The spring that I graduated, I quit the ministry, finalized a divorce ending eighteen years of marriage, came out, sold the house I alone was paying on for the previous six months, moved, and finalized my thesis.
Perhaps you don’t believe in the continuity of consciousness—the survival of the soul. I’d heard many say, and had said it myself, “There’s no proof of the afterlife.”
Yet I wanted to know for sure.
After seeking spiritual direction, I was led to the Morris Pratt Institute, where I studied Spiritualism for a year. Whether or not you believe there’s proof, there are 175 years of research of research about life after death and spiritualistic phenomena.
I became convinced about the survival of the soul.
I found my way to a Spiritualist church near me. I sat in development circle there and, after attending mediumship workshops in Lily Dale, New York, began to give messages to the living from their departed loved ones.
Much of what I had written was already accurate. But my study of Spiritualism and mediumship provided me with the knowledge I needed to fill some holes in my manuscript.
And having experienced psychic phenomena for myself, I was able to add realism to Kennet’s otherwordly perceptions. (For more about this, see Visitation from the Summerland.)
I’ve always loved ghost stories and found them fascinating. Now I know why.
Authentic Spiritualism in Death Perception
The Spiritualism in Death Perception is authentic, drawn from years of study and actual experience. But it’s also a fun read, one which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Nineteen-year-old Kennet Singleton lives with his invalid mother in a personal care facility, but he wants out. He operates the crematory at the local funeral home, where he discovers he can discern the cause of death of those he cremates—by toasting marshmallows over their ashes.
He thinks his ability is no big deal since his customers are already dead. But when his perception differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers. To save the residents and avenge the dead, Kennet must bring the killers to justice.
I must have been born a goth. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by the morbid, the macabre, by death and the afterlife.
I didn’t get this from my parents; my father was an Evangelical United Brethren pastor, and my mom taught Sunday School.
(Come to think of it, when I was 12, my dad did turn me on to a story from his college freshman English Lit textbook: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” . But that was it.)
Somehow, at an earlier age—like second grade—I’d caught the horror bug.
Formative literary influences
I’ve told elsewhere of my love for Norman Bridwell’s lighthearted 1970 easy reader, How to Care for Your Monster, and of my allegiance to Thomas Tryon’s The Other (1971) and James Herbert’s The Rats (1974).
As a teen, I read paperback copies of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the classic collection, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural.
I picked up and nurtured my love of dark fiction on my own.
What I did get from my parents was religion.
My varied writing and religious education
During my elementary and secondary school years, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I graduated with honors from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English.
I married in 1987, became Pentecostal in 1988, and pastored a house church for three years.
From this miasmic stew of lurid attraction to the eldritch, supernatural abilities, faith, and the sexual outcast, I mixed horror, religion, and gay romance into my fifth cross-genre novel.
Religion in The Covenant Sacrifice
The Covenant Sacrifice includes a number of religions, spiritual beliefs, and practices:
A toxic, homophobic form of evangelical/Pentecostal Christianity that currently has a stranglehold on conservative American politics and makes life difficult for LGBTQ folks here
Dark occult witchcraft, stereotypically drawn
Spiritualism, portrayed positively
By including characters with such backgrounds and practices in The Covenant Sacrifice, I compare and contrast their beliefs and resulting actions, including how they treat others. I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusion about who is—or isn’t—a decent human being.
I also put my Bible knowledge and background in Pentecostal Christianity to work creating a sinister antagonist, the defrocked Uriah Zalmon.
Zalmon’s personal transgressions have brought a terrible curse on the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek. To temporarily appease this curse, the self-righteous Zalmon must find a sinner to sacrifice. Who better than an “unrepentant homosexual”?
But spiritual forces oppose Zalmon’s Pharisaical plan. Agatha Abbott, dark servant of Baphomet, enacts her own strategy that’s as selfish and wicked as Zalmon’s.
The Spiritualist medium, Twylah Sharpe, a sympathetic character and Jarod’s mentor in The Covenant Sacrifice, was written from experience. Her beliefs and practices are true to form.
I know, because I’ve studied and practice psychic mediumship.
