But now, a new investigation has been launched, bringing four strangers to Belasco House in search of the ultimate secrets of life and death. A wealthy publisher, brooding over his impending death, has paid a physicist and two mediums to establish the facts of life after death once and for all. For one night, they will investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townsfolk refer to it as the Hell House.
Hell House, which inspired the 1973 film The Legend of Hell House, is Matheson's most frightening and shocking book, and an acknowledged classic of the genre.
©1999 Richard Matheson; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
From Austen to zombies!
Richard Matheson was an underrated novelist. He wrote fast-paced works, visual and visceral, full of philosophical questions and characters facing the unknown.
My favorite is "I Am Legend," but "Hell House" turned out to be a very exciting and scary read. Four people enter a haunted house to prove to a millionaire that there's life after death, or that there isn't. Like all good haunted houses, Hell House is a character in itself. It has everything--creaking rocking chairs, deserted rooms, a Satanist chapel, awful smells.
There are other surprises, mostly of the psychosexual variety, as each of the characters faces fear, insecurity, and blinding personal shame. Matheson describes all of this very well, sometimes in terms that were more explicit than I had expected. This book is definitely rated R, or possibly NC-17--no cute lil ghosts in white sheets here.
But there are lots of good scares, and that's what I go to a haunted house book for. Unlike Matheson's other works, this one had slow spots and was a bit repetetive in places. The narrator did probably the best job out of any book I've listened to from Audible--seriously, with two male and two female voices, and various ghosts, I always knew who was speaking.
Recommended for mature ghost-story lovers.
Checking the dates of publication to be sure I was right that Hell House is a sort of pastiche or homage or even plagarism of "The Haunting of Hill House," I saw this opening sentence in Wikipedia that says it all:
"Hell House is a novel by American novelist Richard Matheson, published in 1971. The novel has significant similarities to the earlier work The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson, though rendered with much more violence and sexual imagery."
He beefed it up, basically. You could even say coarsened it and simplified it --- but in fact both novels are quite good. I suppose you could call it a remake! Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is of course much scarier, because it deals with madness and human fragility as well as whatever haunts Hill House, and Audible has an excellent reading of it. Matheson uses the same set-up, the same basic scene and the same four basic characters -- six, really, counting the two cook/caretakers.
Shirley Jackson achieves true horror. Chilling, ghastly, oh-no horror, with never an indelicate word or scene. Its opening and closing paragraphs are famous. Matheson's Hell House is more conventional and less truly terrifying, despite a lot of Sturm und Drang. It is the Matheson book that was made into a great movie, "The Legend of Hell House," one of the scariest movies ever made, I thought as a girl.
The reading of this novel by Ray Porter is excellent. There are a lot of scary emotional scenes and the reader does well with them, and with character differentiation. I think both books are well worth listening to, for themselves and for the really instructive differences.
If you like horror novels like I do, you're probably disappointed with the appalling lack of truly scary stories on the market these days. It seems all the horror novelists of the past have gone "soft" (Stephen King, Peter Straub, etc.)
"Hell House", while written a long time ago, is still a very frightening novel, and one of the best ghost stories I've read.
The graphic descriptions of the house and the events inside are truly scary. There are several other books that have been written along the same theme (several people trapped inside a haunted house), but this book seems to be more intelligent than the others.
A very smart listen, and the narrator performed well, making good distinctions between male and female voices, even the voices of the ghosts were well done.
This book was a nice surprise and a good listen, certainly more than I was expecting.
Richard Matheson is one of my favorite authors. Listening was even better. The narrator was great, the story though a bit old was still creepy. Highly recommended if you love a good ghost story.
It was scary yet had some funny moments where I laughed out loud
Narrator was excellent
I've always loved Hell House. I've read it twice in book form, and I think I enjoyed it most listening to it on my third journey to the Belasco House. Believable and truly frightening, Hell House is a horror story to be savored. While the movie based on the book (The Legend of Hell House) is enjoyable, I hope that a more faithful version is made someday. This remains my favorite Halloween read!
