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.
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.
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.
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 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'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 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.
My taste vary. I love a good, blood stained horror, but also a well written kids story. Lots of Sci-Fi, but also Hist. Fiction. No boring!!!
I guess I am getting too old for this type of book. I liked Matheson's (I am Legend and The Shrinking Man.) This book I could not wait to finish. I did not care about the characters and the story was silly. I liked Shirley Jackson's (The Haunting Of Hill House) better. The characters and the house were more interesting. Matheson could have used better developed characters and Jackson could have used more sex.
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