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La casa infernal

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Durante más de veinte años, la Casa Belasco ha permanecido vacía. Considerada el Everest de las casas encantadas, es una venerable mansión cuyas sombrías paredes han sido testigo de escenas de horror y depravación inimaginables. Las anteriores expediciones que han tratado de investigar sus secretos han terminado en desastre, siendo sus participantes destruidos por el asesinato, el suicidio o la demencia.
Ahora se prepara una nueva investigación que llevará a cuatro extraños a la mansión prohibida, decididos a descubrir en la Casa Belasco los secretos definitivos de la vida y la muerte. Cada uno tiene sus propias razones para arriesgarse a sufrir tormentos y tentaciones desconocidos, pero ¿podrá alguien sobrevivir a aquello que acecha en la casa más peligrosa del mundo?

342 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

Richard Matheson

635 books3,904 followers
Born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrant parents, Matheson was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and moved to California in 1951. He married in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.

His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres.

Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including "Steel," mentioned above and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, which has been filmed three times under the titles The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth and once under the original title. Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror, including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.

In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II.

He died at his home on June 23, 2013, at the age of 87


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,482 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.1k followers
February 13, 2020

For years I have been a fan of Richard Matheson, without ever becoming a dedicated reader of his fiction. I learned early that he was one of the two best writers (not counting Rod Serling) for Twilight Zone—the other being Charles Beaumont—and this led me to look out for his short stories and novels and read them when they came my way. I particularly admired his chilling stories “Nightmare at 20,000 ft.” (Twilight Zone Shatner menaced by gremlin on plane), “Prey” (featuring a doll called “He Who Kills”), and the novels I am Legend and A Stir of Echoes, the first a tale of apocalyptic terror and the second a contemporary suburban ghost story. I also began to realize that Matheson was our finest writer of horror screenplays in the '60's: the best of the Corman Poe series, each of them different in tone (an atmospheric Usher, a Jacobean Pit and Pendulum, a sweetly comic Raven) and my two favorite Hammer films (Die! Die! My Darling! and The Devil Rides Out.)

So I was surprised to find that Hell House began to bore me about half way through, and—although the compulsively readable prose kept me going—exhausted and dismayed me at its end.

Part of this is because of the kind of reader I am, for I love terror but view horror with both interest and suspicion. Terror is implicit, a creation of metaphor and atmosphere; horror is explicit, a product of detail and effect. For me, terror is the meal, and horror is the salt and the spices. Use horror, certainly, for it keeps terror from becoming tasteless, but sprinkle it lightly or soon you will have an inedible concoction on your hands. Also, I believe that the short story is the most effective vehicle for terror because it compels the writer to concentrate on a single effect and use his horror judiciously. The novel, because of its length, tends to do the opposite.

Matheson is too good a craftsman to completely ruin his terror with horror, but I think in Hell House he comes close. The book begins well enough, with an atmospheric investigation of the old house and an absorbing narrative of its history, including the career of its owner, the evil Emeric Belasco, but then about a third of the way through poltergeist phenomena starts to occur. Soon the sexual attacks begin, first as tentative bitings and gropings (much of it prurient, inflicted on a medium who is described as a big-breasted, beautiful former movie star). And then there is of course the cat attack, the cache of pornographic polaroids, various superficial wounds, etc.

Still more than a hundred pages to go, and the reader is shocked and horrified already.

So what does Matheson do? He doubles down.

In writing, literal descriptions of horror operate much like the detailed relations of sexual or violent acts (both of which--come to think of it--they often contain). A little surprises and shocks us, more than a page or two bores us, and three pages or more makes us laugh even against our will, for an extensive delineation of horror inevitably becomes an unconscious parody of the effects the writer wishes to achieve.

The last third of Hell House often merited my involuntary laughter. And by the end of the book I was so thoroughly bored that I almost failed to register the fizzle of its ineffective ending. Still, there are some excellent thrills here. If you--unlike me--value horror above terror, you may find a lot here to like.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,242 followers
April 13, 2018
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Hell House is the sexually awkward tale of a haunted house that can't even bother to be haunted until the book is nearly over.

Dr. Barrett has been hired by a wealthy, dying man to investigate one of the most haunted houses known to man: Hell House. Along with his wife and two professional mediums, Dr. Barrett packs up his scientific gear and embarks to the long-abandoned house to settle the question once and for all: Do ghosts actually exist?

Perhaps the most physically chilling aspect of the house is that all of its windows have been bricked up, so the interior is cast in eternal gloom. It's reputation, however, is the most terrifying aspect of all:

"It's the Mount Everest of haunted houses, you might say. There were two attempts to investigate it, one in 1931, the other in 1940. Both were disasters. Eight people involved in those attempts were killed, committed suicide, or went insane. Only one survived, and I have no idea how sound he is."

There's nothing fancy about the prose in this book, which is fine. It's a quick and easy read, driven forward by the author's keen use of dialogue. Even when very little is happening, the natural flow of conversation keeps the story moving at a steady pace.

The book does, however, have what is perhaps the most poorly constructed sentence yet encountered: Tongues of flame leaped upward crackingly.

