Baltimore writer Van Smith has stashed away nearly three cases of Pikesville Supreme. (André Chung/For The Washington Post)
In the summer of 2016, Naomi Karzai, the bar manager of Pen & Quill — a slightly upscale restaurant blocks from Baltimore’s Penn Station — heard an unwelcome rumor from a bartender friend. “I didn’t believe him,” she recounted later, “but I was nervous.”
Word was that Pikesville Supreme — a solid, unassuming, spicy yet smooth rye whiskey born in Maryland and beloved by Baltimoreans — was going out of production. So the next time the bar’s alcohol distributor stopped by, Karzai bought 20 cases. “It’s good and inexpensive,” she said of the whiskey, which retailed then at about $18 for a 750-milliliter bottle. “It does all of the things that we Baltimoreans like.”
In October 2016, Heaven Hill Distillery, which produced Pikesville Supreme, officially confirmed the news. At that point, the hoarding began in earnest. The Wine Source, a liquor store in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, sold close to 700 bottles of Pikesville in the month following the announcement. (In previous months, the store had sold an average of 84 bottles of Pikesville, says manager Lauren Loeffler.) “Most of the people I know have their own little stashes,” Van Smith, an erstwhile Baltimore City Paper reporter and Pikesville Supreme devotee, told me in June. He had bought five cases of Pikesville — at $150 a case — from Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits in December 2016.
On Sunday, Oct. 29th, 2000, I visited HELL HOUSE, “a spiritually-based adventure that takes people on a 7-scene journey, each scene depicting the hell and destruction
that Satan and this world can bestow on those who choose to not serve Jesus Christ.” HELL HOUSE has become so popular that the church in Denver that originated the concept has packaged the program and sold it to churches throughout the country. This year it made its debut in Baltimore. I stood in line for an hour at the Kingsway Christian Center with other devout Christians waiting to see the horrors unfold.
After our chilling wait we are introduced to our “Personal Demon,” bedecked in devil’s robe and white “ghoul” makeup with “666” painted on his forehead. He even has “devil” contact lenses — the same ones all those wacky goth kids are wearing these days. We are led to the first scene of Hell House: a funeral parlor, where a teenager has died of AIDS. We are seated in real church pews, with an organist and a minister preaching. It’s like “Scrooge” — they don’t notice us, and they don’t notice our “Personal Demon” making a mockery of the funeral. “Out of the closet and into the casket!” he taunts as the mourners cry and wail. We hear a 12-year old girl in the group mutter “My uncle was gay and he’s not going to hell!”
Next we are led to the ‘Abortion Scene.” A spread-eagled teenaged Christian portrays a “knocked-up” “’ho” covered in blood. A doctor with a forceps twiddles between her legs occasionally pulling up a piece of bloodied liver and tossing it into an oversized mixing bowl as she screams and cries out. At this point we realize we weren’t the only non-Christians in the group as we hear cries of “This is SICK”! Our “Personal Demon” tells us that “a few beers, a few joints, and now THIS!” as he laughs demonically. “That was the next Billy Graham” he exclaims, pointing to the mixing bowl of bloodied parts and leading us into the next room.
Hell House documentary. Although this did not take place in Baltimore the script is the same.
We are next led into a high-school cafeteria where a group of teens are studying their Bibles during their break. In storms a short, 12-year-old Trench Coat Mafia clad youngster who breaks into an utterly amazing rant about how he hates his parents, his life, God, and especially those annoying Bible-studiers at the next table. He pulls out a handgun and holds it to a girl telling her she must renounce the name of God or die. “I can’t!” she pleas. He pulls the trigger as flames shoot from the gun and we are all deafened by the noise. She falls over dead on the floor with a huge bloody gunshot wound to the head.. Luckily she wore her earplugs on the way to school that day.
Next we see the drunken-driving scene with a real wrecked car! Dad is sprawled on the hood, mom is dead in the passenger seat, and a bloodied baby doll is in the back. Our “Personal Demon” laughs about how many lives Satan takes due to booze cruises and suddenly Dad falls off the car and comes to life! “Our Baby!” he cries. “This Bud’s for you!” our personal demon retorts!
We next enter a dark room to the strains of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” A frustrated teen sits in his room staring at his black light “Korn” poster. He throws his homework in the air and suddenly a backwards-masking demon appears, putting suicidal thoughts in the teen’s head courtesy of Metallica’s music, obviously downloaded from Napster. The teen is overwhelmed by the demonic voices telling him to “Do it!” and suddenly in the darkness w e see a flash of light and a loud bang from a gun as the teen falls over dead.
We are next led through Hell, which is a long corridor with teens in ghoulish makeup screaming behind prison bars. “Please help me! No one told me it would be like this” they scream as they reach out towards us and try to grab us as we stumble through cobwebs and strobe lights..
We are then led to the lair of Satan himself, sitting high on a throne decorated with a goat’s head 20 feet in the air! He recounts all we have just seen, in a soliloquy even better than the Columbine kid’s. His throne is hydraulically lowered and he comes towards us and stands inside a fluorescent pentagram. I notice his red face paint and prosthetic Lucifer chin. He looks just like the Satan on Underwood Deviled Ham! He continues his rant, getting right in the faces of people. The 12-year-old girls continue to scream: “My uncle’s gay and you can’t say he’s going to hell!” Our “Personal Demon” and a Christian security guard hover over her and tell her to “Be Quiet!”, while Lucifer himself directs his teen pregnancy barbs at this group. “You thought it would be a party!” A mid-40’s lesbian couple yells out: “What’s wrong with you people? We want our money back! This is DISGUSTING!” Satan only pauses briefly, and then directs his outrage at them. Suddenly Jesus himself appears – a middle-aged white guy in a choirboy’s robe with sparkle make-up.
Jesus then leads us to “Heaven” which is a room draped in white sheets with a pulpit and some chairs. This is the scariest room of all, as we are asked to bow our heads and pray! The middle-aged lesbians scream “You are all a bunch of ASSHOLES! We want our money back! How the HELL do we get out of here!” The preacher says “We are not forcing you to stay, here is the exit.” The 12-year-old girls follow. I devoutly bow my head in prayer hoping to see more action, but alas, that is it for Hell House. They pray for 30 seconds, tell us they hope our life has been changed, and try to push tracts and church schedules on us. I leave the church laughing my ass off.
HELL HOUSE costs $5 and is located at Kingsway Christian Center, 7403 Gum Spring Road, near Golden Ring Mall in Baltimore County. Tonight, MONDAY OCT 30th, is the very last night. I SUGGEST YOU GO! Open 7-11 pm
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