Hell House by Richard Matheson

While reading this book I could not help but feeling that I’ve seen a very old movie with the exact subject. The feeling only got stronger as the story progressed and when I finished it, I had a look online to see that yes, indeed, there was a movie made in the 70’s with a script provided by Matheson.
I can’t wait to have another look at it!

Haunted-House.jpgThe Story

The story of Hell House concerns four people – Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist with an interest in parapsychology, his wife Edith, and two mediums (Florence Tanner, a spiritualist and mental medium, and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a physical medium who had been to the haunted house 30 years earlier and was the only one to make it out alive)

All of these people are hired by a millionaire who wants to find out whether there’s life after death. He’s dying so he feels that knowing if there’s an afterlife or not might give him some peace.
They need to stay in the haunted Belasco house in Maine for a whole week and come back to him with an answer.
The house is called “Hell House” due to the horrible acts of blasphemy and perversion that occurred there under the silent influence and supervision of Emeric Belasco.

Nicknamed “the Mount Everest of Haunted Houses,” the Belasco House is one of the most imposing structures ever dedicated to the madness and venal desires of one man. Three investigations have been conducted in the halls of this enormous edifice devoted to sin, and yet, the structure still stands as if it still abounds with secrets. One investigator found the interior structure to be so oppressive and cold that he dubbed it “Hell House” based on the carnal activities once enacted in its walls.

Once the four people are in the house, they are not immediately attacked by ghosts but once they get settled in, they find out that there are creepy things going on. People who died there were still trapped within the walls and Florence, who used to be just a mental medium, starts manifesting physical activities like ectoplasm coming out of her mouth and possession.

She is the one that strongly believes that there are other mysteries to be found in Hell House, such as the supposed murder of Emeric Belasco’s son, Daniel Myron Belasco, and the puzzle as to why a majority of people who enter the home are dead by the end of their visit.

Franklin Castle (also known as the Hannes Tiedemann House


“Observed Psychic Phenomena at the Belasco House”: Apparitions; Apports; Asports; Automatic drawing; Automatic painting; Automatic speaking; Automatic writing; Autoscopy; Bilocation; Biological phenomena; Book tests; Breezes; Catalepsy; Chemical phenomena; Chemicographs; Clairaudience; Clairsentience; Clairvoyance; Communication; Control; Crystal gazing; Dematerialization;…

The novel combines supernatural horror with mystery as the researchers attempt to investigate the haunting of the house while their sanity subtly is undermined by its sinister supernatural influence. The home exploits its guests’ deepest desires and attempts to turn people against one another during the course of their visit.

During the investigation, various influences begin to affect each character’s personal weaknesses.

Edith, Dr. Barrett’s wife, is afraid of being separated from her husband and clings to him with desperation – only to hit on the other two guests, one male, one female. She is sexually repressed after suffering early childhood sexual abuse from her father and the house knows how to draw on her insecurities and make her into a “vixen” looking to get laid.

The worst haunted house in the world threatened her less than being alone.

Florence believes in spiritualism she is over-eager to rid the house of its evil. She is scorned by the scientist for her spiritual side as he believes that only science is strong enough to cleanse the house.

She’s a Spiritualist, as you know. Survival of and communication with the so-called disincarnate is the foundation of her belief; an erroneous foundation, as I intend to prove. In the meantime, though”-he smiled-“be prepared to hear her views expressed. I can’t very well ask that she remain mute.”

Dr. Barrett is overly arrogant and shows his disbelief in/disregard for spiritualism. He had polio when he was young so he moves very slowly with the aid of Edith at most times. He refuses to believe in a supernatural explanation for the haunting.

Have been seen by more than one person at a time? Been seen by animals? Been photographed? Have imparted information that was later verified? Have touched people? Moved objects? Been weighed?” “These are facts in evidence of a phenomenon, Miss Tanner, not proof of ghosts.”

Franklin Castle (also known as the Hannes Tiedemann House)

The only thing that the doctor believes in is the power of the Reversor machine he has built to rid the house of its haunting.

Science is more than a body of facts. It is, first and foremost, a method of investigation, and there is no acceptable reason why parapsychological phenomena should not be investigated by this method, for, as much as physics and chemistry, parapsychology is a science of the natural

Fischer, the last member of the group could be characterized with one word: “Caution” (deliberate inaction). He has been hurt before by the house and refuses to open up his medium powers to even get a “feel” of the house until it’s too late.

To walk around in Hell House like a turtle with its head pulled in, a blind shell seeing nothing, knowing nothing, doing nothing, waiting for the others to accomplish the work he should be accomplishing. He’d wanted to come back here, hadn’t he? Well, he was back! Something-God only knew what-had seen fit to give him a second chance.

He knows the evil that lurks within first hand as he survived another similar group 30 years before. He tries to warn Florence that she’s too open and too eager to believe that it’s Daniel Belasco she’s been encountering in her rooms at night. The spirits here are not benign.

Tell me who you are,” she said. “Boo!” the figure shouted. Florence jumped back with a cry

It’s only when Florence is savagely attacked by the ghost and she’s being possessed that they realise they have to get out as soon as possible.

I want to fuck!” she screamed. ” Fight it, Florence!” “I want to fuck , I want to fuck!

The doctor starts to be shaken in his belief in science and science alone but he thinks that the “Reversor” – a machine he’d invented himself – is enough to reverse the Magnetic fields and cleanse the house of the malevolent spirits who will have nothing to grab a hold onto.

What had made the chandelier move? Electromagnetic radiation, or the dead?

Hell House’s potency comes from its apparent ability to corrupt those who enter its walls, before bringing about their destruction, both mental and physical.

That was the horror of the place. It was not amorphously haunted. Hell House had a method. It worked against invaders systematically.

Other books from the same author: I am Legend * Robert Matheson.

Other related books: The Devil Crept In
The Haunting of Hill House

Note: Hauntings loosely based on Franklin Castle (Tiedemann House) in Cleveland, Ohio and Waverly Hills Sanitarium near Louisville, Kentucky.

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