Hell House may have been more suitable under the category of mystery (rather than horror), because so much of the book has to do with the question of whether or not Dr. Barrett can solve the mystery of the house. Unfortunately, Dr. Barrett's scientific approach to hauntings and his pragmatic thinking is often invoked to downplay the paranormal events at Hell House, which actively dilutes any chilling moments.

Over two hundred pages in, Horny House Hell House finally shifts from reading like a mystery to proclaiming itself a horror novel. Strangely, the author relies heavily on rape to drive his plot. And he regularly invokes a fear of sexual orientation -- suggesting that, to one character in particular, there's nothing more horrific than the mere notion of being gay. After waiting so long to be spooked or feel a burning need to turn on all the lights, the notion that a character might falter in sexual orientation was hardly a terrifying payoff.

On that note, the book often reads like a male sexual fantasy. There are several crude, salacious, hyper-sexualized incidences in this book, and they always involve women. It gives the reader a very uncomfortable sense that the author was penning his own sexual fantasies while writing this book. Whether or not that's true doesn't change the fact that the depictions of female characters are enough to invoke an excess of eye-rolling and bodily cringes.

Speaking of which, the book includes this bizarre gem: "Let his God cock sink into my mouth," she said. "Let me drink his holy, burning jism."

Awkward sex scenes aside, the book's conclusion leaves something to be desired. After such a long wait for noteworthy paranormal events to transpire, the story suddenly moves at a clipped pace with a mediocre reveal provided at its conclusion.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
615 reviews4,242 followers
January 3, 2020
"As he crossed the entry hall, he had the feeling that the house was swallowing him alive."

Hell House is basically The Haunting of Hill House on steroids. Both books centre around four characters who stay in a haunted house to try to investigate what is happening. We have Doctor Barrett, who’s intention is to prove his theory - he also brings his wife along cos she just can’t bear to be left alone... And then we have two mediums - one of which is Fischer, the only survivor of a failed investigation attempt 30 years earlier.

Hell House is certainly disturbing. The kind of book where you send snippets to people accompanied by comments like “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK” I’m glad I was buddy reading this with Gemma @cemetery.of.forgotten.books as I needed someone to share in my disbelief! I can just imagine how controversial this book would have been back in the 70s, it’s pretty wild! The history of the Belasco house is vile and depraved.

One or two parts creeped me out - figures entering the room and breathing at the bottom of the bed... *shudders* There’s also a lot of sexual violence and for that reason I would not necessarily recommend this one to a newbie horror fan. That’s also a trigger warning! It gets pretty graphic and detailed at times!

Also, a note to authors - please don’t give your main characters names that start with the same letter. I recently reread ‘Salem’s Lot which had a Mike, Mark and Matt... This one wasn’t as bad with Fischer and Florence... but I still found myself having to stop and think sometimes? I’m not sure if this is just an issue I have - perhaps I’m easily confused!

Overall, an entertaining yet incredibly dark haunted house story. Proceed with caution! 4 stars.
Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
446 reviews4,382 followers
September 26, 2021
One day, a young woman, who had crisply turned 18 and was fresh out of school, explored the horror genre while walking around an abandoned building.

She was on a trip with her family to visit a lovely area with beautiful trees, fresh grass and rain. And yet, despite the large area, we were the only family there. It was so....empty - so silent. And so when I wasn't reading I explored the derelict houses, the rusty play area and the lovely forest.

And one day I settled down on a bench outside and opened Hell House on my Kindle.

I had never been so afraid in my life. I was enraptured - I couldn't put the book down despite my terror. No book had elicited nightmares from me since It by Stephen King . I was afraid to sleep alone and so I decided to share a room with my sister. It all felt so real. The book played over and over in my mind and wouldn't let its hold on me go for months. Sometimes it still sneaks up on me and gently touches my mind to remind me that this book - this book.

Is the scariest shit I've ever read.

Image result for hell house cover

Courtesy of Jen's mini reviews
Profile Image for Ron.
375 reviews84 followers
October 7, 2022
Hell House stands alone, ominous and waiting. After thirty years, four more dare to enter what has been labeled the Mount Everest of haunted houses. Make it five, cause I'm going with them.

My little quip is not meant to take anything away from this book. I'll walk into any haunted house, as long as there's a person ahead of me and a guy out front taking tickets.

Was this a scary book tough? Yes and no. I can't say it was Matheson's purpose either. The writing is often more heady than you'd expect in a horror novel that has a similar classic feel to The Haunting of Hill House (possibly an influence for Matheson), while also being a bridge to more modern day horror. No doubt many haunted house books have been written since, but here the predictable, meaningless scares, and hollow apparitions are avoided. There are apparitions, but their significance is kept hidden from the reader until necessary for a last reveal. The finale is what I liked most. When Hell House gets going it's nearly a nonstop race to the ending.
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews28k followers
October 23, 2019
“I am certain you will find your stay here most illuminating…It is regrettable I cannot be here with you…All your needs have been provided for…Nothing has been overlooked. Go where you will, and do what you will – these are the cardinal precepts of my home. Feel free to function as you choose. There are no responsibilities, no rules. ‘Each to his own device’ shall be the only standard here. May you find the answer that you seek. It is here, I promise you.”
- Emeric Belasco in Richard Matheson’s Hell House (1971)

“Our house is a very, very, very fine house…”
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Our House” from the album Déjà vu (1970)

Here I am, as we hurtle towards Christmas, attempting to finish up my Halloween reading. If you squint, though, Richard Matheson’s Hell House is kinda-sorta a Christmas book. No, there isn’t a tree, or lights, or ornaments, or Santa, or a crèche. There is, to be clear, very little by way of cheer. Yes, there are demonic presences, possession, insidious terror, and death. But it’s set in the days leading up to Christmas. To be precise, the entire course of this novel takes place between December 18 and December 24, 1970. So there’s that!

