Friday, March 23, 2018

Hell House by Richard Matheson

William Reinhardt Deutsch is a dying millionaire who pays Dr. Lionel Barrett to assemble a team to look into the haunting of Belasco House in Maine. The rich old man is trying to find out if there's life after death. He gives Dr. Barrett and his team one week to find answers. 

A prior investigation was conducted at the house, but it ended in madness and death. One of the team members is Benjamin Fischer, the only survivor of the previous investigation 30 years ago. He is still terrified and he has kept his psychic powers suppressed ever since. 

Florence Tanner is a mental medium, whereas Benjamin Fischer is a physical medium. I don't know the difference between the two. Florence is the most vulnerable of the team members. The ghost in the house nearly beats and batters her to death. She's attacked numerous times, but she stands her ground. 

I almost stopped reading when Florence was abused because I don't play that. Ghost or no ghost, some things cross a line with me, but I kept reading. Many people like this book, so I wanted to finish it. If I'm being honest, I stopped reading the book for a few months, then I picked it back up again. 

Dr. Barrett and his wife Edith are tortured physically and psychologically. While all of these things are going on, Dr. Barrett insists they stay until his device arrives. It's a machine that disturbs the electromagnetic fields in the house and absorbs them. Dr. Barrett believes that the manifestations are a physical phenomenon that can be disrupted and stopped. Fringe science is where it's at, am I right?

Richard Matheson gives us a great background story on Belasco and his house. From a young age, you learn that Emeric Belasco is evil personified. He grows up and inherits his parents' money. He starts throwing extravagant parties. Those parties turn really weird over time. There was an epidemic and people started dying. The survivors went crazy on each other, eventually turning to mutilation and cannibalism. Several people died, Belasco was never found. 

The book is great, but the ending was very interesting to me. I didn't see the final showdown going the way it did. I was kind of satisfied with the ending, though. 

Stephen King says that Richard Matheson is his biggest influence and for the most part it shows. It's cool that the Belasco House is set in Maine. Both authors love their characters, but they sure know how to put them through hell. 

Richard Matheson writes eloquent prose. The characters are solid. The book is non-stop. Florence has to endure a good bit of abuse, almost too much for my liking. An unease crept over me while reading this one. I felt dirty after reading it. I've read some gross and horrifying books, but this one almost takes the cake. It takes a lot to chill me to my core–this book does it a few times.

Some say the story is similar to Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. I've never read that book, so I don't know if that is true or not. I will be reading that and watching the film adaptation fo HELL HOUSE. I did watch Scary Movie 2 a while back, which is kind of based on this book. 

I'll have to give this one another read later on down the road.


4/5 stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Can any soul survive? 
Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, Belasco House has witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity. Two previous expeditions to investigate its secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide, or insanity. Now a new investigation has been mounted – four strangers, each with his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion...

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