Sexually Charged Haunts: A Look at Hell House and The Long Shadows of October

Reviews of Hell House by Richard Matheson and The Long Shadows of October by Kristopher Triana

Perhaps it’s because I recently read the book and watched the film version of Hell House that I drew so many comparisons to The Long Shadows of October, but nevertheless, here we are.

The premise of Hell House is simple – Rolf Rudolph Deutsch wants proof that there is life after death and sends a small group of experts into the Mount Everest of haunted houses – the Belasco House. They are given unlimited funds and a week in which to prove that ghosts do, in fact, exist. Dr. Barrett, a physicist, and his wife, Edith, are joined by two mediums, Florence Tanner and Benjamin Fischer. Benjamin is the only living, sane survivor from a past investigation of the Belasco House. The book follows them on their week through hell as they attempt to communicate with Belasco.

Hell House has it all – ghosts, possessions, a weird sex cult, a “Bastard Bog” where unwanted children of the sex cult were drowned, a chapel – complete with one giant-sized Jesus with an erection, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

For the most part, I enjoyed Hell House up until the very end. The great reveal felt extraordinarily weak and didn’t make a whole lot of sense; Especially given all of the history and deviance of the Belasco house that we were privy to. It brought the overall enjoyment of the book down a bit for me.

Likewise, the premise of The Long Shadows of October is simple – Joe Grant and Danny Knox are looking for some quick cash so that they can get Joe’s little brother, Robbie, laid. When the opportunity to housesit Snowden Manor for $500 a week falls into their laps, they jump at the chance. Old Mrs. Snowden even tells them they can have friends over, just so long as they stay at the house as much as possible over the two weeks that she’ll be gone. Things start getting weird the first night the guys invite girls over – Maxine, Danny’s girlfriend, and Kayla, Joe’s new girl. It’s almost as if the house wants the girls out of it.

While The Long Shadows of October has some similar elements to Hell House – ghosts, possessions, and sex; It also brings a host of well-formed elements that make sense to the story – wraiths, witchcraft, sex magic, and a succubus. All of which build a cohesive story that leads to a thrilling conclusion.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Shadows of October. It’s a solid haunted house story with enough of an edge to separate it and elevate it over others in the genre. I’ve seen it faulted for its lack of character development, but here’s the thing – it’s not really a story about the characters, it’s a story about the house and what’s in it. The one character who needs to be strong and well-rounded is and the others are exactly what they need to be.

If you’re looking for a sexually charged haunted house novel or looking for a little ghost-on-human sex, look no further than these two novels. While both are strong contenders, The Long Shadows of October comes out ahead for me.

Crossroads

A novella of grief and demons by Laurel Hightower

5/5 Star Review

“The first time Chris buried a part of herself by her son’s roadside cross, it was an accident.”

Crossroads asks the question, How far would you go to bring back someone you love? Chris is a mother still grieving the untimely death of her twenty-two year old son two years prior. He was killed in a car crash and the place she feels closest to him is not his grave, but his roadside cross placed near the spot where he died.

Click the cover art to purchase from bookshop.org.

As this is a novella, I hesitate to say anything more about the story. I went into the book mostly blind and I think it is the way that it should be experienced. At its heart, Crossroads is a ghost story tackling demons that are both real and imagined. It is an exploration of a mother’s love and loss. It is heart-breaking.

Not since Westlake Soul has a book left me so utterly and completely gutted. I am not a mother and cannot imagine what the loss of a child must feel like. I am, however, a human who has experienced the loss of loved ones and friends and know the ache that grief leaves in your gut – that feeling of emptiness and wanting to do anything to fill it with the light of the one who is gone. It’s not the same, but if you’ve experienced a loss, you will be able to relate and understand the horror imbued in this story.

This novella will break you, but that’s okay. It’s absolutely worth it in order to experience this tale. Hightower’s writing is poignant and powerful. She is an extraordinary talent and I can’t wait to read more from her!

Crossroads released from Off Limits Press on August 10, 2020. Click here to order the paperback directly from Off Limits or click the cover image above to order the book from my bookshop.org affiliates page.

It’s worth a mention that Crossroads was the title launching the debut of Off Limits Press. Off Limits is a female-owned independent publisher focused on horror fiction. Support women in horror by pre-ordering titles straight from their site!