The plot and setting of Hell House is very familiar. Indeed, if you’ve ever read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, you’ll find it a variation on the same theme. Derivative, even. Both books take place in legendary haunted houses, and feature a small cast of characters who attempt to explore its paranormal reputation. But whereas Hill House deals in slow, creeping, and ambiguous terror, Matheson’s work is one of horror. By the end of Hell House, there are no ambiguities left. All is revealed in explicit fashion.

(For further, non-required reading: My review of The Haunting of Hill House)

Matheson doesn’t waste any time with a lengthy set up. Within the first few pages, the premise is laid out. A rich old man named Deutsch wants to know the truth about ghosts. He’s willing to pay well for facts that support either position. So, he offers a great deal of money for a few qualified people to enter the infamous Belasco House in Maine. The deal: they have to stay a week; and also, not die.

The four people who take up Deutsch on his offer are thinly sketched but serve their purposes. Dr. Barrett is a physicist, a man of science who believes that all things have an explanation arising from the laws of nature. His wife, Edith, is a retreating, mousy woman, dealing (naturally, in a book like this) with some repressed psychosexual issues. Florence Tanner is a spiritual medium, the kind of “over emotive” type who will soon come into philosophical conflict with Dr. Barrett. Finally, there is Benjamin Fischer, once known as one of the most powerful mediums around, and who has been in Hell House before, and seen its deadly powers.

Upon entering Hell House (“the Mount Everest of haunted houses”), Matheson gradually increases the tension. This is not a slow-moving book, by any means (and at 301 paperback pages, it’s not overlong); however, it is not in any great hurry. This is a slow burn, but one that eventually ignites into a conflagration.

I found Matheson’s pacing to be generally effective. He starts in a vein similar to Shirley Jackson, in that he keeps things out of focus and uncertain. You are not given a vision of what is in front of you, so much as you receive glances of the dark edges on the periphery of your vision. Things go bump in the night. The history of the house is parceled out in fragments. The screws turn tighter, and tighter, and tighter. (Unlike in Hill House, however, it is starkly evident that Hell House is definitely haunted).

Matheson writes in the third-person omniscient. He jumps in and out of all four characters' heads. Despite his godlike viewpoint, he doesn’t find all that much interesting in his creations. No one makes a very strong impression. Dr. Barrett is the most clearly drawn, an archetype. His wife stands out mainly because Matheson uses her to gauge the rising level of fear within those walls. Florence and Fischer…Well, let’s just say that I kept confusing them, even though one is a buxom redhead (with a “Junoesque figure” no less), and the other is not.

I can’t really say a lot more about the plot without spoiling it. I think it’s safe to say that it is pretty eventful. The end of Jackson’s Hill House left me scratching my head and reading internet analyses. The end of Hell House did not. There is a lot more action here, as well as a pretty clear resolution. The questions Matheson raises are all answered. Whether or not you will be satisfied with those answers is an open question.

Matheson’s tale is relatively explicit. It doesn’t compare to the hyperbolically grand guignol excesses of Stephen King, but it does deal in bloodshed, in the occasional swearing (there are a couple really well-placed f-words), and more than a few sexual situations. I think a word on the sex is in order. To wit: it is so bad it’s great. One scene is so ridiculously over-the-top it became an instant favorite of mine. I’m not going to ruin it for you…unless you want me to.

If you haven’t followed my reviews in the past, let me briefly introduce myself. Hi, I am a person who likes to read awkward sex scenes. I find awful literary sex to be among life’s great pleasures. It’s like a perfect sunrise, or the moon over the ocean, or chilled chardonnay with a splash of club soda. Hell House does a fine job of scratching that particular itch. I mean, at one point, in one of Matheson’s oddly clinical descriptions, he uses the word “rectum.” If there’s one thing we can all agree on in these polarizing times, I think it’s that no one should use the word “rectum” outside of a medical journal on proctology.

By this point, you might be asking yourself: What is Matt trying to say? Did he like this? Did he hate this? Is this review going anywhere?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. I did like this, at least in the sense that I never thought of putting it down, once I picked it up. I don’t read a ton of horror, aside from Stephen King. This didn't scare me, necessarily, but it did – at times – evoke a tiny bit of dread. Matheson does create a palpable mood of cold despair. The atmosphere of Hell House is unrelentingly grim, cheerless, and devoid of intentional humor. (There is some unintentional humor, which is bound to happen when you use the word “rectum”).

