Hell House

By: Richard Matheson

Genre: Horror

I’ve seen the movie. Well, the movie the book inspired, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. Released in 1973 and starring Roddy McDowell (my pre-teen crush), it scared the hell out of me. So, recently, when looking for a scary book to keep me awake in the middle of the night, I purchased the inspiration for the movie, the book—Hell House—written by Richard Matheson.


Dr. Lionel Barrett—a physicist—is hired by dying millionaire, Rolph Rudolph Deutsch, to spend the week in the purportedly haunted mansion of long deceased, much depraved, perverted and intrinsically evil madman, Emeric Belasco. Nothing was out of bounds for Belasco while he lived and supposedly nothing is still. Deutsch’s purpose for the good Doctor’s visit to Hell House is to prove the existence of life after death. There have been dozens of paranormal experiences reported around Hell House and both Deutsch and Dr. Barrett believe that if prove is to be found, it will be found at Hell House.

Dr. Barrett is accompanied by his mousy, under-appreciated and much neglected wife, Edith and two additional “experts”, Florence Tanner and Ben Fischer, both physic mediums. Tension erupts almost immediately upon arrival at the mansion, not because of ghosts, but from conflicting beliefs. You see, Dr. Barrett does intend to find proof…just not the kind Deutsch is expecting. Dr. Barrett intends to prove that there is NO life after death. He does not believe in the spirit world and further, he does not believe in the skills or talents of either Tanner or Fischer. He believes them both to be merely actors upon a stage.

When the ghosts do make their presence known with flying dinner plates and swinging chandeliers to demon cats and visions of the past excesses (sex in the hallways and cannibalism), Dr. Barrett is unmoved. At least for a while.


I must be honest. I was disappointed in this book. I was hoping to be frightened—or, at the very least surprised, like I am when someone screams boo!—I was not. Not once. Although the tensions between the characters was palpable, the ghost story elements were drab, predictable and forced. What I suspect was meant to be the most frightening scene (one in which a ghost rapes one of the women) was not. It was gratuitous and almost expected and so was not at all frightening or upsetting. As I was reading this passage I found myself thinking, “are there any Cheetohs in the pantry…”.

When I purchased the book, I was hoping for a real scare that would keep me up all night—a Stephen King kind of scary. What I got was a book that bored me to sleep. It took me days to read something that I should have been able to get through in a few hours.

I did not enjoy it. Disappointed.

About angieabk

"I'd like to think of myself as a blended mix of Southern charm and humor. What I really am is a hot mess of sin and sass. Jesus loves me either way."

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