My unorthodox religious studies
In addition to my Christian experience and education, I studied Theosophy, the New Age, Spiritualism, and psychic mediumship intensively for a decade.
(Fun fact: I’ve slept in the same Lily Dale boarding-house room as Conan Doyle!)
I’m a practicing mystic, medium, and channel. I do readings and am taking on mentees. If you’re interested, check out https://ChristianMedium.org.
Bringing it all together
By examining religious hypocrisy and homophobia—and the resurrection of the dead—my hope is that, with my religious studies and practices, I’ve created a horror novel with complex characters that are authentic and deep.
If cult horror, religious horror, the supernatural, and gay romance intrigue you, give it a read and find out: The Covenant Sacrifice.
As always, honest yet kind reviews on Amazon and other sites are greatly appreciated.
“Whether readrs choose The Covenant Sacrifice for its paranormal promise or its social inspections, one thing is certain: its draw and thought-provoking scenarios are powerfully rendered attractions. They are designed to appeal to a wide audience, surprising those who expect formula products with bigger-picture thinking that goes beyond supernatural or horror realms to delve into matters of the human heart and soul.
New LGBTQ horror/gay romance novel available now for purchase
Today’s the day! I just released my latest LGBTQ horror novel, The Covenant Sacrifice, into the world like the winged beast that haunts the cover!
I’m excited about and grateful for the journey it took me on as a writer and as a human being. The Covenant Sacrifice was a long time coming. Here’s the story—and my thoughts on the book.
Developing the idea for The Covenant Sacrifice
I first got the idea about a “dead cemetery”—one whose available plots are all filled and from which the dead return to abduct the living—back in 2008. It took me five years to fully develop many disparate scraps of ideas and reach the point where I could begin plotting. (Here’s my plotting spreadsheet from 2013.)
I had a positive character arc—a hero’s journey structure—already planned, so I needed to come up with a ghost of and old wound from the past for my protagonist, Jarod Huntingdon, to overcome. I chose a traumatic experience of homophobia that broke Jarod’s relationship with his childhood best friend, Scotty. Story circumstances would wedge Jarod between a rock and a hard place in resolving this festering issue at the climax of the tale.
And, I thought, what better way to raise the stakes for Jarod if I threatened his primary desire to start a family by endangering his identity, as well as people he loves? This situation would force him to make an impossible choice: a choice between giving up what he wants most in life in order to spare a loved one from a terrible, deadly fate.
Jarod’s character arc, then, would involve repairing a romance gone wrong. Not his relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly, but with another gay man. Yet, my work on the book stalled.
I was ecstatic when Obama took office in 2009 but because the political climate had changed for the better toward LGBTQs (I ain’t complaining, I assure you), making (I thought) Jarod’s struggle with his orientation and coming out less relevant. So, I back-burnered The Covenant Sacrifice for years—until Trump came to power. Relevancy returned. I resurrected the book and began working on it diligently again.
Drafting and editing The Covenant Sacrifice
In 2019, I made a draft available for beta reading and got feedback from readers and an editor. I incorporated all this, worked on the manuscript a few more years, and sent it off for developmental editing in 2022.
That led to a lot of work that I didn’t relish doing—rewriting and adding scenes. I thought all my revisions were complete but, in reality, they were only beginning. However, all that heavy lifting made for a better book. I upped the wordcount by 10,000 words to the final 81,600 (392 pages in trade paperback).
Readying the book for publication
Next came the nitty-gritty of line editing and copy editing. After I finished making my editor’s suggested changes, I went over the manuscript again (for about the twenty-fifth time, and I’m not exaggerating the number of drafts I ultimately produced).
I finally laid out the book in Adobe InDesign, using 12.5-point type—big enough for geezers like me to read. Fans over forty will appreciate this, I hope. I think the book looks beautiful. Let me knopw what you think in a comment below.
I thought I was done with the book. I wanted to be done with the book. Apparently not. Things I’d missed in countless manuscript printouts seemed to jump out at me. I corrected the errors in both the paperback source files and ePUB versions.
I ordered another proof, and found more freaking problems! I wanted to scream and tear my hair out.
Marketing and promotion are the least favorite aspects of my novel-writing process. But they’re essential if you want to sell books as an independent author–publisher. (I do, I do!)
