Minister Recounts a Trip to 'Hell' (4 articles)
By Michael H. Brown
This is the account of a minister, Howard Storm,
from Ohio, who "died" in 1985 from a perforation in his intestines and returned
with an account of hell. While he's a minister now (at Zion United Church of
Christ in Norwood), at the time he was an atheistic professor, chairman of the
art department at North Kentucky University.
Storm describes himself as a selfish man who not only didn't believe but detested those who did.
Then came the crisis on June 1, 1985, while he was leading students on a trip to museums in Paris.
"I needed surgery immediately but unfortunately when I got to the surgery hospital there wasn't a surgeon available," says Storm. "It was excruciating. I was in real agony for hours. I said to my wife that it was time to say good-bye. I couldn't hang on any longer. We said our good-byes and I closed my eyes, knowing full well that I was going to die and that when you die it's like an electric switch, the end of you. I knew that as certainly as anyone knows anything. I was waiting for the big zero, the big blackout, the one we never wake up from, the end of existence.
"I went unconscious and I don't know how long it lasted. I felt real strange, so I opened my eyes, and to my surprise I was standing up next to the bed looking down at my body in the bed. I tried to communicate with my wife but she was ignoring me. I tried to communicate with another man in the room, but he ignored me.
"Then I heard people outside the room calling my name in English. I went over to the doorway and I asked if they had come to take me for my surgery and they said, hurry up, we've been waiting for you a long time. I had bad feelings about them but I went with them. As I journeyed with this group of people beyond the room, down what would have been the hall, I began to be aware that the hall had no features and was just space, that I was traveling through a very hazy, ill-lit space and they were moving me along and we went for a very long journey -- there was no time, it could have been days or weeks -- and they became increasingly rude and abusive and hostile and I was becoming increasingly afraid.
"Now we were in darkness over this very long period of time. I said, 'I'm not going with you any further.' They said, 'We're almost there.' They started pushing and shoving me and I fought with them and there were many of them. A wild orgy of frenzied taunting, screaming, and hitting ensured. They had very sharp, hard fingernails. My impression was also that their teeth were longer than normal. I tried to defend myself but with this huge horde of people it was impossible. What they were doing was playing with me, initially scratching and biting, punching and slapping, pushing and taunting, very vulgar.
"Then it got much worse than that. That part's censored. They were playing with me as a cat plays with a mouse. Every new assault brought howls of cacophony. Then at some point, they began to tear off pieces of my flesh. To my horror I realized I was being taken apart and eaten alive, slowly, so that their entertainment would last as long as possible. I want to reiterate that what was happening was extremely real.
"After they had humiliated me to the best of their ability, I was lying on the floor of that place and I had been all kinds of ripped up and broken, outside and inside. I was devastated, having been stripped of any worth. I heard a voice that said, 'Pray to God.' I thought, I don't believe in God, it's a stupid idea. I heard it a second and third time and I was thinking, what did I say when I was a kid? I was 38 and had probably said my last prayer when I was 15 years old. And in my attempt to remember I muttered a few phrases [of old prayers] and with that the people who were around me became very angry and they were saying to me in obscene language which is unimaginable -- nobody has ever spoken like this in this world -- in essence, `There is no God. Nobody can hear you. And if you don't stop we're going to really hurt you.'
"But because the mention of God made them so angry, I tried to remember phrases about God -- anything from my childhood. As I did that I was aware it was driving them away from me, as if the mention of God repelled them. It was as if I was throwing boiling oil on them. And eventually I was all alone in that place. My sense was that they were way, way off in the darkness somewhere. I was left alone there for a time without measure and thought about my life. The bottom-line conclusion was that I had led a bad life. My god was my art career. That's what I worshipped.
"I thought of how cold-hearted and cruel and manipulative I was. I felt where I had ended up was where I belonged, and that the people who had come and picked me up and taken me to this place were people who had lived lives like mine. We were people who hadn't loved God and hadn't loved fellow human beings.
"Now in this place there was nothing left but to tear and gnaw on one another, which was essentially what we had done on earth. I was also aware that this was just the beginning, and that it was going to get worse. Much, much worse. I knew the only way to survive in this place was to be crueler than the people who were around you. There was no kindness, no compassion, no hope.
"I had no hope of seeing the world or getting back to life but I didn't want to be part of their world. I had gone down the sewer pipe of the universe to the cesspool and was still on the top of the cesspool. A memory from my childhood came very vividly of me as a small child sitting in a Sunday school classroom singing 'Jesus loves Me' and the memory was so simple and innocent and pure, believing in something good, and that Jesus cared about me and was good and powerful.
