The Bleeding Room by Barry Napier
Some houses appear to be haunted: their ruined facades and fabled pasts lead to stories of haunts and spirits. Some houses are legitimately haunted: ghosts that refuse to leave this world behind roam their rooms and hallways trying to recapture the life that has been taken from them. But there are some houses that go beyond these simple haunts. There are some houses that hide secrets so dark and grisly that the very essence of evil seeps from their walls. One of these houses sits tucked away in the quiet woods of southern Virginia in the sleepy little town of Ponderbrook.
Terrence Bennett, an esteemed author, is taking his small crew to Ponderbrook to investigate the house for his next book. A skeptic at heart, he approaches the house and its history as nothing more than another spooky tale. But he will soon learn that there is a very real evil that separates normal haunts from those that twist the mind and damn the soul. And when this evil is stirred awake, it is rarely content to stay confined to the four walls of the house in which it has grown.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that buildings retain traces of violent events that have occurred in their history. I’m not saying I would go so far as saying I believe in ghosts but I am open to the possibility that there are things that exist in the world that are beyond our current level of understanding. A book that focuses on this premise certainly appeals.
Jack, Terrence & Hank are three paranormal investigators who visit Hammer House in an attempt to unravel its long and bloody history. Each of the trio has their own feelings about the work that they do and these viewpoints are explored as the plot unfolds. Jack is the believer of the group, ever hopeful that their search will bear fruit and he’ll be there to witness it. Hank is unsure what to believe, he has experienced things in the past that he can’t explain and this uncertainty fills him with doubt. Finally there is Terrence, the group’s leader and confirmed skeptic.
The initial investigation of the house doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be terribly successful. As time passes, however, it becomes evident that the team’s most recent trip has left far more of a mark on them than they had realized. Hank and Jack have difficulty sleeping and can’t shake the oppressive feelings that the house created in them. Meanwhile Terrence steadily becomes more and more obsessed about writing his book. The secrets of Hammer House refuse to remain hidden any longer. Unable to step away from his latest project Terrence’s home life starts to breakdown as his compulsion to work escalates. There is a nice nod to another obsessed writer that had to deal with a haunted building at this point that feels entirely apt.
What really sold The Bleeding Room to me was the author’s attention to every detail, this creates some of the novels many highlights. The backstory of Hammer House itself is fully fleshed out and well observed. Finding out, for example, how the building got its name is a particularly gruesome treat.
There is something special about a haunted house story executed well. If the writer has pushed all the right emotional buttons, then the plot will slowly draw a reader in and they’ll become engrossed without even realising that they are doing it. The Bleeding Room manages this unenviable task quite well. It’s easy to become caught up in the detail of Terrence’s life, Hank’s fears and Jack’s hopes.
The Bleeding Room feels like proper old school horror. The novel has a slow build up which works nicely, adding an air of creepy tension that should send the odd shiver up any reader’s spine. The final showdown between Terrence, Jack and Hank and the denizens of Hammer House picks up the pace and provides an extremely satisfying conclusion. Add to that a great little coda that rounds the story off perfectly and you’re on to a winner.
The Bleeding Room is published by Graveside Tales and is available now.