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“It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.” Hell House is a novel written by Richard Matheson about the “Mount Everest of haunted houses.”It is a fitting quote as Matheson was Sir Edmund Hillary to the sci fi and horror genre. Modern writers, like Stephen King, and filmmakers, like George Romero, list him as one of their major influences. His credits include novels, short stories, screenplays, television, and even one non-fiction. Reading Hell House is almost a rite of passage for lovers of the haunted house genre.The book is centered on the Belasco House is rural Maine, so rural not even Stephen King has been there. The house was owned by an extraordinarily wealthy and amoral man. He built it as far away from everything as he could and in a generally unhealthy area to discourage unwanted visitors. While he lived, the opulent house was host to ongoing parties which increased in depravity and violence over the years. When family of guests finally checked on them, they found everyone dead, Belasco missing and the house abandoned.
As the story starts Dr. Lionel Barrett is hired by another fabulously wealthy man to put an end to the question of whether there is life after death. Barrett does not believe in the soul. He is a scientist. In addition to his wife, Barrett takes Florence, a mental medium, and Ben, a physical medium and the only survivor of a previous Belasco investigation team. The ectoplasm hits the fan almost immediately on their arrival. The questions of who or what is haunting Hell House grow with each incident until the final chapter.
Hell House is a very good haunted house story. It is not the best though. The Mount Everest of haunted house stories title belongs to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Matheson was definitely taking Jackson on with Hell House (Stephen King did his homage to her with his screenplay of Rose Red). There are many similarities in the beginning. Matheson uses a lot of sexual situations where Jackson does not. Matheson’s horrors are fully exposed while Jackson’s are implied and more frightening for that very reason. While it is not Mount Everest, Hell House is K2, still a good book and a classic in the genre.
Ray Porter did a great job narrating it. His voice is smooth and calming, which adds to the horror in a very unique way. Even at the height of action, his voice never rises. He conveys all the emotion and horror without yelling or screaming. His characters are great. He must have an amazing vocal range. Barrett’s character has a deeper voice than Fischers. The women’s voices are slightly higher and the speech patterns different so it is easy to tell them apart. The production values were excellent. I also found that Ray Porter’s voice reminds of Bill Ratner (“Alexander feels a strange pulling sensation.”).
I must confess that Haunted Houses are my favorite part of the horror genre. The audiobook of Hell House is a wonderful addition to my collection.
Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com