Sometimes you pick up a book you know isn’t very good, but you soldier through just in case. Ghost House, a debut novel from 1979, was never going to be my favourite novel, but based on the reviews I thought hey, it might be cheesy fun. Nope.
The Van Buren family move into an uninhabited but somehow very well preserved mansion on Long Island. Very soon after, Melanie the Mom and Gary the Dad, their relationship already strained, begin to experience all sorts of hauntings. Melanie has sex with the ghost of an 18th century sea captain thinking it’s his estranged husband, while Gary hears angry voices and is strangled and pushed down the stairs and whatnot. Somehow, Gary still thinks there’s a natural explanation, while the corpses of neighbours and policemen start to pile up on their doorstep.
Psychologically Ghost House is a trainwreck. The characters don’t seem to experience any emotions of horror despite everything going on around them, they don’t grab their annoyingly sweet kids and run screaming from the house like any normal person would do. Their light banter is entertaining at first, later it becomes insufferable. Towards the end some of them do scream theatrically “Nnnoooo!!!” but they might just be echoing the reader’s despair.
So things happen, but nothing really matters. Deaths, well, the kids did see a dead wino once, so I guess the corpse of a dead neighbour isn’t going to traumatize them!
The ghost itself is a cartoon character, a see-through sea captain who’s being prancing around his estate for a couple of lifetimes. There’s some kind of nonsense about a vengeance, and apparently he’s very keen on Melanie the MILF because reasons. A silver lining to all this dreck is Melanie’s flashback to an affair with a handsome man who later proves to be a world-class creep and a drug addict, a storyline that might very well be the scariest part of the book.
Ghost House has a very romantic view of ghosts and hauntings, and in its chosen subgenre something like this probably does pass muster with flying colours. For the rest of us poor jaded bastards, Ghost House offers nothing but headache and frustration.