I read Hell House today, which is supposed to be a classic of the haunted house genre. First is The Haunting of Hill House and then is Hell House. Well, let me just say, if that is the case, then the first step is a doozy.
I must talk with you frankly about this book. So, spoiler alert, a short guy does it. How is this a satisfactory ending? The short guy, who has created his own hell on earth, is dispatched merely by shouting “Bastard” at him. It is as if he read The Haunting of Hill House and said, “How can I add Jesus’ boner?”
A short guy. The bad guy is just short. Secretly. Secretly short. And a bastard. And that’s what causes him to become evil. And die in a bunker.
Is this really the second best haunted house story ever? Because The Red Tree was as good as that, if not better. Am I missing something?
How far back the curse of the garou chased the Deraques is hard to say. The records are sketchy at best. But there had been problems in Montreal after the Lachine massacre in 1689. An early Deraque, Michel, had survived the Iroquois attack but had been badly bitten. After he recovered, he went on to marry and have children but it was rumored that his wife locked him in a casket at night. It’s not clear if he was infected then or if, by happenstance, someone had managed to bite a creature so famous for its biting.
Michel’s daughter, Élodie, was rumored to spend her afternoons reading strange books and drawing strange diagrams. She appears to have been a constant source of community gossip and though the French in the Americas did not share the same witchcraft panics of their Puritan neighbors, it was freely intimated by old wives that her prayers were neither uttered at the proper time nor directed toward the proper object. Her saints were, they said, unfamiliar to good Catholics.
I wondered how many of those who had known these legends realized that additional link with the terrible which my wide reading had given me, that ominous item in the annals of morbid horror which tells of the creature Jacques Deraque, who in 1743 was condemned to death as a demoniac but afterwards saved from the stake by local authorities who locked him in the city jail as a madman. He had been found covered with blood and shreds of flesh out in the woods, shortly after the killing and rending of a local boy by a pair of wolves. One wolf, specifically, was said to have an almost human manner. Surely a worthy campfire legend, with special significance as to the name, but I knew that it was unlikely that the people of Illinois, let alone Gallatin, Tennessee, had ever heard of it. Still the incident was enough to drive all the Deraques from Montreal and they made their way south, even as far as New Orleans and the swamps of Louisiana. The professor speculated that, when the local Cajuns warn you of the roux garoux that this is not some complete mangling of “loup garou” but instead a sensible caution against the Deraque garou who may still be in the area.
The afghan has three different sized squares that will all have to be matched up and put together. As much as I dread the inevitable tail tucking that must happen, I am further dreading the never-ending sewing.
I feel, right now, that not just my house, but my whole life is a stopped-up Rube Goldberg machine. I haven’t written shit on Sue Allen in three weeks. I have three books to read. I have this afghan to make and another one and a quilt to finish, someday. My house is a disaster. But I’m busy and my knee is still not up to par. It’s not as bad as it had been, but it’s not that bad because I’m basically not doing anything but sitting around with it up in the air.
And yet, this has been a good, full, exciting month. So, maybe it’s okay to be stopped up in some ways, when everything else is flowing so fast.
Anyway, if you’re wondering what dread looks like, it’s this–three different sized squares that all must be pieced together like Legos to make a large rectangle. (It took me a long time to get that stitch at the corner right, but now, man, I really love it.)