A Season of Snow – Five Winter-Themed Haunted House Novels That I have Reviewed

Winter has come early for us here in the Midwest.  Our Thanksgiving meals had barely digested when  a Sunday night blizzard decided to breeze on by, treating us to a chilling coda of our holiday weekend.  The East Coast had it bad as well a couple weeks earlier with Winter Storm Avery. What are we to do when snowy weather traps us indoors? I know – read a book, a book topical to our situation. How about a novel about a haunted house that stands against a snowy, storm-laden background? You can’t go wrong with that!

I have reviewed at least five winter-themed haunted house novels. I will list them here – in this post – with links, descriptions and pictures – Oh boy!!  Please note: this is not a list of Christmas themed haunted house stories, for which I have written several reviews of various works.  These stories, which may or may not include the topic of “snow”, are for a different list, perhaps an upcoming list. Hmmm…..

Anyway, it’s time to bundle up in your favorite blanket, get all  cozy, and read some scary stories in the safety of your warm environment.  Enjoy!

Maynard’s House

MH4It’s more of a cabin really, but Maynard’s House, sitting there in the middle of nowhere in the snowy wilderness  is definitely haunted. At least it is to Austin Fletcher, a war-weary veteran of  the Vietnam War. who shacks up in this house during the brutal winter season. But is it is own tortured mind that churns out the hauntings?

Poor Austin has to contend with the workings of a witch in the woods, a haunted tree, a couple of “snow beings”, and a bear. A brilliant piece written by Herman Raucher.

Link to the review – HERE!!!

Buy it HERE on Amazon

 


 

Ghost Story Ghost-Story-Banner

An epic novel by Peter Straub. A small town is besieged by a snowstorm. Throw in a couple of vengeful spirits and we have quite that terrifying situation. This book has several haunted houses as the hauntings stretch far and wide – it is an epidemic, you see?  There are many characters so there are many fronts. I regret that my review fails to do this book justice. I think I even state that the movie is better. Perhaps that has changed, since the story still sits inside of me years after I have read it. Should I reread it? Uh, not tonight, there are about a thousand pages or so. But don’t let that scare you away – dive in! Oh and the movie is very good too.

Link to the review – HERE!!!

Buy it HERE on Amazon


 

A Winter Haunting

A Winter HauntingAuthor Dan Simmons follows the child characters of this book Summer of Night into adulthood with several subsequent works. A Winter Haunting is one of these works.

Dale Stewart is all grown up and he returns to his childhood town. There was that one fateful summer when all he and his friends wanted to do was ride bikes and explore the countryside. Yes they did these things, but they ended up being haunted by ghosts and different kinds of undead entities. Dale barely remembers the details of that summer. I guess it was too horrific for him. But something is not right in his adult life, so he returns, searching for answers.

Dale stays in the farm house of that once belonged to the family of his childhood friend that died that summer. That friend is there with him during his stay, although he doesn’t know this, not on a conscious level anyway. But us readers will know it, the friend introduces himself to us.

Dale stays from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. He does a lot of “soul searching”. And he finds some souls, although not all of them are his own. A very, very interesting read!

Link to the review – HERE!!! 

Buy it HERE on Amazon


 

Rough Draft

Three authors, strangers to each other, meet in a cabin in the snowy, mountainous Rough Draftwoods to collaborate on a book. Oh but they are not alone!  Someone, of something, is watching them.  They see strange creatures out in the snow. They ride snow mobiles and encounter weird sights in the surrounding area.

Written by author Michael Robertson Jr., this is the shortest book on the list, and my least favorite of the five. But it is worth a read. Check it out!

Link to the Review – HERE!!!

Buy it HERE on Amazon

 


 

The Shining

The_Shining_by_Stephen_King_CoverDo I really have to explain this one? It’s my favorite book by Stephen King and my favorite haunted house novel in general. A family snowbound in the humongous, mountain-side Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance, the father, goes mad and tries to kill his family – all because the hotel told him to do so. Bad hotel!

Maybe you the reader of this post are sick of seeing this book mentioned in lists pertaining to haunted houses. Maybe to you it is a cliché. But seriously, if you have seen the movie but have not yet read the book, you are doing yourself a disfavor. Correct this – now!

Link to the review – HERE!!!

Buy it HERE on Amazon

Review of Maynard’s House

MH2For this review I present an extraordinarily original story that is sadly overlooked. A Google search for Maynard’s House yields a few relevant results but not many. If not for a burning desire to revisit the summers of my youth, I would have missed this fascinating story about a haunted shack in the blizzardy mountains. That’s right folks, you read correctly: a severe case of summer nostalgia led me to a cold and isolated terrain that scrambles the real with the unreal. How did a wholesome quest for summer bliss lead to all this?  I’ll tell ya.  Read on!

Two and a half months ago, the summer of 2017 was just beginning. There I was, your humble and lovable Haunted House Host, yearning for those teenage summers. Yearning to go to a place where time took a leave of absence, where rules were meant to be broken. Breaking the rules is part of growing up, is it not? I was wishing to approach new experiences with wide eyes and a weightless soul.  Well, none of that was happening, so I did the next best thing; I read about such experiences.  Long story short, I sought out novels with the theme of summer nostalgia.  One such book was The Summer of ’42 by Herman Raucher. Known mostly for the movie adaption of the same title, it is author’s memoirs of a summer he spent on the island of Nantucket as a teen. It is a summer of mindless shenanigans, of idle times and ravaging hormones. It is also a tale of bittersweet romance and sorrow.

