Recently, a high school student in Fort Worth, Texas was running laps in gym class when he suddenly collapsed. His heart stopped for almost 20 minutes. During that time, he claims to have seen a figure with wavy hair and a beard, whom he immediately recognized as Jesus. That's cool, but it's also the exact same thing you hear anytime someone shows up on their local news to talk about their near-death experience.
Not all of them work that way, though. Sometimes, people who have near-death experiences report going in a different direction. Even worse, some of their accounts of what they experienced while dead match up frighteningly well with some of history's most famous and enduring visions of Hell. We talk about some particularly metal-worthy close calls on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Vanessa Gritton and Cracked editor Tom Reimann. That's also what I'm talking in this column right now. Let's do it!
Angie Fenimore attempted suicide in January of 1991. The first thing she recalls after dying is being subjected to a "life review," a phenomenon that's common to several descriptions of near-death experiences. Basically, your entire life unfolds in front of you in a series of images, and you relive the events from the point of view of the people you interacted with during each of those moments. You feel how your actions made them feel.
So, for example, when my life review inevitably happens, this moment will be punctuated with a photo of a frowny-faced Kurt Cobain, and I'll feel his sadness over my decision to cut the joke about him I was planning to make in the first sentence of this entry.
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It was a pretty good joke.
At any rate, after the life review ended, Fenimore remembers being surrounded in darkness that seemed to go on forever. She could make out the figures of a group of young people nearby and blurted out, "Oh, we must be the suicides." I know that's inappropriate, but at the same time, it's still pretty great. Also great: the fact that she didn't actually have to speak to say it. She realized she could communicate using thought alone, but also that no matter how much she tried, she would never make a connection with or elicit a response from any of the damned souls around her, as evidenced by the lack of crowd response to her suicide bit.
At one point, she was banished to a different part of Hell, one that resembled something more like an open field, and in which lost souls roamed about, fully able to communicate with each other but too consumed by their own misery to engage in any sort of human interaction.
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Finally, a place where introverts can go to be themselves.
It's this detail from Fenimore's account that brings to mind the Revelation of Sister Josefa Menendez. She was an early-20th-century Spanish nun who was directed by God to write a description of Hell. She didn't want to, on account of how it would require her to visit Hell and all, but she did it anyway. What she came back with included the same physical pain and torture by demons and such that you've come to know and love, but she swore that what the soul endures is far worse. In her Hell, souls wander aimlessly, too consumed by grief and anger to ever know love or human connection again.
Sister Menendez died at the age of 34, after just a few years of service in God's dedicated staff of travel reporters. Angie Fenimore is still around, though! She's got a book you can buy -- on cassette, no less -- and has apparently been named the Divine Royal of Utah and Prophetess of the Church of Latte Dei Saints.
I don't think I have to tell you what that last part means! At least, I hope I don't have to, because I have no clue. But seeing as how she was already being referred to as "Her Royal Majesty Princess Angie Fenimore" before the promotion, it's probably not that big of a deal.
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Matthew Botsford was standing outside an Atlanta restaurant when a shot rang out. Two men who'd been denied entry into the establishment moments earlier, in what has to be one of the most over-the-top customer service freakouts of all time, were indiscriminately firing at the front of the building. One of the bullets hit Botsford in the head. He remembers feeling a pain like a hot needle driving into his skull, then falling to the pavement, at which point everything went black. He died three times on the way to and at the hospital before doctors finally put him into a medically-induced coma that lasted for 27 days.
Who among us couldn't use that kind of rest?
His descriptions of the things he saw while in that coma are nothing short of terrifying. Things began with him shackled at his wrists and ankles, suspended in midair over a deep, glowing red pit. Inside the pit, four-legged creatures roamed the floor while smoke billowed up from the magma below. Each plume of smoke contained exactly one tortured soul, suffering all alone.
That's something else Botsford made note of ... the isolation. All around him he could hear the screams of millions of damned souls, but their company was meaningless, because he understood that he was by himself and that this would last for eternity.
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So a lot like how you live on Earth right now.
He's kind of overstating that loneliness, though, because at one point, a team of demons showed up to eat his flesh right from the bone, only to have it immediately grow back so they could eat it again.
Finally, he was spared when a gigantic hand reached through the wall and pulled him out. As it did, he heard someone say, "It's not your time."
All of this sounds eerily similar to the Vision of Drythelm, which depicts a Hell that includes a gigantic pit, above which the souls of the damned hang suspended in globes of black flame, suffering alone for all of eternity. No word on whether everyone gets the same cliched "Hand of God" ending that Matthew Botsford eventually got, but here's hoping they do.