I submitted the novel for book tours and social media promotion, wrote press releases (here, I made the The Bradford Era), and made a virtual whore and general nuisance of myself, posting links and sending emails everywhere I could think. I’m still beating the promotional bushes and will continue into the fall.
Now, it’s release day. I can take a little breather (but not much of one because I still have much left to do) to consider how far I’ve come with the book.
Horror and gay romance share the spotlight in The Covenant Sacrifice
In early reviews, some readers shared that they didn’t care for the romance in it. (When it’s clearly marketed as #LGBTQhorror and #GayRomance, I wonder why they would read it in the first place, but…)
In short, the romance in TCS isn’t a subplot, but rather a dual plot, along with the horror spine. That’s the way it turned out. The resolution of the horror plot depended on protagonist Jarod Huntingdon making his impossible choice and accepting himself as a gay man. It definitely upped the stakes for him to resolve the issue in order to find a chance at ultimate happiness.
There isn’t much hardcore horror in the book. It’s a bit tame according to current standards. (But things could get much worse in a sequel…).
And I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly push the bounds of horror with this story or take new ground for the genre. But the subject matter was sentimental and the writing style nostalgic for me. Let me explain.
Written for sentimental reasons
Considering when I first got the idea for The Covenant Sacrifice—two years after I came out as gay—the book deals with a young man from a conservative Christian background who wants to start a family of his own. But he can’t connect with his girlfriend and finally discovers why.
This situation is decidedly biographical. But I think it will speak to many who have been in (or are still in) similar circumstances. I want to encourage LGBTQ readers to come out and remain true to themselves as unique human beings, loved and accepted by God.
I wrote this story to process my life change and memorialize where I’ve come from, with marrying a woman, divorcing amicably, and coming out. Although it’s way too late for me to start a family, I always wanted children. So I put much of myself into the development of Jarod Huntingdon and his struggle.
Written with a nostalgic style
At one point, when I was proofing the printed copy of the novel, it struck me that the POV, the voice, the narration I adopted in the book was different from what I’d written before (except for maybe Death Perception), and different from how I write today. It was like I was reading someone else’s work. (If any other writers have experienced this, please start a discussion with me in a comment.)
I was going for third-person limited POV, but at times I rose to a distant height that verges on omniscience. I’m still studying omniscient POV, so I hope what I accomplished in The Covenant Sacrifice works for readers.
In no way am I trying to brag here, but over the years, more than one reviewer has remarked that my writing reminds them of Stephen King’s (see the comments in Praise for The Covenant Sacrifice).
I don’t know whether everyone who reads the book would say this about my writing (I doubt it, truthfully), but I took it as an enormous compliment, and I do feel my writing style in The Covenant Sacrifice harks back to the horror fiction published in the 1970s and 80s.
This book, then, is my love letter to King and all the writers who were published during the first explosion of horror back in those days, when I fell in love with the genre. Some won’t like my book because it doesn’t push the envelope or accomplish anything especially new or daring in the horror universe.
But I like The Covenant Sacrifice for the simple things it is—spooky, romantic, sentimental, and nostalgic. I hope you do too.
If you’re interested, get the book
Okay, I’ve blathered long enough. If you want to know more about The Covenant Sacrifice, visit the book page and click the links beneath the cover image.
If you’re interested in LGBTQ horror, creature horror, supernatural horror, cult horror, folk horror, religious horror, occult horror—with an equal helping of gay romance—check out The Covenant Sacrifice. You can read a brief excerpt here.
Thank you much. I appreciate all my readers more than you know.
Could I ask one more favor? Scroll down and share this post on social media or email. And, while you’re at it, why not subscribe to my monthly email newsletter to stay abreast of future book news? Thanks again.
Folks, I’ve been writing dark fiction for over 50 years, and no one has ever “got” my writing like Kevin. His 5-star review of The Covenant Sacrifice made me weep in gratitude. 💗 Here’s the Goodreads review in its entirety.
In Lee Allen Howard’s gripping and haunting novel, The Covenant Sacrifice, readers are taken on a chilling journey into a remote rural community where the line between the living and the dead blurs, and the true monsters may not be what they seem. With a captivating blend of supernatural horror and psychological suspense, Howard weaves a tale that left me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.