I was sadly disappointed in this book, as Matheson is one of my favorite writers. I listen to the Audible recording of "Stir of Echoes" about once a year, and have read most of his works. This book, particularly as I hadn't read it before, is weirdly derivative. Anyone who knows Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House", which is almost a decade older, can't help but see the screaming similarities, and anyone who's read "The Shining", which came out nearly a decade after "Hell House", will see that Stephen King took many of the poorly-fleshed out ideas of "HH" and explored them more richly. The characters in "HH" are unoriginal and misogynistic, considering it was 1971 and not 1951. I have no complaints about the reader, but overall I thought the story had been done to death myriad times since the Civil War, and this version does not stand on its own merits.
I'm a pop culture columnist for Gannett, and I spend all my waking moments listening to books. (I'm also Batman, but shhh.)
This is definitely one of my top 10. The story is gruesome and at times sacrilegious, and it's nice to get into a story that isn't afraid to pull punches. Because every lurid detail is explained, the horror is that much more effective.
The only one that comes to mind immediately is "The Haunting of Hill House." However, "Hill House" doesn't so much scare as it does intrigue. "Hell House," on the other hand, paints some pretty horrific pictures.
He performed without having to do any silly voices, a bad habit among many narrators that immediately takes me out of the story.
I can't for the life of me think of a tag line. But, I would definitely like to see an adaptation of this film beyond the one starring Roddy Mcdowall. I'd love to see a film that keeps all the gruesome scenes and disturbing images.
Richard Matheson is a master storyteller. He created a house that I personally want to explore.
I was very lonely as a teen and books were my escape. Thanks to my father who introduced me to the love of reading.
Suspenseful , Eerie, Thrilling
The Legend of Hell House is a 1973 British horror film
The book was just as scary as the movie when I first saw it. The narrator Ray Porter was exceptional in making the characters believable and his discriptions were so vivid of the times and events in the book.
I would highly recommend this book as a listen if you love suspense or horror. The book is very graphic and I would not recommend it to the weak.
No, it is not pronounced "Don Quicks-Oat." Go to jail.
If you're a fan of Shirley Jackson's classic 'The Haunting of Hill House' and the excellent movie version (1963's 'The Haunting,' not the ridiculous 1999 remake) then you are someone who appreciates a subtle crawl of horror, the kind that creeps up on you slowly, revealing itself in shifting shadows and creaking stairs. To my mind, there has rarely been a more chilling moment in fiction than the scene in 'The Haunting of Hill House' where two women are terrorized by the sight of a slowly turning doorknob - and the knowledge that no living soul is on the other side of that door.
Should the same event take place in Richard Matheson's 'Hell House,' you can be assured that the doorknob wouldn't just turn, but would be wrenched from the door by a shrieking wraith, who would then hurl it at your eye. That's the kind of haunted-house novel you have in 'Hell House': not subtle enough to catch you off-guard, so never truly horrifying; but entertaining, fast paced, and sometimes brutally shocking.
The similar premise makes comparisons to 'The Haunting' inevitable: several strangers gather in a reputedly haunted mansion, either as subjects of a study (in Jackson's book) or to study and document evidence of the paranormal. As tensions and jealousies emerge among these men and women, they seem to incite the supernatural occurrences they were supposed to observe.
Without Jackson's deft hand at psychological horror, Matheson resorts to sex, violence, violent sex, and over-the-top spookhouse thrills. In the hands of the wrong voice talent, the audiobook might have been hard to sit through.
Enter narrator Ray Porter, who saves the day (albeit a fog-shrouded day on an isolated Maine estate). Porter's female characters take some getting used to, and may come across as weaker or sillier than they were written, simply as a function of the actor trying to feminize their voices. The two men in the group are well acted and distinctively voiced. But where Porter really shines is when he gives life - so to speak - to the Evil that haunts Hell House. As the spirit of the mansion's long-dead owner, Emeric Belasco, Ray Porter is challenged to scream, blaspheme, taunt and torture his way through the most effective chapters of the book. He does a fine job, and makes nasty Belasco the star of this ghastly house party.
Heartily recommended for your next 10-hour drive, though preferably not through an eerie Maine woodland.
"Very much of its time."
I think if you remember this book when it was release (I think sometimes in the 70s) then you may be nostalgic for it.
It was all a bit flat for my liking.
I found it a bit boring to be honest and didn't manage to finish.
From the reviews I'd read I thought this would suit me, a good scarey horror story with an extra dollop of 70s sauce. However I was never scared and could easily listen in bed with the lights off. Tried about 3 hours and the story never really got going for me.
