48 Hours in Hell

By John Reynolds

One of the most interesting cases of resuscitation that ever came to my knowledge was that of George Lennox, a notorious horse thief. George Lennox worked in a prison coal mine during the winter of 1887 – 1888. The room that he had worked in seemed dangerous to him. He reported this to the officer in charge, who examined the room. Deciding that the room was safe, the officer ordered Lennox back to work. Lennox had not worked for more than an hour when the roof fell in and completely buried him. He remained in that condition for around two hours. As he was missed at dinnertime, a search was made for him. He was found under a pile of rubbish, and it looked like he was dead. He was taken to another area and examined by the prison physician, who pronounced him dead. His body was carried to the hospital where it was washed and dressed for interment. His coffin was made and brought to the hospital. The chaplain had arrived to perform the last sad rites preparatory to burial. The hospital steward ordered two prisoners to lift the corpse and carry it across the room and place it in the coffin. They obeyed. One was at the head and the other at the feet, and they were about halfway across the room when the one who was at the head accidentally stumbled over a cuspidor, lost his balance, and dropped the corpse. The head of the dead man struck the floor, and to the utter surprise and astonishment of all those who were there, a deep groan was heard. After that, the eyes opened, and other appearances of life were manifested. The physician was immediately sent for. When he arrived around thirty minutes later, Lennox was drinking a cup of water. The coffin was removed, and it was used later to bury another inmate. Lennox’s burial clothes were taken from him and prison garb was given to him instead. Upon examination, it was discovered that one of his legs was broken in two places, and he also had some bruises. He remained in the hospital for six months before he went back to work.

I soon learned about his experience of being apparently dead from a fellow miner. As I was curious about it, I wanted to acquaint myself with Lennox to get his experience from his own lips. The opportunity did not come for several months. At last it came. After my removal from the mines, I was sent to one of the prison offices to make out some annual reports. The subject of this man’s return to life was being discussed one day when he happened to pass by the office door and was pointed out to me. It was not long until I had a note in his hand, asking him to come to where I was working. He did so, and I got well acquainted with him, and from his own lips I received his wonderful story. He was probably not over thirty years of age. He had been a hardened criminal, was possessed of a very good education, and was naturally very bright. The most wonderful part of his story was during the time that he was dead. Being a shorthand reporter, I wrote down his story as he spoke.

Said he, “I had a premonition all morning that something terrible was going to happen. I was so uneasy on account of my feelings that I went to my mining boss, Mr. Grason, and told him how I felt. I asked him to examine my room where I was digging coal. He did so, and seemed to make a thorough examination of it. He then ordered me back to work, saying there was no danger and that he thought I was going nuts. I returned to my work and dug coal for about an hour, when suddenly it grew very dark. Then it seemed as if a great iron door swung open and I passed through it. The thought came to my mind that I was dead and in another world. I could see no one, nor hear sound of any kind. From some cause unknown to myself, I moved away from the doorway and traveled some distance when I came to the bank of a wide river. It was not dark, neither was it light. There was about as much light as on a bright, starlit night. I had not remained on the bank of this river very long when I heard the sound of oars in the water, and then a person in a boat rowed up to where I was standing. I was speechless. He looked at me for a moment and then said that he had come for me, and told me to get into the boat and row to the other side of the river. I obeyed. I wanted to ask him who he was and where I was, but my tongue seemed to cling to the roof of my mouth. I could not say a word. We finally reached the opposite shore. I got out of the boat and the boatman vanished out of sight.

As I was left alone, I knew not what to do. I saw two roads in front of me that led through a dark valley. One of these roads was wide, and it seemed to be well traveled. The other one was a narrow path, which went in another direction. I instinctively followed the well-traveled road. I had not gone far when it seemed to grow darker. Every now and then, however, a light would flash up from the distance, and in this manner I was lighted on my journey.

I was then met by a being that is utterly impossible for me to describe. I can only give you a faint idea of his dreadful appearance. He somewhat resembled a man but was much larger than any human being I ever saw. He must have been at least ten feet high. He had great wings on his back. He was as black as the coal that I had been digging and in a perfectly nude condition. He had a spear in his hand, the handle of which must have been fully fifteen feet in length. His eyes shone like balls of fire. His teeth, white as pearl, seemed an inch long. His nose, if you could call it a nose, was very large, broad and flat. His hair was very coarse, heavy and long. It hung down on his massive shoulders. His voice sounded like the growls of a lion.