"I didn't believe in Him but I wanted to believe what I had believed as a child.
"So as an act of desperation I called out to the darkness, 'Jesus, please save me.'
"Off in the darkness I saw a pinpoint of light like the faintest star in the sky. I wondered why I hadn't seen it before. The star was getting brighter and brighter. At first I thought it might be some phenomenon like a meteor. Then it dawned on me that it was moving toward me at what apparently was an enormous rate of speed. As it closed in I realized that I was right in its path and I might be run over. But I couldn't take my eyes off it, because emanating from the light was more intensity and more beauty that I had ever seen before in my life. Almost immediately the light was very close. I realized then that while it was indescribably brilliant, it wasn't light at all. It was a living entity, a luminous being approximately eight feet in diameter and oval in shape. Its brilliance and intensity penetrated my body. In a very vivid and beautiful experience I slowly rose up with no effort into the light.
"As I was being picked up I saw all my gore blown away like dust and I was restored physically, and emotionally I was in ecstasy and I knew this person Who had come was Jesus and I knew instantly that He was very intelligent, very strong, and I knew that He was very good, and most importantly I knew that He had loved me more than any concept I had ever had of what love was. If I had taken all my experiences of love and compacted them into a moment, it would have exceeded that.
"And I knew that He knew absolutely everything about me. He knew my thoughts. He knew every moment of my life, even things I didn't remember. And He held me and I cried and cried and cried out of joy and He began to carry me directly straight up, like a helicopter. We started leaving that place.
"Fairly soon we were entering into a world full of light and off to the distance was a great center of brightness.
"The goodness and the love and the holiness were permeating through me, and I thought to myself, I'm a piece of garbage. They've made a terrible mistake, because I don't belong here. I was so ashamed.
With that we stopped our movement and He spoke to me for the first time and He said, `You do belong here, and we don't make mistakes."
(Reverend Storm's book in which he describes this experience and more is available in our bookstore)
Minister Who Had Near-Death Episode Believes In Purgatory
By Michael H. Brown
Howard Storm, a former atheist whose brush with
death turned him into a Protestant minister, says that he now believes in
"It only makes sense," he says, "but I have trouble discussing this with my fellow ministers."
Featured here a couple months ago and also on MSNBC during Easter Week -- where he told his incredible story to a national audience -- Reverend Storm, considered by experts as one of the most convincing near-death cases, recounted his "dying" in Paris in 1985 from a perforated duodenum and after leaving his body finding himself with a group of hideous beings who attacked him as they led him to a foggy zone that descended toward "hell."
Storm says he was saved by Jesus after desperately pleading to God. After an extensive hospitalization he recovered -- and learned that a nun who had once been a student of his had been praying for him for years.
Storm credits that with saving him; after the episode he left his job as an professor at Northern Kentucky University and entered a seminary, becoming a minister.
He is now with the Zion United Church of Christ in Norwood, Ohio (near Cincinnati), and while some churches in that denomination can be ultra-liberal, he openly preaches against abortion and the New Age.
Still, we try to be careful with these cases, and we always issue the disclaimer that we can't endorse every view of such experiencers -- some of whom tend at times to put their own (and sometimes a nearly New Age) spin on what occurred. Like any form of mysticism, it is to be carefully discerned.
This is true in the case of Reverend Storm -- who himself acknowledges that some of his views have shifted since he became an active Christian ( including a few expressed in a book which was written before his faith was fully formed). These episodes are told through the filter of a person's framework.
But he is a man who exudes love (the single most important element of Christianity); many believe his experience was real; and he says he now believes not only in heaven and hell but also a state in-between where souls are "purged."
After his horrifying brush with death the concept of purgation was explained to him by a priest, says Reverend Storm, and "just rang so clear to me in my experience."
He says that when he "died" he was taken through a "foggy" region strikingly similar to what has been described in mystical literature [see An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory] -- and also similar to descriptions by modern visionaries who have told of a great "gray" area between hell and heaven.
Although a devout Protestant, Storm says that he considers Catholicism "the Mother Church" and is even interested in the Catholic apparition site of Medjugorje. He says God doesn't want division and that the main reason why he was on the road to hell was lack of love, pride, and disbelief.
(Reverend Storm's book in which he describes this experience and more is available in our bookstore)
Near-Death Prophecy: Man Was Shown Failure Of Infrastructure, Power Grid
By Michael H. Brown
Those who have been following this site are familiar with what we have called the "1990 prophecy" -- an alleged anonymous revelation that forecast the occurrence of regional events and a breakdown of what has been created through technology.