I think there is a ceiling on how great a book about people in a haunted house can be. After all, there are only so many ways you can go. This isn’t the broad canvas of War and Peace or Moby Dick, which can be springboards for all manner of discussion on the human condition. Indeed, there might only be three options in this type of novel: first, there are no ghosts; second, there are ghosts; or third, we aren't sure whether we are seeing ghosts, or the collapse of our own fragile psyches. Matheson executes this conceit just about as well as you can. Thus, if we judge Hell House against other works of this genre, it might just be the classic it is alleged to be.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 18 books3,714 followers
March 18, 2020
"Matheson created one of the most brain-freezingly frightening haunted house novels of the 20th century in HELL HOUSE." - Stephen King


I've had this book on my list of horror classics for so long but I was really just waiting for the right edition. I don't like reading classic horror in a modern re-release format. I want a beat-up, mangled, smelly old paperback that's been read and handled at least a hundred times.

I finally found one at a used paperback store in a little town we visited a few weeks ago. I photographed it and posted the picture on bookstagram yesterday and then, on a powerful whim, I decided to read it and purposed in my heart to finish it.
Which was easy because of the Coronavirus Self Distancing Quarantine and because of this book's magnetic quality.

I've never read a Richard Matheson book before. So this was my first time experiencing all the things I've heard about him from my favorite authors like Stephen King, Jonathan Janz, Ray Bradbury, and Adam Cesare.
It's hard to go into an iconic read like this without bringing in everyone else's opinions. Playing in the back of my mind on a loop are thoughts about comparing it to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson (which I've read and loved), all the complaints of sexism, homophobia, and misogyny as well as a general buzz of Matheson being too sexual in his horror.

As soon as I started reading, the thoughts were silenced and I easily slipped into a blissed-out, horror lover's coma. Matheson has a knack for easy, engaging prose. I feel like he writes down exactly how he sees the scene in his mind-- there are no additional, fussy details to get in the way or complicate the translation from his mind to the reader's mind-it's an easy leap and makes for vivid, cinematic storytelling.
HELL HOUSE is a familiar trope most horror fans love: A wealthy socialite invites an assorted mix of guests to spend a few nights in a haunted house to do some research in exchange for a comfortable, all expenses paid for "retreat".
Florence Tanner: A god-fearing, spiritual medium.
Dr. Lionel Barret and his wife Edith: (who comes along because her husband has polio and they have an almost platonic nurse/patient relationship)
Ben Fischer: Who is also a medium and has stayed in this particular house before and survived its powerful evil presence.
Immediately upon arrival, Belasco House wastes zero time being creepy as hell. I loved that one of the guests had experienced the house before and could act as a storyteller for the others so that the reader could enjoy the manor's backstory without having to go through tedious or slow-burning discoveries along the way. My favorite moments were Fischer's tellings of all the horrors that took place in the house. If you haven't read it, I don't want to spoil it but imagine the most depraved cultish behaviors and then multiply it by tenfold. We're talking messed up.
The story moves along at an excellent pace, never a dull moment. My favorite character was Florence Tanner, the spiritual medium. She is relentless in her pursuit of the house's mysteries and quite brave in the face of untold horrors and evil. Because I previously had heard about all the misogyny and sexism, I was hyper-aware of it, almost annoyingly forced to look for it and came up surprisingly short. I'm not saying fellow reviewers are wrong or overly sensitive, I'm just saying that for me, I found Florence Tanner to be a remarkably brave, strong female protagonist. There's a scene between her and Edith that must have been quite the controversy back in this book's day, and I found it to be timelessly erotic. Matheson was able to pull off something that other authors try to do but are awkward about it or use cringey, descriptive language. So I admire Matheson's ability to effectively write sexual scenes really well.
Let's talk about Edith.
Edith's transformation in this book is perhaps the most provocative. Even though all the physical encounters with the supernatural happens to Florence, Edith is on a very psychological journey and I think the distinction is profound and the most fascinating part of the story.
At first, she's portrayed as being this subservient partner to her much older, disabled husband. Over the course of the novel, it's clear that he's in love with her. Dr. Barret doesn't mistreat her.
The sexually charged, dark presence in the house definitely preys on Edith's repressed past and brings all of her sexual trauma to the surface.
So where is all the homophobia??
I have no idea. I would love for someone to explain it to me. The spirits that haunt House Belasco definitely reference homoerotic acts as sinful. The ghost calls Edith a lesbian as an insult but its a part of the spiritual/religious themes of the story. Belasco was a manipulative, abusive, depraved sexual cult leader hell-bent on "destroying women". So it was par for the course to use repressed sexual energy as a weapon against his female victims. Edith takes the brunt of the mental, sexual assaults while Florence takes the physical.
I'm writing an essay now instead of a review.
Final thoughts: As a pillar of classic Haunted House stories, this one deserves all the praise it gets in the horror community. I can see why Matheson's writing style is so influential among horror legends who aspire to communicate with their readers as efficiently as Matheson. I've read so many stories that take on this book's premise, KILL CREEK by Scott Thomas and THE DARK GAME by Jonathan Janz come to mind and I can see Matheson's fingerprints in their stories as an homage to HELL HOUSE. Really, really cool. I'm glad I read this book and can give its due diligence moving forward in my reviews.