Now, how did I get turned around one hundred and eighty degrees from a summery love story to a winter’s horror tale? Well the article: From Summer to Autumn: The Spirit Remains the Same (The Darker Sides of Ray Bradbury and Herman Raucher),  contends that each book has similar themes. So in fact, they might not be polar opposites. Ah but that is a topic for another article – like the one I just referenced! But to get back to the original question, I have to thank good ol’ Amazon (Henceforth referred to as “Amzy”); Amzy is always so keen with its suggested reads! Naturally, since I downloaded one book by Herman Raucher, Amzy assumed I would want to read others by the same author.  Amzy showed me There Should Have Been Castles and A Glimpse of a Tiger, two love stories involving teenage characters. Who would guess that an author known for penning humorous stories of youth and romance had a real scary story within him? His final book (to date), Maynard’s House, is that story. Standing up on the Amzy lookout post with all the other members of the Raucher collection, its stare met my eyes while the glazes of the other titles brushed passed my shoulders. Ghosts are always looking for new places to occupy. When they see a man with an aura in the shape of a haunted house (hint: that’s me!), they move in for the taking.  I didn’t find Maynard’s House – it found me.  It found me at the closing of one of those other titles, standing on the sunny shores of a New England beach. It pulled me out of The Summer of ‘42 and took me across the ocean, over the horizon, to a different kind of reality.

While I have said that there are similar themes in both books, a paragraph from the From Summer to Autumn… article summarizes a key difference between The Summer of ’42 and Maynard’s House:

The first book is about the building a man. This man is constructed on a warm sandy beach in the wake of a wartime tragedy. The second book is about taking apart a man. He is deconstructed in the cold winter snow.

mhAustin Fletcher will come apart. He is a war-weary veteran of the Vietnam War. His war buddy, Maynard Whittier, dies on the battlefield. Maynard wills his house to Fletcher. This house is a simple shack in a hostile wilderness. But Austin will reside in it. After all, he is very much like the house. He is a simple man living in an inimical world. The house, however, will not take to him.  Unaware of his final fate, Austin makes his way to the snowiest regions of Maine to seek out the shack.

Austin begins his journey to the “salvage center for his soul” (not from the book; I made that up) via a freight train with some passenger accommodations. He is the only passenger. Snow halts the train, but Austin marches on, contending with the harsh elements on foot. He almost dies, but strangers help him along the way and he warms up at way stations.  Austin doesn’t take to these strangers. Although kind and helpful, he is put off by their localized eccentricities.   He doesn’t seem to take to much. He’s not exactly the most lovable character. The story itself describes him as forgettable; a face in the crowd.  Nevertheless, I as a reader was anxious to continue on the journey with him, partly out of morbid curiosity.

Maynard’s House is psychological horror. It is implied that Austin suffers from PTSD. He is an unreliable narrator. It’s always fun to take an unreliable narrator and stuff him inside some house and wait for the fun to begin. Ordinary objects take on such horrifying shapes. Anything can happen.  Eventually Austin makes it to the shack. Shadows dance at night. A rocking chair creaks and moans.  We are forced to ponder – is all this real?  The things he sees, are they just images from his mind?

Projection. According to Wikipedia, “Projection” is a psychological defense mechanism “in which humans defend themselves against their own or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.”  This often bares out in horror stories. Take the horror that is on the inside and project it outwards. We saw this happen in The Innocents (Henry James – “The Turn of the Screw”). We see it again here. Austin’s brain is the projecter. The Shack, “Maynard’s House”, is the screen. On this “screen” he projects his ghosts. The fun thing about projections – they can be sliced and diced into symbols. The oversize bear that threatens to bring down the shack, is it a projection of his own self-destructive nature, is it a symbol of the harshness of the world against a vulnerable man, or is it literally a big bad bear?  The freakish, elusive imps that disappear into snow drifts, are they really some kind or primordial species or are they children, a boy and a girl? If  one is a young girl, sometimes youthfully forbidden while at other times seductively mature, is she the physcial manifestation of sexual guilt?

Literalism. What you see is what you get. Books such as Maynard’s House need a dose of literalism for nothing more than to keep the reader guessing. Austin’s encounters might not be the results of symbolic projections at all. The hauntings just might be the very real consequences of curses and witchcraft. Legend has it that a witch was hanged on a nearby tree back in the sixteenth century. Maynard tells Austin some of this before he dies. Locals fill Austin in the stories as well. Diaries found in the shack tell the story of past inhabitants, dwellers long before Autin and Maynard. The House didn’t like many of them either.

Witches. As I learn about the traits of the various classes of horror characters, I am coming to realize that witches exceed at mind-fuckery. Ghosts, demons, zombies – they frighten and terrify. Witches do the same, but they have this uncanny ability to manipulate reality and turn it on its heels, sending their victims spiraling off into the insane unknown. This might be what is happening to poor Austin.  There’s the pointed witch hat the “knocks” at his door. Should he answer?

Maynard’s House is a gripping novel. It deserves the same appreciation that is bestowed MH3upon so many of the great haunted houses books. It hides among Herman Raucher’s novels of youth and romance. Perhaps Raucher’s claim to fame, Summer of ’42, steers his brand on a course that leaves horror far behind. Well it found me and now I am presenting it with the hopes that it finds you.   The house might hate you and try to throw you away. However, the house might also love you. In that case, it might try and keep you. Forever.