There is little doubt that in the years since, we have seen precisely that: an intensification of regional disasters, events sent as "little" warnings before we begin to receive the truly large warnings and yet other events that, as the prophecy foresaw, "will differ according to regions, and will not always or usually be immediately noticeable for what they are."
Certainly this has been the case. We look around and see Hurricane Andrew, the Mississippi flooding, the wildfires in the Southwest, quakes in China, heat waves in Europe, volcanic rumblings, quakes in California, ice storms, blizzards, record nor'easters, floods in Canada, SARS, West Nile virus, September 11.
These and many other upsets have occurred since 1990 -- and yet as also predicted, we do not connect the dots.
More direct, still, were the prophecies of a former atheist and college professor named Howard Storm -- who underwent a brush with death after the rupture of his duodenum in 1985 and claims that during that episode, in which he was headed for what he describes as hell, he was rescued by Jesus and then placed in the company of three angels who showed him aspects of America's future.
"They made it very clear to me that God had given this country the greatest blessing of any people in the history of the world," said Dr. Storm, who is from the Cincinnati area. "We have more of God's blessing. Everything that we have comes from God. We didn't deserve it, we didn't earn it, but we happen to be the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. And God gave us all this so that we could be the instruments of God's light in this world, and we are not instruments of light. In other countries people see us as purveyors of exploitation, military might, and pornography. They see us as completely hedonistic and amoral -- we have no morality. People can do whatever they want wherever they want with whatever they want. Our amorality is a cancer on the rest of the world, and God created us to be just the opposite.
"People get mad at me for saying it, but God is very unhappy with what we're doing," adds Storm, now a Methodist minister. "When I came back from the experience I was almost out of my mind trying to convert people. God wanted a worldwide conversion thousands of years ago. God pulled out all the stops 2,000 years ago with Jesus. From God's view, that was the definitive moment in human history. And the impact of the prophets and teachers and the Messiah has been a big disappointment to God because people have by and large rejected it. I was told that God wants this conversion. And if we don't get with the program fairly soon, He is going to have to intervene in some ways that from a human point of view are going to seem cataclysmic. God is really tired of what we're doing to one another and the planet and to His Creation. We were put in this world to be stewards and live in harmony with His creation and one another and we don't realize the important spiritual consequences of what we do when we raise a child in a faithless society.
'I asked how [purification] would come about, and they said it would be simple, that our society is very dependent on a lot of very fragile things -- energy grid, transportation," Storm told Spirit Daily more than two years ago. "In each geographical area of the United States people used to be relatively self-sufficient as far as agricultural products. Now, how long would any state survive without the transport of food and energy?
"What would happen is these very complex and delicate grids of our economic system would begin to break down. We've created a society of such cruel and self-centered people that the very nature of civilization would begin to break down. The angels showed me that what would happen is that people would begin robbing the grocery stores, hording goods, and killing one another for gasoline and tires, and as a consequence everything would break down and would end up in chaos."
That's if we don't change. Prophecy is conditional. And more than anything, angels encourage us. They are not here to put us into a negative mindset. When there is eternity to look forward to, there is in the end happiness for all who follow Jesus.
But this is serious business. After last week, with the great blackout, we have a glimpse of what can happen on a much wider, longer scale. At this point no one knows what triggered the outage, but they are pointing to relatively minor mishaps that may have pulled the energy supply for parts of eight states and Canada down. We were granted a glimpse of just how reliant we are on a system that can vanish in a flash. Many are now pointing to the source of the blackout as Ohio, where Storm himself lives and where, that the very same week, a statue of the Virgin Mary was reported to be mysteriously glowing.
As the eyes and heart of the statue allegedly lit -- even in the night -- the rest of the state and much of the North were in darkness.
Update on Howard Storm (March 2005)
Today Show Causes Reflection On Man Who Claims He Went to Hell And Came Back
Odd stuff, today, on Today: The national morning show on NBC was set to do an interview about Dr. Howard Storm -- the former atheistic art professor who turned into a minister after a near-death experience that included what he interpreted as a trip toward hell.
He was saved, claims the former North Kentucky University professor, by calling out, in desperation (and despite his atheism), to Jesus. His salvation makes for one of the most compelling stories we have heard, and was wondrous.
We say "odd stuff" because the interview scheduled for NBC was to be with author Anne Rice, who is not usually known as a Christian witness. Rice, the author of famously dark books (for example, Interviews with the Vampire), was set to promote Storm's own book, My Descent into Death, which apparently affected her very deeply. According to reports, Rice (whose books we would urge readers to stay clear from, but were certainly very successful), has experienced a conversion that has deepened through Dr. Storm's account of how Christ saved him.
