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Review: The Story of Annette, a Soul in Hell

The Story of Annette, a Soul in Hell has been freely available on the web for some years. It is not known who wrote it nor when it was first published. Apparently, the English text is translated from the French although I do not know if it was originally in French. Even the title is a placeholder.

The story is short, a little over six thousand words. Apparently, Claire and Annette were two young German ladies who were acquaintances. In 1937, Annette died in a car accident and Claire had a vision in which the former appeared to her. The story is an account of what Annette said to Claire.

The text has supposedly been granted the “Nihil obstat” and “Imprimatur”. This merely means that it contains no doctrinal errors and publication is permitted. These declarations do not shed any light on whether the story is true or fiction.

It vaguely reminds me of the story of St Bruno (b. 1030 – d. 1101) who whilst at a funeral the deceased sat up and said, “By the just judgement of God have I been accused, judged, damned.” St Bruno then renounced the world and founded the Carthusian Order, one of the strictest.

It is possible the story of Annette is true even though there is no supporting documentation of any investigation (if any was conducted) into the matter. On the other hand, it could be fiction, written by someone who knows the theology and is a good writer.

The text reads consistently and is densely packed with details. It serves as a warning not only of Hell and what it may be like, but also of how one gets there. Given that the account is short, it is easier to simply read the story but I will highlight a few key passages here.

This is how it starts:

“Claire,” said Annette, “don’t pray for me. I am damned. I have come to tell you that and to speak to you at length about it, but do not think I am doing it out of friendship. We who are here in this place, we do not love anyone anymore. I am doing what I am because I am forced to. I am acting now as ‘a part of that power which always wills evil, yet does good.’ To be honest I would like you too to be cast into this place where I am to spend eternity. Do not be surprised that I should say that. Here we all think that way. Our will is irrevocably directed towards evil – at least what you call ‘evil.’ Even if we happen to do something good, as I am doing now by letting you know what goes on in Hell, we never do it with a good intention.”

On one of the pains of Hell:

“The fact is that everything is a source of pain for us. Everything we learned before our death, every memory of things we saw or knew is like a cruel flame. And in every one of these memories we see the graces that were offered to us, the graces we spurned. Oh what agony! We don’t eat, we don’t sleep, we cannot walk upright. We are spiritually in chains, and we look with horror, with ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’, on the ruins of our lives. All that is left for us is hate and torment; Do you understand? Here we drink in hate like water, even among ourselves.”

On the importance of prayer:

“Countless souls are torn from the Devil’s clutches by the spirit of prayer, souls that would otherwise be bound to fall into his hands as a result of sin.” “To tell you all this is burning me up with anger; I am only going on because I am forced to.” “There is nothing easier in this world for a man than to pray, and it is precisely upon prayer that everyone’s salvation depends. That is the way God has arranged things. Little by little He gives to everyone who perseveres in prayer so much light and strength that even the most hardened sinner can pick himself up once and for all, even if he is sunk in sin up to his neck!”

One of the most chilling points of the story is that Annette was not outwardly a particularly bad person. Ultimately, what is damning is one’s habitual indifference to God.

“That is what happened to me. For years I had been living far from God, and because of that, when I heard the final call of grace, I turned away from Him. What was fatal for me was not that I sinned a lot, but that when I had sinned, I had not the will to pick myself up again.”

As already mentioned, the story is freely available on the internet but a reproduction of the text is available here.

 The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 12th-century icon, St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 12th-century icon, St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt

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