I first saw him during one of those flashes of light. I trembled like an aspen leaf at his sight. He had his spear raised as if to send it flying through me. I suddenly stopped. With his terrible voice (that I seem to yet hear), he told me to follow him – that he had been sent to guide me on my journey. I followed. What else could I do? After we had gone some distance, a large mountain seemed to rise up before us. The part facing us seemed perpendicular, just as if the mountain had been cut in two and one part had been taken away. On this perpendicular wall I could distinctly see these words: This is Hell. My guide approached this perpendicular wall and gave three loud raps with his spear handle. A massive door swung open and we went in. I was then led through what appeared to be a passage through this mountain. For some time we traveled in total darkness. I could hear the heavy footsteps of my guide and so I followed him. All along the way I could hear deep groans as if someone was dying. Further on these groans increased, and I could distinctly hear the cry, ‘water, water, water.’ Coming now to another gateway, and passing through it, I could hear, it seemed, a million voices in the distance, crying for water. Another large door opened at the knock of my guide, and I saw that we had passed through the mountain, and a wide plain was now before me. My guide then left me to direct other lost spirits to the same destination.

I remained in this open plain for a while when a being somewhat similar to the first one came to me, but instead of a spear he had a huge sword. He came to tell me of my future doom. He spoke with a voice that struck horror to my soul. He said, ‘You are in hell – for you, all hope has fled away. As you passed through the mountain on your way here, you heard the groans and shrieks of lost spirits as they called for water to cool their parched tongues. Along that passage there is a door that opens to the Lake of Fire. This will soon be your doom. Before you are conducted to this place of torment, never more to emerge, (for there is no hope for those who enter there), you will be permitted to remain in this open plain, where it is granted to all the lost to behold what they might have enjoyed instead of what they must suffer.’ I was then left alone.

Whether the result of the terrible fright through which I had passed I know not, but now I became stupefied. A dull languor took full possession of me. My strength departed from me. My legs refused to support my body. Being overcome with this, I sank down into a helpless mess. Drowsiness now took control of me. Half awake, half asleep, I seemed to dream. Far above me, and in the distance, I saw the Beautiful City of which we read about in the Bible. How wonderfully beautiful were its walls of jasper. I saw vast plains covered with beautiful flowers stretching way out in the distance. I also saw the River of Life and the Sea of Glass. Vast multitudes of angels would go in and out through the gates of that city, singing, oh, such beautiful songs. I saw my dear old mother, who died a few years ago of a broken heart because of my wickedness. She looked toward me and seemed to beckon me to come to her, but I could not move. There seemed to be a great weight on me that held me down. A gentle breeze blew the fragrance of those lovely flowers toward me, and I could now clearly hear the sweet melody of angel’s voices, and I said to myself, ‘Oh, if I could only be one of them.’

As I was drinking from this cup of bliss, it was suddenly dashed from my lips. I was aroused from my slumber in happy dreamland by an inmate of that dark abode, who said that it was time for me to enter upon my future career. He told me to follow him. Retracing my steps, I again entered the dark passageway and followed my guide. We came to a door that opened in the side of the passage, and going further along we found and passed through another door, and lo, I beheld the Lake of Fire!

Just before me, as far as my eyes could see, was that literal lake of fire and brimstone. Huge waves of fire would roll over each other, and great waves of fiery flame would dash against each other and leap high in the air like the waves of the sea during a violent storm. On the crest of those waves I could see human beings rising up, but were soon carried down again to the lowest depths of that awful lake of fire. Their curses against a just God would be appalling, and their pitiful cries for water would be heart-rending, as they were carried along on the crest of those awful waves. That vast region of fire echoed and re-echoed with the wails of those lost spirits.

I turned my eyes to the door through which I had a few moments ago entered, and I saw these awful words: This is your doom. Eternity never ends! I began to feel the earth give way under my feet, and I found myself sinking down into the Lake of Fire. An indescribable thirst for water seized me, and as I called for water my eyes opened in the prison hospital.

I have never told anyone my experience, for I feared the prison officials would get hold of it, think me insane, and lock me up in the madhouse. I went through all of it, and I am as well satisfied as I am that I am alive, that there is a Heaven and a Hell — a regular old-fashioned Hell — the kind the Bible talks about. But there is one thing for sure — I am never going back to that place. As soon as I opened my eyes in the hospital and found out that I was alive and on earth again, I immediately gave my heart to God, and I am going to live and die a Christian. Those terrible sights of Hell can never be banished from my memory, neither can the beautiful things of Heaven that I saw. I am going to meet my dear old mother after awhile. To be permitted to sit down on the bank of that beautiful river, to wander with those angels across the plains and through the vales and over the hills carpeted with fragrant flowers, the beauty of which far surpasses anything that any mortal can imagine; to listen to the songs of the saved — all this will more than compensate me for living the life of a Christian here on earth, even if I have to give up many sensual pleasures in which I indulged before coming to prison. I have abandoned my companions in crime and I am going to associate with good people when I am once more a free man.”

“48 Hours in Hell” was revised.

Only Jesus can save you from the Lake of Fire!

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