Dr. Storm later explained that for years, unbeknownst to him, a nun who had attended one of his art classes (and whom he hassled) had been praying for him.
Perhaps someone has also been praying for Anne Rice.
At any rate, we welcome Anne to the fold and must state that Dr. Storm's prominence in the secular media causes us to reflect upon some of the rather dramatic revelations he says he was given during the 1985 experience. To recap briefly: the professor "died" while touring museums with students in Paris. His wife, a lawyer, was by his side as he slipped from consciousness. He expected everything to fade to black. He was certain there was no afterlife. But he found himself outside of his body, and shortly after, having failed in his attempts to now communicate with his wife (who was weeping at his bedside in the hospital), Storm heard beckoning voices in the hall and followed them into a fog.
Unfortunately, they were demons. According to Dr. Storm, once he was saved from the pit by Jesus, he was left in the company of seven angels who reviewed his life and showed him glimpses of America's future.
What Storm saw was a breakdown in the infrastructure of America. We like to be upbeat, but we also have to tell it like it is, or at least as it is according to certain of those who have experienced what seem like authentically unusual experiences.
"They told me that God was very unhappy with the course of human history and was going to intervene to change the world," says Dr. Storm. "God had watched us sink to depths of depravity and cruelty at the very same time that God was giving us the instruments to make the world a Godlier world."
Storm said he was told that we had regressed back, time after time, to the brutality of the Roman Empire. No country had been blessed as much as the U.S., the angels allegedly said to him, and yet the nation had failed to share its blessings with the rest of the world in the way that God intended.
We report; you discern.
"The United States has been given more of everything than any other country in the history of the world and it has failed to be generous with the gifts," one angel allegedly told Storm. "If the United States continues to exploit the rest of the world by greedily consuming the world's resources, the United States will have God's blessing withdrawn. Your country will collapse economically which will result in civil chaos. Because of the greedy nature of the people, you will have people killing people for a cup of gasoline. The world will watch in horror as your country is obliterated by strife."
Tough stuff, and not very uplifting; not very good news for SUV owners. Is it really true?
Storm says that he was also told that war is "always" wrong, and while we must always maintain a healthy skepticism over such dramatic pronouncements (and while we must be on special guard with near-death experiences, which can at times seem muddled by components of the New Age), the views he relates as those from angels bear certain striking consistencies with what has been stated by Pope John Paul II (who himself had a brush with death in 1981, and perhaps another one more recently).
The Pope has said that "war is always a defeat for humanity."
As for the angels?
"They made it plain to me: 'God hates war,'" he says. "If we desire to kill each other God will not stop us. We are supposed to learn that war is unacceptable and prevent wars from happening. Wars happen because of the spiritual sickness of people. The way to prevent war is to love aggressively and care for all people. Our purpose is to know and do God's Will in this life and we do this when we love each other as God loves us. Every person without exception needs to be loved by us. This is the most difficult and most important lesson of our lives. This is what has shaped the past and this is what will shape the future."
Storm says that the angels further explained that "God has no desire for you to use violence and destructive means to assert your will over one another. But God allows wars to happen when you are determined to be at war. Every war is a lesson that war is undesirable and you need to learn better ways of achieving harmony with one another."
No war, claimed the angels, is ever "inevitable." "God is very unhappy with your continuing desire to make wars," the angels supposedly said.
And we can get into real politics here!
Suffice is to say that like so many others who had a brush with death (Storm "died" from a ruptured duodenum), the message is love, especially love of God. "Faith is the basis for loving God and knowing God," wrote Storm. "The angels' primary desire is to give us faith in God so we will receive God's love and know God in an intimate way."
As Storm was taught, everything good comes from God. Despite the trials of life, there is Heaven. Those who have accepted God's love not only make God happy, they make all of Heaven joyous. God loves us. He loves each one of us as if we were His favorite. His love (and not the fear of punishment) is what draws us to Him. During the next century or two, says Storm, the angels told him the world will be broken down into a more pleasant and peaceable place, somewhat of a new start. Major events loom.
Can we vouch for everything that Storm says? Of course not. Some of it seems very strange. Some of what everyone who has such experiences is very different. But we take everything and attempt to sort it out. Anne Rice? Let's chalk it up, for now, to the power of conversion.
Perhaps we will have more to say some day beyond today about angels, as revealed to Dr. Storm -- or should we say, Reverend Storm, since he quit the university to become first a Protestant minister and now, starting April, a missionary in Belize.
March 15, 2005
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