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English Infidel Club

You need not tell me there is no hell, for I already feel my soul slipping into its fires! Wretches, cease your idle talk about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever.”

Sir Francis Newport, head of an English infidel club, on his deathbed In the 18th century, Archibald Boyle was the leading member of an association of wild and wicked men known as “The Hell Club” in Glasgow, Scotland. After one night of carousing at the Club’s notorious annual meeting, Boyle dreamed he was riding home on his black horse. In the darkness, someone seized the reins, shouting, “You must go with me!” As Boyle desperately tried to force the reins from the hands of the unknown guide, the horse reared. Boyle fell down, down, down with increasing speed. “Where are you taking me?” The cold voice replied, “To hell!”

The echoes of the groans and yells of frantic revelry assaulted their ears. At the entrance to hell, Boyle saw the inmates chasing the same pleasures they had pursued in life. There was a lady he’d known playing her favorite vulgar game. Boyle relaxed, thinking hell must be a pleasurable place after all. When he asked her to rest a moment and show him through the pleasures of hell, she shrieked. “There is no rest in hell!” She unclasped the vest of her robe and displayed a coil of living snakes writhing about her midsection. Others revealed different forms of pain in their hearts.

“Take me from this place!” Boyle demanded. “By the living God whose name I have so often outraged, I beg you, let me go!” His guide replied, “Go then—but in a year and a day we meet to part no more.” At this, Boyle awoke, feeling that these last words were as letters of fire burned into his heart. Despite a resolution never to attend the Hell Club again, he soon was drawn back. He found no comfort there. He grew haggard and gray under the weight of his conscience and fear of the future. He dreaded attending the Club’s annual meeting, but his companions forced him to attend. Every nerve of his body writhed in agony at the first sentence of the president’s opening address: “Gentlemen, this is leap year; therefore it is a year and a day since our last annual meeting.”

After the meeting, he mounted his house to ride home. Next morning, his horse was found grazing quietly by the roadside. A few yards away lay the corpse of Archibald Boyle. The strange guide had claimed him at the appointed time.

Paul Lee Tan