The largest of many spacious homes located within the compound is owned by the matriarch, Shirley Phelps. Shirley is the daughter of Fred Phelps, she also loves to write songs about Jesus, and looks like a Labradoodle on it's hind legs.
On my arrival Shirley was kind enough to give me a tour of the grounds which consisted of a fascinating stop in the "Sign Factory," where the signs known round the world are lovingly constructed by young and old alike.
We walked down row upon row of pleasantly colored billboards, each with it's own message from God neatly etched in black, "God Hates Fags", "Thank God for Aids", "Pray For More Dead Solders." I was so touched by the amount of love in that room, I cut Shirley Phelps break line later that night.
In the far corner of the sign shop sat two boys, one carefully dragging a paint brush across a multicolored sheet of construction paper, while the younger of the two peered curiously over his brothers shoulder.
They spoke with one another in a loving manner that only siblings could understand . "See Timmy, That's how you spell 'FAG'. You need to learn that if you don't want Jesus sneaking into your room at night to kill you with the AIDS? Right Grandma."
Shirley burst out laughing. "That's Right Jacob, and don't so close to your brother."
I loved seeing how the children avoided looking Shirley in the eyes for fear of bursting into flames, it reminded me of absolutely nothing, and I was very grateful to my parents for that.
The first night was difficult, I awoke at two o'clock from the sound of what I believed to be someone sacrificing a chicken, and after that there was no way I was going back to sleep.
The first day consisted of prayer, breakfast, prayer, gay bashing, prayer, a thirty minute lesson on how the Jews were responsible for solar flairs, prayer, and finally a family sing along to the song "The Cat Came Back", with the word "Slut" in place of "Cat".
The next morning was Sunday, so all the family crowded into the little white church on a secluded part of the property to hear a recorded sermon from Fred Phelps', the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church who passed away in March of 2014.
Shirley had saved me a seat in the front row directly opposite the lectern so that I could clearly hear the message emanating from the Hi-Fi speakers built into the podium. She explained to the congregation that the recording they were about to hear was made in 2009, and that although she had not heard it yet, she was pretty sure it had something to do with homosexuality. At this point she disappeared behind a curtain.
Several minutes passed before the curtain slid open to reveal a taxidermied Fred Phelps in his best suit, duct taped to a dolly and being wheeled across the stage. Struggling to keep the corpse from falling, Shirley Phelps stood at the helm of the dolly, rolling it slowly across the faded blue carpet while dollops of sweat leaked down her crooked nose. Finally reaching the lectern, she dropped the body into place with a loud gasp of air, then straightened out her fathers head and tried to position the eyeballs as if he was watching the congregation.
Holding her lower back in pain she hobbling to a nearby folding chair and dropped into place with a grunt, while at the same time starting the audio from her cell phone.
Although Fred's voice blasted through the speakers at an unholy volume I was unable to hear it, or anything else for that matter, because my attention was entirely focused on the corpse three feet in front of me.
Shirley had done a feeble job positioning Fred's eyeballs, which rolled abut the sockets like marbles in a bowl. The skin around his teeth was pulled tightly back to reveal a set of poorly molded dentures that seemed to be held in place with staples and glue. I don't think I've ever see such an unappealing image before, everything from his foul stench to the sticker on his neck that read "This End Up", made me sick to my stomach.
When the service was over I asked Shirley if we could do something fun for a change, my knees were shot from praying so much, and my brain was soar from all the hatred, what I wanted to do was something wild and exciting. I wanted them to show me how the Phelps family lets loose and blows off some steam on a Saturday night. Shirley Had just the thing.
Two hours later I sat on the cool grass in an audience of about thirty adults as we patiently waited for a dozen or so children to start a new musical they have been working on called, "Why Sin Is Dumb".
With the pitiful burst of an inexpensive bottle rocket, the children stormed across the small wooden stage, dressed up like tiny SS officers. They goose-stepped in perfect unison across the stage while singing a song called "Hugs & Kisses, Uncle Hitler", after which the children burnt the president in effigy and took turns urinating on a copy of the United States constitution.
After the second standing ovation I realized these people might not be right in the head, and decided it was time to get out of there before they sacrifice me to their homophobic God.
I slowly back away from the crowed and made for the exit. As I rested my hand on the metal latch of the gate, a cackle that turned my heart to stone, rose from behind me. I looked over my shoulder just in time to Shirley Phelps, with burning red eyes and freshly spouted horns, leap twenty feet in the air, directly at me.
I screamed like a Belieber on speed, and ripped the gate open, diving onto the safety of the sidewalk just as the raging Shirley landed where I stood moments before. With the agility of a cat I leapt into the box of a passing truck and made my escape while Shirley howled at the sky like a coyote.
All in all I would give my stay at The Westboro Baptist Church a score of 2 out of ten, with the church loosing several points for wheeling a corpse around on a dolly, and also spreading hate, but gaining a couple points for being family orientated and encouraging their children to be artistic.