Hell House

Title: Hell House
Author: Richard Matheson
Pub Date: 1971
Pages: 301
Genre: Horror
Rating: Love it (!)(!)(!)

I am officially a Richard Matheson fan. I read I Am Legend and some other collected stories and enjoyed them (review will be out somewhere, sometime). But Hell House? Damnation, it gave me the heebie jeebies and sent nightmares knocking on my subconscious for a few nights.

Are you familiar with the book? I wasn't when I picked it up. I kinda figured it was about a ghost and/or a haunted house. I also knew that Matheson inspired Stephen King, so if the "king" of horror dug him, it seemed only natural that I check out the man.

I'm a little odd duckling when it comes to horror. I love the genre, but there are very few horror books that I really love. It's hard for me to give them my two thumbs up. Especially since I cannot really nail what I like or dislike with horror. I mean, sure, I'm more of a zombie fan and less of a vampire follower. I like gore as long as it's not over the top, and if you can throw in some psychological horror, you've totally one me over. But it's still not enough. Even with Stephen King books, the only one that I really rave about is The Stand.

But, yes, back to Hell House. *cringe* Eeeek. It's the story of four individuals who go into this abandoned mansion to prove once and for all if it's haunted. Florence is the trained medium; Fischer, is the only survivor from previous hauntings; Dr. Barrett is there to prove that ghosts don't exist; Edith, Dr. Barrett's wife goes everywhere with her husband.

Hell House got its name because the multimillionaire owner, Belasco, used his home as a landmark for evil and mayhem. He would throw parties where no limits or rules existed. In this frenzied state, people became unimaginably horrific to one and another. Everything from cannibalism to sexual pillaging took place, until all individuals involved wound up dead. Belasco was never found when the doors of the house were pried open.

The mystery lies in the house. The horror is still very much alive, even if only half of the investigative party believe that. You don't have to believe in ghosts for them to be real...

Hell House is not over the top grisly. I mean, sure, there are a couple of scenes that gave me the willies, but as far as horror goes it was not gratuitous or tacky. I believed in the possibility of Hell House - that's what made this ghost story work. There was no forced suspending my disbelief, I fell into rhythm of the tale. Much like Poe, Matheson is a crafted writer.


  1. ooh this one is right up my street. I used to read a lot of horror books when I was a teenager and really miss reading them. I loved Richard Latham and James Herbert.

  2. I'm intrigued. I don't generally read horror because once terrible scenes are in my head, they tend to play out in my mind even when they've stopped on the page, which I don't like. But I'm curious about this one anyhow.

  3. Viv - I would definitely pick this one up. It still gives me shivers thinking about it. I'll have to check out the two authors you mentioned.

    Charley - I hear ya about the imagery. I cannot lie and say that there aren't times when I close my eyes and I have these horrific images from a past novel. Heh, namely this one. :p


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