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Book Review: Hell House

Hell HouseFor the last week I’ve been listening to Hell House by Richard Matheson on audio as I commute to and from work. I’ve always been a huge Matheson fan but it took me a while to get around to this book, which is considered one of his best. I’ve got to agree. If you’re a fan of horror fiction, short stories, or the good old haunted house tale, this is a doozy.

It is a story about a terrible house that has been the site of at least two dreadful tragedies. The Belasco House sits out in the middle of nowhere. It was home to a bunch of degenerates who were presided over by Belasco himself. When he died (if he really died!!!!) two separate investigations were launched to prove that the house was not in fact suffering from paranormal influences. Both ended in disaster.

Hell House tells the story of the latest expedition. It’s members are:

  • One rather stodgy scientist – he brings a machine that will disprove once and for all the reality of life after death
  • His wife
  • A powerful male medium, incidentally the only survivor of the most recent exploration of Hell House, 30 years earlier
  • A powerful female medium

They have each been offered $100,000 by a third party who wants to know, definitively, whether there is an afterlife, and he wants the scientist to prove or disprove it with Hell House.

I don’t want to spoil things, but I will tell you that shortly after they arrive, things begin to go badly. Matheson does a great job of trotting out many tried and true standbys from Haunted House stories–the rocking chair that starts rocking, shadows that grow and twist, seances, etc–but also manages to make things feel new.

This is a review of the audio version, and I have to add it to my list of great audiobooks. The reader is fantastic. He makes the Belasco’s voices sound sick and scary, he doesn’t overdo the frightened women’s voices, and he is very skilled as distinguishing between the males in the story. Thoroughly enjoyable!

I recommend it to anyone who loves scary stories, or who is trying to read everything by Richard Matheson. I also recommend his classic I am Legend.



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