Some houses should be left alone.
In 1972, twenty-five people were brutally murdered in one of the bloodiest massacres in Texas history. The mystery of who committed the killings remains unsolved.
Forty years later, Sarah Donovan is dating an exciting man, Dean Stratton. Sarah’s scared of just about everything—heights, tight places, the dark—but today she must confront all her fears, as she joins Dean and another couple on an exploring adventure. The old abandoned Blevins House, the scene of the gruesome massacre, is rumored to be haunted.
The two couples are about to discover the mysterious house has been waiting all these years, craving fresh prey. And down in the cellar they will encounter a monstrous creature that hungers for more than just human flesh.
The Witching House is the newest work from horror author Brian Moreland, a novella that can be read as a stand-alone as the short story that precedes it, The Girl from the Blood Coven, is more of a prequel and refers to a prior timeframe than that of the events of The Witching House, set in the present day. However, if you haven’t read The Girl from the Blood Coven and you don’t want any spoilers, be forewarned that this review contains references to events that took place in that story.
Otis Blevins, now the caretaker of the Blevins house, knows all of the house’s secrets and witnessed the massacre that happened in the early 1970s when he was a child. We soon learn that the house speaks to him and that he’s responsible for feeding it “sacrifices” such as pigs and other animals, but the top meat of choice is human. He also interacts with the ghosts of his other family members, including his stern grandfather, much to his chagrin.
A group of teenagers decides to go into the house, presumably for mischief, and as anyone who has ever watched a haunted house film knows, they’re doomed from the minute they decide to walk through the doors, but the excitement becomes figuring out who will be the last person standing.
Dean and Sara, one of the couples, learn the history of the house from one of their friends, including that Lenora was a coven leader of witches who used to take up residence in the building, and we get a summary of the backstory with Abigail Blackwood that unfolds in The Girl from the Blood Coven. Twenty-five people died the night Abigail killed those who came to investigate her report, as well as herself. Although initially it seems that Otis was the only survivor, it turns out that he wasn’t, and that his younger brother, Ronnie, intends to wreak havoc.
We also find out that Lenora was channeling some pretty dark magic, specifically that of one royally pissed off former wood nymph, with some Celtic roots included for good measure. The scares with some of the ghosts are effective, and the combination of an almost Lovecraftian influence with the house also puts enough of a unique spin on this tale to make it stand out from other similar books in the haunted house subgenre with a satisfying, gripping conclusion that will have readers clamoring for more of Moreland’s work. If you haven’t already read his previous novels, particularly Dead of Winter, you don’t know what you’re missing. I personally can’t wait for the author’s next novel, The Devil’s Woods, slated for release this December. And as an added treat for readers, I will have an interview posted with the author very soon.