Profile Image for Marie.
883 reviews216 followers
November 1, 2022
Welcome to Hell House and be prepared to be scared!

Would you enter Hell House for a sum of $100,000? Dr. Barrett a physicist along with two mediums are offered the chance to enter the house in the sum of $100,000 each to see what they can find in terms of a possible haunting.

Dr. Barrett not only takes the mediums with him, but he ends up taking his wife along as she didn't want to be left alone as he was going to be gone a few days.

Hell House has been closed down since 1949 as seedy and despicable things went on within its walls. The team is there to try and find answers to what happened to the house.


Is Hell House haunted? Definitely! The doctor and mediums soon find out what the word "haunted" really means as all kinds of manifestations take place in the house.

This was a scary romp into the mind of author, Richard Matheson as I found myself jumping at sounds in my own house as I was reading this book.

I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and I am happy that I finally got around to reading it! Giving this one four "Ride Into Hell" stars.

Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,047 followers
November 4, 2014

"Isn't it just another so-called haunted house?"
"I'm afraid it isn't. It's the Mount Everest of haunted houses."


The excesses depicted in the history of the Belasco House (and here you can list any blasphemy and perversion you can think of) make for morbidly fascinating reading in itself and sets the stage for this 1970s horror novel.

I was actually surprised at how grim this book gets. It’s much more explicit than contemporaries like Rosemary's Baby, which was published only a few years earlier. I’m guessing it probably caused a bit of a stir back in the day.

“…a latter-day Satan observing his rabble. Always dressed in black. A giant, terrifying figure, looking at the hell incarnate he'd created."

This novel seems to enjoy a bit of a cult status. I’m saying cult as opposed to classic, since it doesn’t receive the same amount of love than, say, The Haunting of Hill House. Here’s the thing though: Hell House doesn’t muck around. It’s dirty and shameless and unapologetic and deals with some themes that people will still find offensive today. If it’s horror you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

"How did it end?"
"If it had ended, would we be here?"

I enjoyed the detail Matheson brings to the table, especially pertaining to spiritism / spiritualism, parapsychology and the occult. I actually had to go read up about Spirit Guides and mediumship (notably the difference between a mental medium and a physical medium) to better understand the sittings / séances described. It’s old school stuff, and pretty much a product of its time, but fascinating all the same.

They'd found him lying on the front porch of the house that morning in September 1940, naked, curled up like a fetus, shivering and staring into space.

While I don’t necessarily approve of some of the nastier elements of books like these, I can certainly understand why they’re present. These are the things that impinge on the reader’s comfort zone, and isn’t that why we read horror stories in the first place?

As he crossed the entry hall, he had the feeling that the house was swallowing him alive.

Hell House does a terrific job of building tension. The first half is fairly slow and sets the mood (lights the candles and all that). The second half, of course, is when all hell breaks loose (I couldn’t resist).
It is easily one of the scariest “haunted house” stories I have read. Even so: I probably wouldn’t recommend it to casual horror readers. It will mess with you.

"It knows we're here."
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,863 reviews10.5k followers
August 13, 2010
I've been a Richard Matheson fan for a few years now and he rarely disappoints. Hell House is no different. A dying millionaire offers a physicist and two psychics a hundred thousand dollars apiece to spend a week in a haunted house to prove or disprove the existence of an afterlife. Sounds simple enough, right?

Tensions run high between the investigators. Barrett thinks Florence's beliefs are crap and his scientific explanation is the only one. Fischer doesn't seem to be doing much which also irks Barrett. Barret's wife Edith has odd feelings for Florence. What's caused by the spirits inhabiting the house and what isn't?

The first third of the book is mostly exposition. Things don't really start picking up until halfway though but when they do, Hell House is really hard to put down. Matheson knows all about suspense and tension. Just watch that episode of the Twilight Zone he wrote with the gremlin on the wing of the plane. The attacks on the investigators by the spirit of inhabiting the Belasco house were fairly brutal.

The ending was a tad on the anti-climactic side once all was said and done. Be that as it may, I should have read this book much earlier. Highly recommended for fans of the haunted house sub-genre of horror.

Profile Image for Julie .
3,976 reviews58.9k followers
October 21, 2012
Sorry, I know this is a classic haunted house novel. But, it was terrible. It was offensive, lurid. I read horror novels frequently as a young adult. I still read King, Koontz, John Saul and sometimes Bentley Little. But, this was just disgusting. Then after putting me through all that crap, the ending was incredibly anti- climatic. I only picked this one out because I was in the mood for a good haunted house or ghost story to read during the month of October for Halloween. I really wish I hadn't.
Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,695 reviews655 followers
December 4, 2017
Bought during Audible's $2.99 sale (10/13/17)! . It's more now, sorry about that.

A rich guy offers to pay a group of people to stay a few nights in a haunted house to prove there is life after death. All previous attempts to do such a stupid thing at this particular house have ended very badly for the suckers brave or stupid or hard-up enough to have a sleep-over. It’s no different this time around.

I read this book closely on the heels of finishing up Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which was probably a big mistake on my part as the premise of these two books is nearly identical and Jackson’s story didn’t thrill me the way it did most people. Same goes for Hell House though I did like it a wee bit more than Jackson’s story but probably only because it was more lurid and crazy-pants and I like that kind of thing but it does suffer from the same over the top characterization.

