Death
Bear with me. This gets to another level of weird and the horrors of this final scene is what ultimately woke me up. It’s also the hardest to explain.
In my frantic, soulless state, I was craving to dwell in a human body. With none comfortably available, I became desperate and tried to retrofit my soul into any other body that would accommodate. All that remained were beings that were not distinctly human. Some elements of these strange bodies resembled humans, but they existed in a kind of flux state, like some bizarre Mr. Potato Head creature, full of a hodgepodge of parts from various animals.
The body I settled on most closely resembled a human child. In macabre fashion though, one of the eyes was massively oversized and the body itself was being stretched in all directions. Whether the contortion was from others or just by the stresses of the environment, it was unclear.
What was clear is that immediately upon entering this franken-body, I felt wretched torment and discomfort.
The misuse and bizarre permutations of the body was not unlike the bodies in the portrayal of hell in Heironymus Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights (full picture of painting here)
You can see human bodies—like I had pre-hellhound—but also some really strange, disfigured, disproportionate bodies, or parts of them. Eerily, I also noticed a black dog attacking a man in this painting:
Being in this malformed body, I felt as if I was on the edge of bodiy death. The body could still support life but just barely. I retreated from it but found the bodiless, drowning state more uncomfortable than before. I constantly shifed between my two options: drowning with no body, or being pulled apart with a body.
Yeah, it sucked. And that was maybe a few minutes. And it seemed to be getting worse with every passing minute. I couldn’t imagine eternity.
I shot awake from this nightmarish vision of hell. I didn’t immediately have the, “Oh phew, it was just a dream” feeling. It all felt too real, like it wasn’t just a dream. It seemed to be a divine canary call, and I’m writing this to share the warning.
A hypothetical scenario came to my mind: if I stood outside the gates of hell, having just experienced what I did, and a fellow human were walking into hell, I would urge them with all of my being, “DON’T. PLEASE DON’T GO IN THERE.”
To say this experience scared me is an understatement. I began to cry at the thought of any human being having to go there. Anyone. Even people I never particularly got along well with in my life.
I resonate with Saint Teresa of Avila’s sentiment following an experience of hell she had:
“It was that vision that filled me with the very great distress which I feel at the sight of so many lost souls […] and also gave me the most vehement desires for the salvation of souls; for certainly I believe that, to save even one from those overwhelming torments, I would most willingly endure many deaths.”—St. Teresa of Avila, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila
Compared with the torment of perpetual dying in hell, earthly death is put in perspective. I could never wish it upon any living being and feel a deeper appreciation for the relative stability of this life on Earth. It seems he allowed me to experience this nightmarish vision to draw ever closer to him, and I am grateful for that.
There were a lot of lonely people in hell. I’ll end with a beautiful but sobering cover I heard of Eleanor Rigby while writing this. It’s by The Priests.