Literature / Hell House

Hell House is a horror thriller novel written in 1971 by Richard Matheson. It was adapted to film as The Legend of Hell House in 1973.

Hell House provides examples of:

  • Agent Scully: Mr. Barrett
  • Break the Cutie: Both Edith and Florence
  • Broken Bird: Florence after going through the horrors of Hell House
  • Den of Iniquity: Belasco spent his wealth and time hosting elaborate orgies at Hell House for the entertainment of his circle of wealthy, depraved friends. Many unspeakable acts occurred behind its bricked-up windows.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Florence passes hers after being possessed by Belasco.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Takes place between December 18 and December 24, but the only mention of the holiday comes in the very last sentence of the story, when one of the characters wishes another a merry Christmas. (The film adaptation The Legend of Hell House keeps the same datespan, but omits any reference to Christmas at all.)
  • Doing In the Wizard: Dr. Barrett's goal, whether by proving the supernatural does not exist at all or explaining it all away as merely electromagnetic energy.
  • Eureka Moment: Fischer figuring out both of Belasco's secrets thanks to some seemingly random words and phrases from a recording of one of Florence's earlier seances.
  • Extreme Doormat: Edith, when it comes to her husband, until her experiences in the house, the death of her husband, and support from Fischer help her grow a backbone.
  • For the Evulz: Belasco
  • Haunted Heroine: Florence.
  • Haunted House: "The Mount Everest of Haunted Houses"
  • Haunted House Historian: Ben Fischer is sole survivor of a previous investigative team, provides the backstory of the Belasco House, called the "Mount Everest of haunted houses." He relates the evil debauchery that started it all, as well as the dire fates of his colleagues on the earlier mission. Fischer advised the others on the team to do nothing to provoke the forces in the house and wait for the week to pass so they can live and collect their fees. As the casualties mount, Fischer is persuaded/forced by circumstances to take action.
  • Magic Versus Science: Of a sort. On the "magic" side there's Florence the spiritualist who believes ardently in the supernatural and claims to be a true medium in touch with the spirits in the house; on the other is Dr. Barrett, a Flat-Earth Atheist who is determined to use his machine to either debunk the haunting or end it by purging the house of its electromagnetic energy. In the end it turns out they're both right and wrong: it's strongly suggested at least some of Florence's medium act is a hoax and/or drawing upon repressed portions of her personality, but she genuinely is contacted by Belasco's ghost (albeit in disguise as his supposedly-tormented son), and while the house is truly haunted and it seems as if Barrett's machine doesn't work, it turns out Belasco was one step ahead having sealed his body and thus his ghost in a lead-lined room, thus protecting it from the machine. Also unusually, both apologists in this debate end up dying because of their dedication to their erroneous beliefs.
  • The Napoleon: Emeric Belasco turns out to be this—to the point that he actually had his legs sawed off and replaced with prosthetics to make him appear as an abnormally tall giant instead.
  • Religious Horror: Invoked with the chapel and particularly with Florence's rather disgusting and audacious fate there.
  • Room 101: The whole mansion qualifies, but several rooms are particularly dangerous, especially the steam room, the ballroom, and the chapel.
    • Just the chapel in the film.
  • The Sociopath: Belasco
  • Talking the Monster to Death: How Fischer defeats Belasco, by means of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Much better and more epic than it sounds.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Emeric Belasco, the sociopath responsible for the massacre at Hell House and its subsequent haunting for decades, sealed his legacy by forcing himself to die of thirst in a hidden lead-lined chamber, having correctly predicted that this would prevent his spirit from being dispelled by EMP.
    • It's also suggested that dying in the chamber is how after death Belasco managed to become such a powerful spirit.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Florence at first.

Alternative Title(s): The Legend Of Hell House