This story is much more sexually horrifying. Some of the things that happen within these pages are upsetting. Trust me on this. The house was basically turned into a pit of debauchery and hellish events when its original owner cuts loose with a group of hangers-on who dip into orgies, drugs, murder, cannibalism (as you will, I guess) and every other nasty thing your brain can imagine! The house is tainted and incredibly haunted by a horny ghost who eventually infects the woman folk and does shocking pervy things.

I listened to this story on audio and the narrator, Ray Porter, does an excellent job. He is deadly serious which suits the story and he manages to deliver the lady voices in a way that doesn’t make them sound completely ridiculous even when they’re forced to behave in overly hysterical ways. He does a good job with the men and the evil inhabiting the house as well.

I’m going to give this the same rating as the Jackson book. 3 Stars.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,847 reviews16.3k followers
October 17, 2015
Whoa, creepy, scary book.

This must be required reading for Wes Craven and Clive Barker and other horror movie directors. Published 6 years before The Shining, I also wonder how much this influenced Stephen King. Alas, I did not care for the ending.

Well written, imaginative, and innovative, Matheson again displays his power as a storyteller in this genre.

Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,392 followers
August 19, 2014
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read such a horror classic by one of the masters who has influenced so many others, including Stephen King. First off, what I loved:

1) What’s not to love? Matheson manages to accomplish a haunted house story that is not only supremely eerie and filled with a creepy atmosphere that’s sublime, but a full-on assault of the senses as well. This book does not pussy-foot around – it is in your face practically from page one all the way through to the end.

2) Belasco House – even the Overlook Hotel has nothing on the absolutely sordid, depraved history of Hell House. One of the most riveting scenes in the novel is when Fischer is describing the house’s past in gritty and illuminating detail. It created images in my mind I won't ever be able to erase. Ever.

3) Tension and suspense are rife in this novel and so expertly handled. Matheson really is a master of his craft. Positively ghoulish! I loved that I was never quite certain what was going to happen next, on edge with the uncertainty of how far things were going to go.

Why I’m giving it four stars instead of five:

1) What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page nevertheless detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor.

2) I have to say while I found the scientific explanations to be somewhat interesting, Dr. Barrett’s endless condescending descriptions of his work became insufferable after a while and robbed some of the book’s momentum.
Profile Image for Rodrigo.
971 reviews352 followers
August 17, 2022
Pues me ha gustado bastante. Esta sí es un novela de casa encantada con espíritus muy puñeteros y malignos. Si la comparo con la maldición de Hill house, bueno ni punto de comparación, para mí esta gana de calle.
Me ha gustado mucho la ambientación, la casa es el autentico protagonista y como tal, da miedo.
La escena del gato también, (no miraré igual a un gato cunado me bufe jejjeje).
Sinopsis: Durante más de veinte años, la Casa Belasco ha permanecido vacía. Considerada el Everest de las casas encantadas, es una venerable mansión cuyas sombrías paredes han sido testigo de escenas de horror y depravación inimaginables. Las anteriores expediciones que han tratado de investigar sus secretos han terminado en desastre, siendo sus participantes destruidos por el asesinato, el suicidio o la demencia. Ahora se prepara una nueva investigación que llevará a cuatro extraños a la mansión prohibida, decididos a descubrir en la Casa Belasco los secretos definitivos de la vida y la muerte. Cada uno tiene sus propias razones para arriesgarse a sufrir tormentos y tentaciones desconocidos, pero ¿podrá alguien sobrevivir a aquello que acecha en la casa más peligrosa del mundo?
Puntuación 8/10. Se podría haber llevado algo mas pero el final me pareció de lo mas flojito.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
January 6, 2020
When physicist Dr. Lionel Barrett is offered $100,000 by an ailing but wealthy eccentric hoping he will prove the existence of the afterlife by staying in an old abandoned mansion with an evil past, the offer is just too much to resist. Dr. Barrett is a non-believer, but agrees to travel to Maine with the two appointed mediums, Florence and Ben (and wife Edith) with the intention of proving the exact opposite with his new invention, the Reversor.

Arrival at "HELL HOUSE" begins with the appearance of a creepy dense fog as you might imagine, but what happens within its windowless confines is the true terror with multiple gruesome acts of sexual violence and other unrelenting vicious attacks by a supernatural presence.