The story revolves around Jarod Huntingdon, a man desperate to start a family but held back by his own uncertainties. Seeking clarity, Jarod returns to his hometown of Annastasis Creek after the passing of his childhood best friend’s father. However, his homecoming is marred by a violent rainstorm that isolates the community from the outside world, leading to the mysterious disappearance of its residents one by one.
As Jarod gets involved in the search efforts, he stumbles upon a centuries-old curse tied to the reappearance of cicadas. The curse, inflicted upon the community after a tragic house fire claimed the lives of five young people, demands a sinner to be sacrificed to appease its malevolent forces. Unraveling the secrets and facing the horrifying truth, Jarod must confront the defrocked pastor, Uriah Zalmon, who holds the key to breaking the curse.
Howard’s writing style is lyrical and atmospheric, painting a vivid and eerie portrait of Annastasis Creek and its residents. Howard builds suspense, ratcheting up the tension with each new revelation and eerie occurrence. The vivid descriptions of the cicadas’ song and the rain-soaked valley heighten the sense of dread that immersed me in a world teetering on the edge of darkness.
Jarod Huntingdon is a relatable and empathetic protagonist, struggling with his own fears and uncertainties while facing the horrors unfolding around him. The supporting characters, including the enigmatic Uriah Zalmon and the Covenant Trustees, adds depth and complexity to the narrative, with their motivations and secrets gradually unveiled.
The Covenant Sacrifice is more than a traditional horror novel. It explores themes of family, identity, and the destructive power of secrets. Through Jarod’s journey, Howard investigates the consequences of unresolved guilt, the dangers of blind faith, and the lengths people will go to protect their loved ones. The book also touches on social issues, tackling homophobia and the manipulation of religious doctrine with nuance and sensitivity.
With its blend of supernatural elements and psychological suspense, The Covenant Sacrifice will appeal to fans of horror and thriller genres. Howard masterfully crafts a story that kept me guessing, delivering both chilling scares and profound emotional resonance. As the dead return to Annastasis Creek and the cicadas’ relentless song fills the air, readers will find themselves captivated by this atmospheric and thought-provoking tale of darkness and redemption.
Subscribe to Lee Allen Howard’s email newsletter and enter the giveaway to win 1 of 10 copies of his LGBTQ horror novel, The Covenant Sacrifice.
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Any winners living outside the continental U.S. will receive an electronic copy only.
It’s the middle of the night. You’re lying in bed, almost asleep. But a banging wakes you. Your eyes fly open and your heart freezes. What is it? You can’t imagine what it could be. Is it a ghost—or your radiator?
When faced with inexplicable happenings in your home, a place you want to consider a safe haven, it may take time to discern the source. At first you may have no explanation for the events and phenomena. If you can find no natural cause, you may fear what’s happening. Assigning possible meaning requires you to question, research, test, and evaluate.
If you diligently rule out natural causes and consider that such happenings as seeing balls of light, glimpsing shadowy figures, and being touched by unseen presences in the night are supernatural in origin, where does it leave you?
You might decide to do nothing. If so, can you learn to live with spirit housemates? You would need to overcome fear of spirits manifesting in your personal space. For example, if you heard a disembodied voice say, “I love you” in your dark cellar, how would you feel? Warm and fuzzy? Or scared shitless? Would you ever get used to it? You could try, but you may never become perfectly comfortable with such contact.
You may face loneliness, wondering why these strange things are happening to you and your family. Could you confide in anyone else about them? Who?
If you admit to a confidant that you believe what’s happening in your home is supernatural, would they believe you? Will they accept and help you, or mock and reject you? Receiving criticism might make anyone hesitate to share their paranormal experiences with others.
In Grave’s End: A True Ghost Story, an allegedly true account of a haunted home, Elaine Mercado’s husband personifies dogged unwillingness to attribute events to supernatural causes. He provides for Elaine and their daughters plenty of doubt, disbelief, disagreement, sarcasm, and harassment. After Mercado deals with unpleasant phenomena, such opposition simply piles on more grief.
