WILDWOOD - The Heaven or Hell Machine, placed prominently at the edge of the Boardwalk Chapel, is hard to ignore.

The name alone is enough to draw curious visitors inside.

The Rev. James A. Zozzaro, director of the chapel, calls the machine the most low-tech device on the Boardwalk.

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But the seven true-false questions it asks are age-old and provocative, designed to start conversations.

"Sometimes we get crowds of people around it," Zozzaro said.

The wooden device, akin to a pinball machine of the 1940s, with red and green lights, asks a series of questions and if, according to the Bible, you've answered correctly, heaven lights up on the backboard.

If you haven't, hell is the other option.

"Sometimes people take it as a joke. They say, 'I knew I was going to hell anyway,'" Zozzaro said. "Sometimes they get offended."

The true-false questions include "God will punish sin" and "Hell is not real. God would never send anyone to such a terrible place."

Zozzaro said the machine brings passers-by into a place that doesn't quite fit the Boardwalk mold of T-shirt shops and pizza places, both counted among the chapel's neighbors at 4312 Boardwalk.

Mary Jackson, of Philadelphia, was one of those who stopped to take a look at the machine Thursday, her first time visiting the building.

"I think it's a good idea," she said of the chapel's Boardwalk location. "You never know who might be in trouble or need assistance here."

According to the chapel's website, it was first called the "Gospel Pavilion" and services were first held here in July 1945.

Today, volunteers from across the globe come each summer to minister to the thousands of vacationers that pass by each summer day.

The chapel is a ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of New Jersey.

The wood-frame building has survived the decades and close calls with Boardwalk fires, suffering only some roof damage when Hurricane Sandy came through in October.

Inside, the wooden folding chairs and a wooden floor are believed to be original to the building.

Staff members from as far away as California and Washington state, and even overseas from places including Uganda, spend their time in a rooming house for the summer and help with nightly worship services.

Sarah Buckley, 21, has come for three summers in a row from Warrenton, Va. She serves as music director.

"This place is like Narnia to me. I love the ministry (on the Boardwalk)," Buckley said. "I love the people. I love going out and evangelizing."

The chapel is surrounded by Boardwalk staples, such as pizza by the slice and hermit crab cages, and, not far off, screams from The Great White roller coaster.

Zozzaro said visiting ministers will halt their sermons briefly to let the "Watch the tram car, please" refrain go on uninterrupted.

All of those sights and sounds make the chapel unique, but Zozzaro said that at the end of the day it is a place of prayer like any other.

"It's a place to come and worship the God that gave them the beach and this ocean," he said.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:


If you go

Boardwalk Chapel services start at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at

7 p.m. Sundays at 4312 Boardwalk.

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