My second book by Richard Matheson, the first "I am Legend" I read around fifteen years ago and I don't know why I've left it so long before reading another. My memories of "I am Legend" were good and I wondered whether his writing would live up to the high standards I remembered. It did.
One of the things I liked about "I am Legend" was the way in which the protagonist tried to apply the scientific method to understanding supernatural phenomena. This story shares this theme as one the protaginists in "Hell House" attempts to apply science to the phenomenon of ghosts and hauntings. However, his is only one of the approaches applied and it contrasts starkly with the spiritualistic method of a religous medium. The dichotomy between these seemingly irreconcilable approaches is satisfyingly explored and creates a tension between the characters as well.
Supposedly the "mount everest" of haunted houses, a small team of investigators are employed by a rich, dying millionaire to stay in the "hell house" for a week in order to establish the true nature of the phenomena. The last two attempts ended in death or insanity for all involved with the exception of one who just managed to escape. A mere child at the time, he is one of the ones who returns, now thirty, to resolve the mystery.
The characters are well crafted and the tension gradually builds throughout the narrative. It was a gripping read and I felt increasingly drawn into the story as the mystery unfolded. Before I got to the end, it was hard to put down. I don't know if, as Stephen King is quoted as saying on the back cover, this is "the most scary haunted house novel ever written", but it is pretty damn scary as well as shocking in places. Don't read this if you are easilly offended.