Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is among my all-time favorite books. Matheson is widely recognized as one of the best writers of his generation and so it's long been a desire of mine to read more of his work. To that end I picked up Hell House several years ago with the specific intent of reading it immediately and well that didn't work out. Now at long last I've read it for the first time and weirdly, I've sort of read it for the first time twice. I'll explain.
First published in 1970 Hell House tells of the latest assault on the "Mount Everest of Haunted Houses" the Belasco House dubbed "Hell House" by the many who have been victimized by the various paranormal phenomenon which abound within its shuttered walls. Emeric Belasco was a depraved man who tormented those around him and created within his house a plague of sin and decadence which presumably set up a virtual army of ghosts intent on protecting their abused turf. In 1940 researchers went to the house to exorcise the demons and some died, some went mad and only one, the youngest survived intact more or less. That man named Ben Fischer now forty-five years old returns in tandem with a beautiful medium named Forence Tanner and a married couple Dr. Lionel and Edith Barrett who seek to use science to defeat the haunts. The team is offered a large sum by a man intent on beating death to find out the secrets of "Hell House".
That's the premise and what the team find inside the shadowy halls of the isolated Maine house form the story told in a carefully regimented sequence of changing perspectives told with precise time measures over the course of a week's time. This is not a story for the squeamish as the attacks waged on our researchers are deeply personal, intensely crude and perversely violent and sexual. Not all of them survive, but that's no surprise. But there are surprises. Of course they made a movie out of this novel in 1973. Here is my review of that from a few years ago, and I noted the movie is less effective than the book.
What mostly surprised me was that this was the second time in two weeks that I've read this story, and bot without my knowing it. Recently I've detailed my reading of the Marvel series Werewolf by Night after too many decades. It turns out that Doug Moench unofficially adapted the story of Hell House in five rousing issues of that series substituting members of the regular cast of the comic for the characters in the novel.
The villain is named Belaric Marcosa instead of Emeric Belasco, but still has the same vile personality and intentions though of course moderated a great deal to meet the conditions of the Comics Code.
Ironies in reading like this happen from time to time and recently I had another. I will be detailing that one next month.