A story of a haunted house, told with a twist... okay, several twists. This is not just a story about ghosts roaming the halls, things going bump in the night, and lights flickering when they shouldn't... this story aims to justify science and the paranormal. The house itself has a story goal, and works well to disengage the characters that visit from the reality they thought they understood.
It's an interesting notion, to have a scientist, in this case, a physicist, attempt to explain the unexplainable. He brings with him, his wife, who serves as an "unbiased witness", and two mediums, one physical and one mental, to help support the notion that the paranormal has energy that can be explained, and therefore, eliminated. Each has their own reason for coming to the house, and each has a different emotional impact on the reader.
I enjoyed the idea that one of the characters endured time in this house in the past, and another is religious in their beliefs. Those oppositions made the story far more intriguing. They were all being paid to be there, but it seemed they all had a far more important stake than just the cash. Throughout the book, I constantly asked why they wouldn't just leave, but at each turn, something far stronger than money drew them back, regardless of their longstanding beliefs, and in spite of the house's reputation. Given the puzzle of trying to figure it all out, I probably would have stayed, too.
I thought the author created a foreboding sense of urgency in the story goals of each character. The combination of the physical, psychic, and emotional responses from the characters, along with the mysterious origins and later reclusiveness and abandonment of the house, certainly held my attention.
The ending seemed too tightly wrapped up... but I didn't have nightmares, so I'm okay with that. It was fun to be startled intellectually as well as emotionally. The gore factor was relatively low, considering this is a horror novel, so that made it easier for me to read and enjoy.
Stephen King calls this book "The scariest haunted house novel ever written." I don't think I agree with that. I thought Amnityville Horror was a far scarier haunted house... but if you like scary stuff, this is certainly worth the time spent, and I had more than a few chills crawl up my spine when reading.
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