“Isn’t it just another so-called haunted house?”
“I’m afraid it isn’t. It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”
Complex.Terrifying. Suspenseful. Creepy. I read Hell House since it was next on my list of recommendations from the Horror Writer’s Association book. After reading this gruesome and gory tale, I agree with reviews of it standing as one of the great haunted house tales.
Set in the 70’s,the story begins with old man Deutsch, an eccentric and wealthy man. Nearing the end of his life, he hires a group of specialists to stay at ‘Hell House’ and report to him if they find evidence of the afterlife. The first duo are Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Barrett. Barrett is a parapsychologist who views the stay as the opportunity to complete his life’s research and prove the scientific, rather than supernatural, basis for the hauntings at Hell House. His young wife, Edith, joins him, only to fall victim to the house’s salacious ghosts. Two mediums round off the foursome. The first, Pastor Florence, endures physical and psychological torment from the ghosts. Her beliefs in the afterlife are put down again and again as rubbish by Barrett.The second medium,Peter, was the lone survivor from a group that had entered the house decades earlier. Too afraid to open himself to the House again, his decision not to join forces with Florence results in her violent demise.
The characters’ are pitted against one another – their desires and vulnerabilities drawn out by the dark force living in the bowels of Hell House.
Matheson is able to elicit a real visceral reaction to the terrors and depravities of the house and its previous guests. The characters make you feel pity for them while also feeling disgusted and horrified by the events they are put through.
I recommend this book to those with a hard stomach, and a taste for the suspenseful and horrific.