As the story concludes, the mediums but this is still one HELL of a haunted house read, and I can certainly imagine the disturbing impact it must have had when it first came out back in 1971. (recommend NOT seeing the movie first)

Profile Image for Latasha.
1,259 reviews360 followers
October 2, 2020
I loved this book the 2nd time around just as much as the first time I read it. it's great, intense, horrific and just awesome. once you step into Hell House, it's over. merely puppets. if you like horror and haven't read this book, I don't know what your waiting for!!

the 3rd re-read: it's still just as great.
Profile Image for Dale.
Author 28 books43 followers
October 10, 2007
Book ten of the commute. This book is yet another "product of its times", and once again the times in question are the seventies (see also "Still Life With Woodpecker"). This book, if some of the blurbs on the back cover are to be believed, is a classic of American horror, and I'm a big fan of horror (especially Stephen King, who is in fact the praising voice of one of the back-cover blurbs) so I decided to check it out. Like a lot of good horror, the book combines fantastic fears, like ghosts and haunting phenomena, with social and psychological fears, like sexuality, substance abuse, and religion - all with a very 70's vibe. The ending of the book is kind of a downer, as well, which is fairly typical of western lit in the 70's. The story has a nice creepiness throughout and makes some interesting observations about the nature of the universe and the successes (and limits) of parapsychology, but in the end I just thought the book was kind of OK, nothing great. Maybe if I had been reading it for the first time thirty years ago, or if I hadn't already been exposed to so many horror movies and scary novels in my life, it might have impressed me more.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews471 followers
March 26, 2018
I absolutely love the early 70's movie version of this book, The Legend of Hell House with Roddy McDowell. But I never read the book it was based on. Following the spirit of my challenge to myself this year to read more books that I've always wanted to read but never have....I decided to delve into the evil that is Hell House. I have to admit that I saw the actors from the movie in my head as I read this story. I'm not sure I like the mixing of so much cheesy horror with what might have been a great haunted house tale. It worked in a cheesy 70's movie....not so much for the original book, in my opinion. I enjoyed the story......but I would have enjoyed it more had the plot just ..... not tried too hard. That's the best way I can word it.

This story definitely brings a 1960's/early 1970's horror movie feel to the classic haunted house story. Lots of strange biofeedback-type pseudoscience reigning here, but it does make for a spooky and strangely demented story. The basics: Dr Lionel Barrett is a physicist. With backing from a wealthy (and terminally ill) patron, he heads an expedition to a haunted house. Not just any haunted house -- the last group that went into the Belasco House was almost entirely annihilated and the house was sealed for decades. The house is evil....evil caused by years of extreme debauchery and wickedness. Lionel wants to prove that the supernatural is not some magical spiritual thing, but a testable form of residual energy instead. It's good vs evil.....and science vs supernatural. Turns out that the house isn't amused.....

The over-the-top explanations of the evil doings of the original property owner took this story from scary to almost ridiculous. And the ridiculous origins led into cheesy displays of supernatural shenanigans ranging from ectoplasm to horny ghosts. Like I said earlier...for me, the plot just tried too hard. It took all the scare out of it for me and just made it creepy...not in the haunted house sense but in the sexual deviant weird guy on a park bench sense.

I'm glad I read the book. There were spooky moments....and I still love, love, love Roddy McDowell in the movie. The movie kept the debauchery but reined it in somewhat....70's horror movies are supposed to be cheese fests. The book version just dragged it out much longer....all the way to the ending that just fell a bit flat for me. Oh, I knew what was coming....but expected a bigger bang out of the book version.

In the end, my after thoughts amounted to a passing thought and chuckle about there being no diverse characters in this book. All of the people that enter the Belasco House to find out what makes it tick are white. But there is a reason for that --- all the people of color that were asked if they wanted anything to do with the house said NO.

There is bad language in this clip....but I have to add Eddie Murphy's take on this:


So, although this was a great nostalgia read for me because of the movie.....for the most part, this book was a miss for me. Too much cheese.....not enough actually scary moments. The mix of horror elements along with the haunted house just didn't work for me. Cheese overload. The 70's called....they want their physical mediums, seances and ectoplasm back.

I'm definitely going to read more by Richard Matheson though -- he's also the author of I am Legend and Stir of Echoes.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
859 reviews173 followers
November 8, 2021
A classic ghost story written by an author that was before his time. This gruesome thriller was made even better with the added bonus of being narrated by the great Roy Porter. A fantastic, spooky story to listen to around Halloween.
Profile Image for Deb.
565 reviews8 followers
September 27, 2012
I'm a sucker for a haunted-house book, always optimistic that I'll be in for something as good as The Shining or The Haunting of Hill House. I'm a damn fool, because most books don't come close. This one has me ready to give up on the genre; it was that bad.

Matheson seems to have lifted most of his stuff straight from Shirley Jackson's novel: a parapsychologist and two sensitives agree to stay in a notorious haunted house in an effort to prove or disprove survival after death. Alas, he lacks Jackson's fine prose style, brilliantly chilly atmospherics and subtle characterization: the stock characters offer up tinny dialog as they walk through their predictable paces and encounter garish but un-scary boogeymen.

It's too easy to make fun of, and very, very dated (homosexuality as a demonic perversion, for starters). I was just amused through most of it, but when Matheson borrowed an element from the scariest and creepiest scene in The Haunting of Hill House and tarted it up with sex and gore, I got mad.

I rarely put down a book, so I stayed with this one to the bitter end, and was rewarded with an ending so lame and anticlimactic that I was tempted to throw the book across the room.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,228 followers
March 22, 2012
Obviously inspired by Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Richard Matheson's Hell House pays homage to Jackson by borrowing the basic crux of the plot - several characters gathering to investigate a seemingly haunted mansion - and making the story his own instead of merely copying the earlier novel.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the original Hill House was its ambiguity concerning the origin and source of the hauntings; it Hell House there is plenty of ambiguity, but it's obvious that the hauntings and phenomena are real, and that the house fully deserves its hellish name. Matheson slowly reveals a terrific and terrifying backstory, revealing it bit by bit, obviously inspired by the classic Poe story, only much more gruesome and unrelenting.

