Texas Pastor Who Says He Traveled To Hell Reports Curious Choice Of Torture Music

It's not clear how long humans have been reporting near-death experiences (NDEs) after coming perilously close to death, but only in the last few decades have scientists taken a serious look at the phenomenon. As the book, "Exploring Near-Death Experiences across Cultures" notes, people who have experienced NDEs seem to report many of the same phenomena, regardless of their religion or their culture. As the University of Virginia explains, those who have experienced NDEs describe similar things: a feeling of warmth and unconditional love, a tunnel with a bright light at the end, and so on. However, the academic paper, "Distressing Near-Death Experiences: The Basics," via the National Library of Medicine, notes that not everyone who experiences an NDE has a positive experience. While some experience something that may be viewed in terms of the Christian concept of Heaven, others experience something akin to the Christian concept of Hell — which is to say, experiencing beings clawing at them, or traversing across a desolate landscape.

One Texas man claims that God sent him to see what Hell was about, and he managed to take note of the music that was being used to torture the damned. And apparently the playlist in Hell, according to Entertainment Weekly, includes Rihanna and Bobby McFerrin.

'It's The Same Music That We Hear On Earth'

Back in 2016, according to Entertainment Weekly, Texas pastor Gerald Johnson had a near-death experience that sent him to what he perceived as Hell, and in 2023, he made a TikTok about it. Perhaps not unexpectedly, he got a vision of a man being burned head-to-toe, not inconsistent with some interpretations of the Christian concept of Hell. But then came the music. "There's a section in hell where music was playing. It was the same music that we hear on the earth, but as opposed to entertainers singing it, the music, demons were singing it," he said. And the music being played by the demons? Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy," among other choices.

Johnson framed the whole experience not within the framework of describing the music that is played to torture souls in hell, but rather as a metaphor for listening to music that doesn't honor God. "Every lyric to every song is to torment you as to the fact that you didn't worship God through music when you were on the Earth. 

Music-As-Torture Is A Real Thing

It's not our place to determine whether or not individuals' claims of supernatural experiences are real. However, we can say with certainty that torturing people with music is a real thing that has happened. As BBC News reports, back in 1989 Panamanian military leader turned dictator, Manuel Noriega, barricaded himself within the Vatican embassy in Panama City after being sought by U.S. forces for drug trafficking. They couldn't just go in and get him without creating an international incident, so instead they tortured him until he came out on his own — by playing hard rock and heavy metal 24/7, from speakers mounted on military vehicles. 

But Johnson didn't say hearing the music was torturous, per say, rather, he claimed that it made him realize that demons use artists who "smoke to get high" to aid in their creativity. He said using substances opens up the artists to the supernatural world where demons can influence the artist's lyrics "with the purpose of controlling people on the Earth ... you chose to worship Satan by repeating the lyrics that he inspired to come into the Earth," he said in his TikTok video

To be clear, however, Rihanna didn't write her hit "Umbrella" — according to Spin. That song came from three men who collaborated on it. However, Bobby McFerrin did write "Don't Worry Be Happy." Stereogum said he takes themes from typical blues songs "and smashes them with optimism straight from the spiritual tradition." His lyrics don't seem like the kind of messages a demon would want to imbue on humanity, but allegedly, demons can be tricky.