I really enjoyed this book and so wanted to hear more that I took the long way home on more than one occasion so I could get a few extra minutes in. It is well written and the dynamics between the characters are presented clearly. The story unfolds at a pleasing rate and each aspect is brought into play well.
The narration is good although there were some unexpected pauses but it was placed well, clear, the characters well defined and the other 'people' in the book were easily told apart.
I was impressed overall and will certainly be checking out more by this author. As mentioned in another review, the content of Hell House can be somewhat graphic but it is integral to the story, not gratuitous for shock value.
I really enjoyed this book. It had a great story and good interplay between the four characters that enter the house. Not overly scary by today?s standards although it does keep you interested from start to finish. Passionately narrated.
I would warn anyone intending to listen to this book that it contains material of a sexually explicit nature and also graphic language. This book is not for people who are offended by this sort of thing, as it permeates most of the book. Personally, I think that for a book titled 'Hell House' and with the reputation that it has, it would be naive to be shocked to hear the occasional expletive or references to sexual violence - As a horror book, this is not gratuitous, but part of the story.
"Not for me"
I was after a scary book but didn't feel this book achieved that - some scenes were nauseating but not frightening.
"Horror that creeps into you"
I really loved this audiobook. Despite the fact it starts quite abruptly and doesn't seem to bother with a credible build up of the story (5 minutes and they are already in the haunted house)I was sucked into the horror vortex of this story so much that I am still dreaming about it on occasion.
A traditional haunted house with a modern phychologial theme- perverted sexuality. And even though there are only a few expicit desriptions in the book, the whole atmosphere is like a dense, grey fog that creeps into every crook and cranny of your mind. (to the point where I started associating my own office, where I listenend to the book, with hell house and was quite creeped out by it.)
The ending is built up to be this great revelation, which I wasn't blown away by. But despite all that, I loved it and will put it on my list of my top 5 haunted house stories.The narration is absolutely wonderful and adds gallons of drama and intensity to every situation. I can still hear the cold, mean and mocking voice of the owner of hell house.... You should try it!
PS: Only for people who are not sensitive about religion!
"hell house richard matheson"
A true horror story enjoyed this very much very creepy,makes you feel very uneasy at times,i listened to this why working on a night shift,made me feel very spooked,its great when a book makes you feel like that
"Haven't seen writing this bad since 50 shades!"
Absolutely vile piece of writing. The plot itself just isn't scary, I expected something along the lines of house on haunted hill etc, I mean it seemed pretty formulaic - group of people one skeptic, one nervous person tagging along, two strong characters go to a known haunted house and wait for something to happen but what followed was a demonstration of sex over plot and substance getting clearing from a publishing house.
The token lesbianism that is thrown in when the story starts to falter is just ludicrous. I think my housemate overhearing it as I was cooking and asking me, "what c**p are you listening to?!" is a pretty good indication that it really was appalling.
Impossible to say, I felt all the characters were poorly written and hard to emphasise with. I suppose I like the jaded psychic until I realised he was just there as a juxtaposition to the others and didn't actually bring anything to the story.
Anger and melancholy that I had listened to it the whole way through and wasted a credit.
I realise this book has had great reviews, in fact I chose this book over another title BECAUSE of the reviews but in my opinion it is awfully written. It isn't scary so you WILL be able to sleep at night, or if you are intrigued by the references to sex other reviewers have mentioned; don't waste your money, like everything in the book, things that start do not get finished (read that as you will!) and you would be better off looking at the "adult" business cards in your local phone box for better content and substance!
"Bit Dull, nothing happened till Chapter 15"
My first horror book, was expecting a bit of trill but nothing really. Just at the end few interesting things happened. To be honest wasn't worth the time and money. The Title sounded great.
"An intense listen"
This was a great audiobook, but I found it pretty intense in some places and some scenes were pretty grim! It's a highly sexual and sexually charged book, and if you love the classic combo of sex and horror you'll love this.
Did I enjoy this audio book - yes, I wanted a good ghost story for Christmas and I got one. Well read. Occassionally you are at the right point in life to listen to something, if I had listened to this a year ago for example I may not of enjoyed it - but I got this at the right time and it was spot on.
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