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Hell House | [Richard Matheson]

Hell House

For over 20 years, Belasco House has stood empty. Regarded as the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, its shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of unimaginable horror and depravity. All previous attempts to probe its mysteries have ended in murder, suicide, or insanity.

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.

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Publisher's Summary

For over 20 years, Belasco House has stood empty. Regarded as the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, its shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of unimaginable horror and depravity. All previous attempts to probe its mysteries have ended in murder, suicide, or insanity.

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.

What Members Say

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  •  
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 08-13-12
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 08-13-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Hell House is like Hill House, but fiercer"

    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.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lesley Seattle, WA, United States 06-17-08
    Lesley Seattle, WA, United States 06-17-08 Member Since 2005

    From Austen to zombies!

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    "Got scary?"

    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.

    27 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Katy, TX, United States 06-07-08
    Barry Katy, TX, United States 06-07-08
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    "Excellent horror novel, classic ghost story"

    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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BZ Banks Atlanta, GA, United States 05-18-12
    BZ Banks Atlanta, GA, United States 05-18-12 Member Since 2012

    WildWiseWoman

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    "Disappointing"

    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.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 04-26-12
    Susan 04-26-12

    No, it is not pronounced "Don Quicks-Oat." Go to jail.

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    "'The Haunting of Hill House' on steroids"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara 03-19-10
    Barbara 03-19-10 Member Since 2012
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    "Oldy but a goody"

    I figured I would give this book a shot. It was written a while ago but that doesn't stop it from being a pretty good listen. It was interesting and the story takes some nice twists. Deffinitly worth a credit. Not really scarey but pretty weird.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kendall Rockaway, NJ, USA 05-27-08
    Kendall Rockaway, NJ, USA 05-27-08 Member Since 2013
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    "Highly Enjoyable!"

    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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nitza WEST HAVEN, CT, United States 01-02-12
    nitza WEST HAVEN, CT, United States 01-02-12
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    "Great"
    Where does Hell House rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 10


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was scary yet had some funny moments where I laughed out loud


    Any additional comments?

    Narrator was excellent

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Jacobson St. George, Utah 07-27-15
    Matthew Jacobson St. George, Utah 07-27-15 Member Since 2014

    I'm a pop culture columnist for Gannett, and I spend all my waking moments listening to books. (I'm also Batman, but shhh.)

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    "It's repulsive -- to great effect!"
    Where does Hell House rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What other book might you compare Hell House to and why?

    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.


    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    He performed without having to do any silly voices, a bad habit among many narrators that immediately takes me out of the story.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Richard Matheson is a master storyteller. He created a house that I personally want to explore.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Sylmar, CA, United States 10-11-14
    Kimberly Sylmar, CA, United States 10-11-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Ghost story"

    I guess I'm just not a fan of ghost stories because I was truly bored with this book. It just seemed never ending and well just not my cup of tea.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Sue
    Verwood, Dorset, United Kingdom
    10/4/09
    Overall
    "Gripping stuff"

    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.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Franziska
    Peterborough, Cambs, United Kingdom
    11/26/10
    Overall
    "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!

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • jennifer
    alfreton, United Kingdom
    2/19/11
    Overall
    "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

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Sara
    Llanwrtyd wells, United Kingdom
    6/30/09
    Overall
    "Excellent listen"

    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.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Harleen
    London
    7/18/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An intense listen"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mr B.Kirk
    Brigstowe, Uk
    1/19/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thoroughly enjoyable"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Ben
    2/13/10
    Overall
    "Loved it"

    A great book, brilliantly written and brilliantly read. Has some pretty scary moments so not for the faint hearted!

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • maggs
    United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "suspence at its best"

    This book from beginning to end is full of twists and suspence. Just as you think you have worked things out another twist is introduced. It is well read with expression and tones to match the atmosphere of the book. If you enjoy the paranormal this is a dead good read! An author i will be reading again.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Kaggy
    United Kingdom
    12/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Old fashioned haunted house story"

    There are few spooky moments in this story and the general idea was a good one. I did however find myself getting bored towards the end and I guess that is because it is overlong. It is however worth staying with it until the final scene.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Rose
    9/1/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "vanity personified"

    For Richard Mathison read dr. Barret. This has to be the absolute worst horror book I have ever read in all my life and that includes works by Stephan King whom some people like but not I. His characters (Mathison's that is) are either weak or utterly vain. The horror is obviously in the reading rather than in the plot. It was a night well spoilt. The man can't even write particularly well. Every now and again he remembers through he mists of arrogance two words from his youth. English Language and when that happens re remembers that there are words other than said to describe the delivery of doalogue. Then the shocking revelation nearly kills him and he reverts to type. If anyone has any sense they won't read this diatribe.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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