Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Superlative Supernatural Tales

Richard Matheson (1926-2013) mastered many genres in his long literary career.  Whether he was writing science fiction, fantasy, mystery/suspense, paranormal, or even romance stories, Matheson filled his plots with imaginative twists and fact-based details.  Two of his most popular novels were A Stir of Echoes (1958) and Hell House (1971).  Our book trailers briefly summarize the plots.

MPL Book Trailer #213
A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson

MPL Book Trailer #212
Hell House, by Richard Matheson

Hell House grips the reader and relentlessly plies terror, once the exploration of Maine's haunted Belasco house begins in earnest.   The typical Matheson protagonist--an ordinary person faced with extraordinary circumstances--is modified here.  There's a physicist dabbling in parapsychology (along with his wife), and two mediums, all of whom have been hired by a dying rich dude to determine if there's an afterlife.  So these are hardly "everyday people." Still, the characters are realistically portrayed, and their individual weaknesses are adroitly exploited by the evil entity haunting the place.

Matheson melds a supernatural thriller with some genuine psychical research methodologies to move the horror along to its inevitable conclusion.  The author subtly warns against overly-arrogant scientists who too readily dismiss what cannot be replicated in a laboratory setting, as well as gullible believers who are easily misled by their own preconceptions and uncritical analysis.  Matheson thoroughly researched his subjects, so it's probably no coincidence that his physicist is named Dr. Barrett, and one of his mediums is called Florence.  Real-life physicist/psychical researcher Sir William F. Barrett (1844-1925) and medium Florence Cook (1856-1904), as well as novelist/spiritualist Florence Marryat (1833-1899), may have received the tip of the literary hat from Matheson.  However, Matheson's Barrett is much more conceited and closed-minded than his true-life counterpart, who was renowned for his objectivity and commitment to demonstrated facts.

A Stir of Echoes is another ghost tale, but it's a paranormal mystery rather than an exercise in supernatural terror.  It has scary bits, though.  The main character, Tom Wallace, is about as 1950s ordinary as one could get.  When he develops extra sensory perception (ESP) and begins "hearing" the thoughts of others around him, he struggles to cope with this preternatural, but unwelcome, ability.  Things become more troubling for Tom as he begins perceiving communications from an apparently deceased person.  But all this unwanted information leads Tom toward something diabolical involving living people he would never have otherwise suspected.

I'm having Scowl-Face relate the plot details here--he read both novels a quarter century ago or more, but he thinks he remembers most of what happened--so you should definitely read the books yourself to see if his memory has faded.  Considering that he can't recall what he ate for lunch today, I'd say that's a big probably.

Both A Stir of Echoes and Hell House are available to check-out from our Evergreen Indiana online catalog.

Your Roving Reporter On The Go,

Cauli Le Chat

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