The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The isolated Belasco House in Maine, otherwise known as Hell House, provides the gothic setting and atmosphere of this novel. Four persons visit the haunted house after it has been closed for thirty years. One visitor, Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist, brings his wife Edith, whose main reason for being there is that she fears being alone even for a few days. Dr. Barrett undertakes the visit because a wealthy, aging publisher, Rudolph Deutsch, offered him $100,000 to find proof one way or another about survival after death.

Barrett not only needs the money for his retirement but also finds the idea of dealing with a haunted house intriguing because it gives him an opportunity to test a machine he invented. Theoretically, his machine, which he calls a Reversor, could help him find the definitive proof about an afterlife that Deutsch requires. Barrett plans to find this proof by using electromagnetic radiation to demagnetize the house, dissipate the resonant negative energy, and thus end, through scientific means, the haunting of the house.

Florence Tanner and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, both psychics, are the two other visitors, also commissioned by Deutsch. They bring different perspectives. Tanner comes from a Spiritualist background and serves as a minister of the Temple of Spiritual Harmony. Her financial reward could provide a fine new building for her congregation. Fischer, a man of forty-five, had been an extraordinarily gifted medium in...

(The entire section is 572 words.)