At another point in the narrative, her husband suggests a different approach. He says, “…I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. I think if we just keep our heads, whatever it is will just go away” (71).
But what if you do keep your head, and it doesn’t go away?
You could move. Yet, what if, like Elaine Mercado, you have nowhere else to go? You may be unable to escape elsewhere on your own. Elaine found herself in this situation before she became a nurse; she couldn’t afford to take the girls and move out.
Mercado is obviously an anxious person, overprotective, prone to worry. Even if you aren’t, many reasons could prevent you from leaving a problem house. If you could afford to vacate, like most people you may be reluctant to make such a drastic change. (Some folks don’t flee abusive relationships for the same reasons.) It makes it even harder to go if the entities aren’t seriously hurting you.
With my study of Spiritualism and mediumship, the experiences in Mercado’s book rang true. Because of her doubts, her husband’s opposition, and all that she dealt with that I’ve outlined above, it took her a long time to acknowledge the source of the activity in her home. However, it boggles me that, suffering as she and her daughters did, she did nothing about itfor over a decade!
Mercado disliked the thought of a medium coming (109). As a result, she and her girls suffered a while longer. She and Karin weren’t sure they liked psychic Marisa Anderson “cleaning” the house. Finally, though, Mercado acknowledged that the trapped spirits were suffering and needed to be sent on their way toward the light.
Mercado concludes, “[Experiences with spirits] proved to me, without a doubt, that we survive our physical death” (174). Although not everyone will agree with her conviction, it came to her hard-earned.
I found Grave’s End a fascinating story about why spirits may linger on earthly properties and what one family did about a haunting. Such accounts provide rich fodder for conjuring fictional tales of the supernatural.
I’ve read a ton of books about the afterlife and a few specifically on rescuing spirits trapped in the physical realm. One such book I edited and published on this topic is by Doris and Hilary Severn called The Next Room [Kindle].)
The Others (2001), directed by Alejandro Amenábar, is one of my favorite supernatural horror/psychological thriller movies. It’s got everything I love: horror, the supernatural, the afterlife, mystery, suspense, Christianity, and Spiritualism. It shows what a haunting is like from “the other side.”
I could approach this film in so many ways. But I want to point out some things about darkness and blindness.
While the screen is still dark before the opening credits, a voiceover begins in which a woman says, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” This is the first instance of information coming from darkness that can be taken two ways: as a mother telling her children a bedtime story (beginning with Genesis chapter 1, where God says, “Let there be light”), or a medium beginning a séance with a table full of sitters.
Grace lives with Anne and Nicholas in her island manse which she keeps in perpetual darkness because the children are photosensitive and will die if exposed to strong light. Yet light in the darkness is exactly what they all need.
It’s 1945, and Grace, played by Nichole Kidman, is still waiting for her husband Charles to return from the war. The previous house servants abandoned their positions some time ago. The children bemoan the fact that, like Daddy, everyone disappears and doesn’t return.
Because they cannot leave the house, Grace homeschools the children using a religious curriculum. She’s a devout Catholic who spends much time indoctrinating the youngsters about such subjects as the four hells, notably limbo for children. As a Christian, she believes in the afterlife. But her rigid doctrine blinds her to the reality that they’re all dead. Their experience fails to align with her beliefs, so she cannot understand the nature of their plight. How and when will the light dawn?
Grace tells Mrs. Mills, the head housekeeper, that she doesn’t like fantasies or “strange ideas,” which she says the children entertain. But the children are closer to the truth—Anne, especially—than their mother is. Anne hears and sees “others” in the house, including a boy named Victor. Yet even the girl is in the dark about the reality of the afterlife.
Who are they? “Ghosts?” her little brother asks. She tells him they’re not ghosts. “Ghosts aren’t like that,” meaning people—like the kids, mother, and servants. Rather, ghosts “go about in white sheets and carry chains.” This is simply more misinformation that blinds them to what the afterlife and spirits really are like.
When Grace herself hears evidence of others in the house, she rushes into the “junk room,” where everything, like ghosts, are covered with sheets. She finds a Victorian photo album of the dead, its subjects all with closed eyes, and begins to see the light.
