Hell House is a classic horror story. A dying billionaire offers a group of damaged people oodles to prove there’s life-after-death. To do so, the group visits the infamous Belasco House, which has corrupted and destroyed its previous guests. It starts working on its visitors immediately—playing on their deepest needs and insecurities.
Dr. Lionel Barrett is the group’s leader and biggest skeptic. He’s determined not to believe any of the phenomena he witnesses. He’s a crippled physicist who has an interest in parapsychology, a bunch of cool-science gadgets and a clingy wife named Edith. Edith is shy, repressed, sexually frustrated and pretty much afraid of everything. Two mediums accompany the couple. Florence Tanner, who is a former starlet turned-spiritualist and minister. She’s convinced that she can rid the house of its evil. Benjamin Franklin Fischer is the sole survivor from the previous Belasco house party. He was a teenager at the time and it pretty much wrecked his life. Now a forty-something ne’er-do-well, he’s determined not to get suckered into caring about the other guests or letting the house get to him again. He remains aloof and disinterested, but soon the brutal mystery behind the ghostly manifestations draws him in along with everyone else.
Within hours of entering the house, the malevolent spirit of Emeric Belasco and perhaps a legion of his ghostly victims terrorize his new guests. They should leave, but they don’t. Then, they can’t, and you can probably guess what happens next— more creepy encounters, and some blood-chilling scenes. Hauntings reveal the house’s history and people die horribly. What kept me from rating this book as an awesome five was that I didn’t like any of the characters and they didn’t seem to like themselves. Still, the final confrontation was a satisfying surprise.
I like how the terror inflicted on the guests synced up with their personalities and fears and how well planned the entire haunted-house experience was. If you like psychological horror and carefully-plotted mysteries, this is a tale for you.