All characters have different opinions on the phenomena occuring in the house; All have separate and unique pasts, problems and fears. The novel is divided in short chapters - a bigger sectioon for each day the characters spend in the house is divided into separate hours - and the perspective switches from character to character, giving the reader a sense of immediacy and relentless plugging forward, building suspense by using cliffhangers and shifting the perspective at the exact right moment. Matheson's writing style here is "less is more", and he writes in simple, detached language, describing the events with cold indifference. The overwhelming evil of the mansion, its windows bricked, sitting alone in its foggy surroundings, its history and look are described in gruesome and fascinating detail, barely allowing the reader to catch a breath. The novel is notable for openly using sexual elements and incorporating them into the plot, often in very vulgar ways. However, it never once descends to the realm of simple pornography that plagues many novels written in its wake; its a carefully implemented element of the plot, without it the novel would lose much of its power.

Hell House, although obviously borrowing heavily from the gothic convention, threw it out of the window: in most gothic novels the horrific themes are often happening offscreen, are suggested or discovered by the characters after the events themselves. The sense of mystery is more emphasized than the feeling of terror. Sexual themes, which have been before only hinted upon, are present and used with no qualms, openly and bravely.Hell House becomes a new archetype of a gothic novel, assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. It's an important, brave book, erotic and repulsive, compelling and fascinating. It set the way for future works, most of them inferior and simplistic in comparison.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,895 reviews156 followers
March 10, 2021
"Hell House" by Richard Matheson (of "I am Legend" fame) reminded me a lot "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. Where that one shares its horror style with Lovecraft, this tale feels more a Stephen King story.

A dying millionaire wants to prove in the existence of an afterlife. He hires 3 people- a physicist, accompanied by his wife who is the 4th member, a spiritual medium and the lone survivor of the last expedition. Hell House had 2 previous "expeditions" where both parties met with doom. The last party, 1940, had only one survivor. 3 decades later that survivor and the other two must survive a week in Hell House to get a $100K each.

The story was good. Though the horror was more gore and shock than shock and eerie setting. The characters are not much more likable than the ones in Jackson's story, but at least their dialogue is far more normal than that book. The characters have their own manias and their lack of team work and communication is the basis of their failures. The ending of the story was rather different though. I didn't see that ending coming.

A good horror story about a Haunted House. Glad I read it.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,728 reviews739 followers
October 26, 2021
My main thought after finishing this is OH FUCK YES. If that doesn’t tell you how damn good it was then I don’t know what will. This right here is what I crave when I pick up a haunted house story. It was brutal and awful and I absolutely revelled in every single second of it. Could I have been a past resident of Hell House in its glory days?! Who knows! Actually most definitely not because while I like reading about disturbing things I don’t want to experience them. Kidding aside, this is one hell of a horror story. It’s like the slasher version of a haunted house story and it was just glorious. Some parts are pretty explicit and depraved and I wasn’t expecting that but I’m always up for getting down and dirty! I’d definitely put a few trigger warnings on this one, it’s not one for the faint of heart or those easily triggered by physical and/or sexual violence. That being said, I enjoyed the FUCK out of it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Once I started reading I needed to know how it ended and I stayed up WAY past my bedtime to blow through it. It was worth every damn tired moment the next day though because it was just so fucking good. It’s just everything I ever wanted from a haunted house story and MORE, way more.
Profile Image for Pantelis Andreou.
271 reviews52 followers
December 27, 2019
Such a creepy book.. takes the premise of haunting of hill house and makes it a hundred times more terrifying.. even if i wasn’t that much invested into the characters
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews418 followers
August 21, 2019
Reading it again three years later I've added two stars. I was thrown the first time by a ludicrous reveal at the very, very end. But knowing it was coming allowed me to enjoy the fun of this book, one of the two best haunted house books ever written, along with Shirley Jackson's "Haunting of Hill House." The book is fantastic until that silly head-scratcher at the end (it's in the movie too) which on second reading doesn't at all negate the positives. The film version doesn't begin to capture the frights in this book. I would love it if someone made a remake that's faithful to "Hell House" in all its scary, twisted, violent, demented, erotic, terrifying greatness.
Profile Image for Rob.
511 reviews103 followers
November 10, 2018

I was looking forward to reading this book as I have enjoyed reading Richard Matheson books in the past.

But this did not live up to me expectations.

This was a strange mix of supernatural horror, pseudo science all tied together with some very awkward erotica.

When I think of other horror stories from the 60s and 70s like Ira Levin’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and Peter Bloch’s ‘Psycho’ that left me breathless, this did not.

Four people are employed to enter Hell House and discover the source of the horror that has surrounded the house for decades. Four enter and only two leave. The house doesn’t take prisoners.

That sound like it should be and exciting read?
Well think again. The horror was boring, the science was nonsense and the erotica was very un-erotic.

Not in my top 10 best horror stories.
2/5 was the best I could do.

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