Grace determines to leave the house for town to fetch the priest, but on her way, she becomes lost in a fog so thick she cannot see where she’s going. Miraculously, she meets Charles returning from battle. Because he is so shell-shocked, he’s unable to shed any light on their situation—until Anne tells him the truth. Although viewers are still kept in the dark about this secret, the result is that Charles departs.
Things come to a head when Grace awakes in horror to find that all the draperies in the house have been removed, spirited away. The house is filled with light, ghastly light. The “others” are forcing her to see the light. Upon searching the house, she discovers a photograph in the servants’ quarters. All three of the servants are dead. She’s been entertaining departed spirits.
During the climax, Grace and the children at last find the “others” sitting in an upstairs room. The old woman, the “witch” that Anne sketched, is engaged in automatic writing, scribbling words she hears from the other side. Words that Grace and her children are screaming: “We’re not dead!” This is a primary tenet of Spiritualism: the dead are only so-called, for “We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death” (https://nsac.org/what-we-believe/principles/).
I love how the books and movies required for my MFA course are tying into everything I’ve studied. I’m impressed with the writers’ knowledge of Spiritualism. For example, when Anne is dressed in her communion gown (looking like a ghost), her change into the blind old woman is a reference to trance mediumship and the Spiritualist phenomenon of transfiguration. This scene foreshadows the end in which the séance reveals “the other side of the story.”
Although the medium is blind to the physical, she sees in Spirit. Because of her contact with the other side on behalf of the living, Grace and the children do see the light. But only concerning their current state: they are dead, this is what ghosts are like, and the house belongs to them. Instead of allowing the light of their new understanding to enable them to move on like Charles, they determine they will never leave. The final shot of the gates being chained indicates that what remains within are only ghosts.
To disembodied souls, the “soul body” is just as physical and solid to them as their physical bodies were, and instead of moving on (because they don’t know they’re supposed to), they remain on the earth plane among people who are still physically embodied.
The only problem is that disembodied souls usually cannot make themselves seen or heard by those still living. When loved ones and helpers in the spirit world come to escort them away from the physical realm, they refuse to go because they don’t believe they are “dead” (physically) and have no concept or belief in an afterlife.
The danger for these souls is becoming stuck on the earth plane instead of progressing to the joys of life in the higher astral realms.
Lee Allen Howard, How to Tell If Your House Is Haunted
This post is part of class requirements for a “Readings in the Genre” (RIG) course I’m taking toward my MFA from Seton Hill University. This RIG is subtitled “The Haunted,” taught by Scott A. Johnson, MFA. This term, I’m expanding my knowledge and practice of POV, especially omniscient. So, as long as my assignments include books written in omniscient, I’ll blog about it here.
Richard Matheson’s 1971 novel, Hell House, is a nasty little haunted house story. It’s a harrowing, action-filled tale stuffed with debauchery and sex about “the Mt. Everest of haunted houses” (Matheson Hell House 17).
Like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Hell House is written in third person omniscient. Unlike Jackson’s book, which is limited third omniscient, focusing on protagonist Eleanor Vance, Matheson encompasses all the characters with third person omniscient.
The subjective omniscient narrator
The primary difference between omniscient and other POVs (first or close/intimate third) has to do with the narrator.
Every story has a narrator, but with first and close third, the narrator is one of the characters in the story. With omniscient, the “narrator is not a character within the story but is positioned as an all-knowing… external narrative voice that provides a ‘god-like’ or ‘birds eye view’ perspective of the events within the story” (Cabal How to Write in Third Person Omniscient PoV, emphasis mine).
An objective omniscient narrator reports only what characters do but never what they think or feel. A subjective omniscient narrator can report both what characters think and feel, as well as what they do. Matheson’s omniscient narrator is subjective; we get the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.
Reading to discover POV
How an author handles POV isn’t always readily apparent. Sometimes, you must read a few chapters to fully discover the approach and techniques the author is using.
In the opening scene of Hell House, Matheson’s first line could belong to several POVs: “It had been raining hard since five o’clock that morning” (9). The second sentence provides the first real POV clue: “Brontean weather, Dr. Barrett thought” (9). In omniscient, character thoughts are usually presented indirectly, with a tag. (“Filtering” is acceptable in omniscient and actually necessary from an external viewpoint.) But we can’t be certain of the POV until we read further.
