The first time I ever laid eyes on Clare McNally’s GHOST HOUSE I was heading out to night school, working on my high-school diploma before entering college. I needed a break from my hectic schedule and there was this paperback novel staring me right in the face at some five and dime near the subway. I couldn’t pass up the chance of owning it since I was on the lookout for anything horror at that time. And besides, I’ve always had a thing for cheesy covers and this one took the cake. Anyway, to make a long story short, it didn’t take me too much time to get through the novel, not because it was as fantastic as I thought it would but because it was such a light read and, more importantly, so over-the-top I couldn’t get my eyes off of it. And you know what? 30-some years later I still find it wack.
Indeed, high camp saves this otherwise trite of a story of a family coming face to face with their newly acquired home's specter, who has eyes only for the lady of the house.
What could have been just a fun little grade-B horror novel à la Amityville goes one step further by being so far-fetched that this reader can't help but being highly entertained by it. No chills, no thrills, but plenty of silly vignettes make GHOST HOUSE a hoot. The author may be clueless in making a scene work but, boy, what an ace she is in creating unintentional laughter.
Take Gary, for example, the heroine's husband but also the main focus of the ghost's wrath. From being pushed down the stairs to falling down a window, McNally makes sure nothing is spared for him. So much repeatedly so you'll wish she'd put him out of his misery for good. What's even worse is the heroine's uncharacteristic nature. She's described as an overly sensitive artist (she paints), yet she can't even sense that she's making passionate love to a British-speaking ghost instead to her husband. The only character saved (well, almost) from all this nonsense is the librarian. She comes across as being a judicious career gal with a heart—up until McNally puts her in a unlikely situation: who in their right mind would nonchalantly go disco dancing after witnessing a supernatural near-death experience?
Thank heavens this form of hilarity goes on and on, up until the ultimate braindead but perfect ending which I won't reveal but will say that the story continues on in part deux called GHOST HOUSE REVENGE. Don't feel the urge to get into this one yet, But when I do, you'll be the first to know.
You can still catch GHOST HOUSE wherever digital books are sold.
Until next post—Martin