2015: Hell House

“It had been raining hard since five o’clock that morning.  Brontean weather, Dr. Barrett thought.”

Hell House, Richard Matheson

WHAT a disappointment.  I picked this book up specifically at the Newton Public Library after researching “scariest books” for Halloween.  And the website (and it was something reasonably reputable, like Flavorwire, or Buzzfeed), said that this was the scariest haunted house novel of all time or had a rave by Stephen King or something.  And Matheson wrote I am Legend, which I had at least heard of, so I thought, let’s do it.  Spooky book for Halloween week.

Except NOT.  This book is trash, and it’s not even spooky, just grody.  The premise is that some old man has offered this “Dr.”, 100,000 dollars to prove that life exists after death.  (I say “Dr.” because he is a doctor of like, parapsychology, which is not a thing).  He is to go to this famous haunted house, Hell House, but he has to bring these two psychics along with him.  He agrees, brings his wife and the four of them go to battle Hell House.  

First of all, the set-up is garbage, because everyone agrees from the start that the house is haunted (the windows are bricked up, for Christ’s sake), and they immediately tell you the back story, which is that this is a 1920’s murder orgy house, which also immediately destroys all the suspense.  The whole point of a spooky haunted house novel is the part at the beginning where you aren’t sure if its haunted and what is the creepy backstory and teasing all that out.  To tell you right away its a murder cannibal house owned by a 1920’s monster takes away some of the charm, and to learn that six people were killed trying to exorcise it in 1940 makes you wonder what kind of idiots our protaganists are.

Big idiots, is the answer.  The main conflict is between Dr. Barrett, who believes the mysterious happenings are caused by some sort of radioactive energy that he can dispurse with a mysterious machine he has built, and Frances, the medium, who believes the happenings are caused by evil ghosts who can be saved through Spiritualist love.  I mean - honestly - where is the Dana Scully here? Radiation/spooky ghosts, who gives a rats patootie?  

Also, the book is filled with nasty 1970’s sex scenes, the kind of thing where  a (scandal) lesbian attraction is a big horrible sign of demonic possession.  I have to say, once, again, reading this nonsense made me appreciate Stephen King, who can tell a spooky story well - even Duma Key, which was just B- King knocked this out of the park.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017