By the end of the first page, Matheson reveals another hint: “[Barrett] was a tall, slightly overweight man in his middle fifties, his thinning blond hair unchanged in color…” (9). We know the author is writing in third person. However, this outsider’s description of the doctor indicates that the narrator is telling the story from an external perspective.
Another clue on page 12 tells us, “Barrett looked appalled.” A close-third character/internal narrator would not describe himself in these ways. After a few scenes, the writing confirms that Barrett’s actions, thoughts, and feelings are reported externally.
As we read through the chapter dated December 20, 1970, we find Florence Tanner introduced in third person (20). Edith Barrett is introduced next with third person that seems closer than the previous two characters’ POVs. Fischer follows with another third person POV (23). By now, we’re able to determine that Matheson’s use of POV is subjective third person omniscient, which he applies to multiple characters.
Techniques belonging to omniscient POV
Omniscient is confirmed on page 27 with a description of multiple character action: “All of them gazed at the hill-ringed valley lying ahead…” (emphasis mine). This is direct reporting from an external narrator. On 29: “The cold was numbing, a clammy chill that seemed to dew itself around their bones (emphasis mine).”
In the December 21 chapter, the scene headed “2:21 p.m.,” the internal thoughts of Fischer (43) and Barrett show up in the same scene (44). At this scene’s end, Edith reads a list of psychic phenomena observed in the house, and the narrator expresses her thoughts (46). Here, we have the POVs of three characters shared in the same scene. This can only be done with subjective omniscient.
“Head-hopping,” as it’s called in literary circles, continues in many scenes (81). (And, contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with head-hopping—if it’s done right.) Matheson pulls it off skillfully. He even enters three heads in the same short paragraph: “Barrett… had not been aware… Florence sat stricken… Edith felt a rush of pity for her” (228).
Florence tells Fischer “the secret of Hell House”: “Controlled, multiple haunting” (174). Perhaps this is why Matheson used controlled third person omniscient POV to tell this ghostly tale…
I’ll be looking for more contemporary novels to study omniscient POV. I’ve included a short list at the end of this post.
As I read Hell House, I was impressed with Matheson’s knowledge of parapsychology and Spiritualism. His mention and portrayal of mental and physical mediumship; the use of a cabinet (an enclosed space to keep light out and energy in); Florence’s devotion, beliefs, and practices; and Fischer’s description of his boyhood abilities all rang true to my studies.
Other practices Matheson accurately mentioned include: psychometry with Daniel Belasco’s ring (130), Florence’s funeral prayer (129), her mention of guides and spirit doctors (131–132), the renowned physical mediums Daniel Dunglas Home and Eusapia Palladino (136), physical phenomena such as ectoplasmic masking (162ff), the difference between mental and physical mediums, and, sadly, Florence’s channeling of Red Cloud (64ff).
Matheson’s research on Spiritualism and the afterlife in Hell House was probably a carryover from his 1978 novel, What Dreams May Come, which I recommend for a Spiritualist portrayal of “life on the other side.”
I love cemeteries. Always have. It’s part of my creepiness, yet as a Spiritualist, I find them not morbid, but peaceful, places. So being a Spiritualist, a medium, and a writer of dark fiction, a cemetery was the perfect place for a recent photo shoot.
Sunday morning July 21, I met accomplished photographer John Colombo for a session. You’ll see John’s striking photos in many of Pittsburgh’s better magazines and newspapers. Here he is, fiddling with his equipment. (He’s the photographer, not me…)
It wasn’t as hot as it was earlier in the week, but as we approached noon, we were both sweating. And in some of the early photos, the sun was in my eyes—until we found a shady spot and a guardian angel.
A model, I will never be. It took me at least 200 shots to loosen up. In most of the early pics, I look like I have a length of rebar rammed up my rectum. “Uptight” is a good word.
Then, by a shady mausoleum, I finally relaxed (and stopped squinting). None of these pics are the final, edited versions. They’re low-res outtakes. But I wanted to share my fun (and chagrin) with you.
You’ll see one of the finals in the right column of my site here soon. In the meantime, say, “Cheese!” and smile pretty!