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Hell House

Written by: Richard Matheson
Narrated by: Ray Porter
Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For over 20 years, Belasco House has stood empty. Regarded as the Mt. Everest of haunted houses, its shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of unimaginable horror and depravity. All previous attempts to probe its mysteries have ended in murder, suicide, or insanity.

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.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Disturbingly good!

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.. it was unexpectedly dark and and pretty graphic. The setting and some of the writing style is dated, but didn't hinder my enjoyment of the story overall. There are parts that made me pull faces in disgust or horror, or make goosebumps show up on my arms, which I loved, because it was partly the narrator's effects and partly the story, and I love nothing more than a good story that makes me physically react. I would often have to reset my sleep timer because I just wanted to keep listening!

The narrator is excellent, and really makes the dialogue come alive. There's never any question as to who is talking, and he can do the scary voices quite well. I am picky with narration, but I'd listen to anything by Ray Porter any day.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Mostly just gross and unsettling

There's a lot of rape and sexual assault. In fact that is pretty much all there is. The whole book is just a bragge of sexual assault scenes written in a pretty fetishistic manner. There isn't really much story beyond to prop up this content. There's noting wrong with a few sex scenes in books or showing assault but in this book there just isn't enough of anything else to make it interesting, or enjoyable, or thrilling.

The narrator has a pleasant voice and mostly did a good job except the female characters came out so whiny that it was pretty hard to listen to.

The characters were mostly unlikable and they had no camaraderie which is usually pretty essential. If you compare it to Shirley Jacksons "Haunting of Hill House," which is a pretty similar premise, you really notice how much this book is lacking and how much it could have benefitted from some likeable characters and endearing moments. You might actually care what happens to them.

Honestly if this is what I was looking for in a book I just would have picked up some fetish material. This isn't scary, it wasn't entertaining. Just not worth the time.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Phebe
  • 2012-08-13

Hell House is like Hill House, but fiercer

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.

123 of 130 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • 2008-06-17

Got scary?

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.

118 of 125 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Barry S. Sharpnack
  • 2008-06-07

Excellent horror novel, classic ghost story

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.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Matthew Jacobson
  • 2015-07-27

It's repulsive -- to great effect!

Where does Hell House rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is definitely one of my top 10. The story is gruesome and at times sacrilegious, and it's nice to get into a story that isn't afraid to pull punches. Because every lurid detail is explained, the horror is that much more effective.

What other book might you compare Hell House to and why?

The only one that comes to mind immediately is "The Haunting of Hill House." However, "Hill House" doesn't so much scare as it does intrigue. "Hell House," on the other hand, paints some pretty horrific pictures.

What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

He performed without having to do any silly voices, a bad habit among many narrators that immediately takes me out of the story.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I can't for the life of me think of a tag line. But, I would definitely like to see an adaptation of this film beyond the one starring Roddy Mcdowall. I'd love to see a film that keeps all the gruesome scenes and disturbing images.

Any additional comments?

Richard Matheson is a master storyteller. He created a house that I personally want to explore.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • J. Kunke
  • 2017-07-13

great performance by Ray Porter.

the book is great. scary, suspenseful, unpredictable. I had read it before but the performance done by the narrator took this book to a whole new level of amazing.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • A. J. Wolt
  • 2016-11-21

Fantastic haunted house story

Gripping and disturbing. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish all the women didn't sound weak and breathy.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jeffrey veals
  • 2016-07-14

Author: Ahead of his Time

What did you love best about Hell House?

I thought the story was well-crafted and would fit in really well with the horror books and movies of today.

Which scene was your favorite?

I'd say the scene where Lionel first used Florence to see what would happen when she became aware of her power as a mental medium. It started the story off with this odd situation and was rounded out at the end.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

My main reaction may not have been extreme, but it was pleasant. The reaction I had was just plain awe at Matheson's ability as a writer. And, the fact that these books were written so long ago, just affirms the awe that I have for this book and the author altogether.

Any additional comments?

This is my general review of 'Hell House' by Richard Matheson:
One sentence would be the best to describe the author of Hell House: Ahead of his time. This book, as well as I am Legend, both capture something so remarkable that I think I'm reading books from the last ten years. When I first realized these books were published from 1950's-1970's, I'm just shocked.

Normally, with horror books and movies, I like cheesy, stupid stuff. This was a horror book that was smart, witty, scary, brilliant, and incredibly fun to read. There are moments of perverse situations, so I would say it'd be rated R in a theater; but for anyone who wants a scary, smart ride, this is the perfect book.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kendall
  • 2008-05-27

Highly Enjoyable!

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.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Calliope
  • 2017-11-16

Not bad, but not the best horror

An OK horror story, but there's a little too much pandering to exploitative imagery (all the sex and drugs) that really has nothing to do with the story nor adds anything to the suspense or horror of the story. It makes me wonder if he intended this for the screen (and movie posters) rather than focusing on writing a suspenseful horror novel. I enjoyed the narration, but I almost always enjoy Ray Porter's narration.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • 2012-04-26

'The Haunting of Hill House' on steroids

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful