Black Houseby Stephen King and Peter Straub
In front of several houses posters read, “FISHERMAN, You better pray to your stinking God we don’t catch you first! Remember Amy!”
We are introduced to the characters of Coulee Country and ultimately relayed the story by entities that are vaporous and have the ability to fly around and interpret all of the activities.
Bobby Dulac and Tom Lund are police officers in the town of French Landing Wisconsin. Dale Gilbertson is the Chief of Police. Tom and Bobby are discussing an article in the Coulee Country newspaper about the murders of two children with half eaten remains and now there is a third missing child. The police have not been able to solve the murders. After the police threaten to get the columnist Wendell Green that wrote the newspaper article, the entities fly out of the station.
The entities fly over French Landing to the Maxton Elder Care Facility. They flow through the Facility visiting various inhabitants and find the room of Charles Burnside. The room is desolate except for a metal bed, chest of drawers, dust and a nasty smell. Charles Burnside is really Carl Bierstone from Chicago who was an evil offender of life for his own pleasures. Tiring of the babblings of Burny, the entities fly out and over the woods.
They spot a house that is painted entirely black. There are NO TRESPASSING signs posted. The entities tell us borderland places are different. They are borderish. Slippage is present. Things are about to get worse. The Black House is bad. It oozes with evil. The entities fly on to their next visitation site.
This decrepit shack the entities are visiting now seems worse than the Black House to them. The leaning old building operated as Ed’s Eats. It was a nightmare of filth. Most of the food was served to kids. The building has stood empty for twenty-five years. The entity finds a dog chewing on a child’s foot. The entities have discovered the body of Irma Freneau, the Fisherman’s third victim. The killer cut off her right leg at the hip and discarded the foot. He just wanted the leg. The entities tell us this is true slippage and that they are not here to grieve but to honor the scene. The entity decides to take a break from the gore. Now known as Fisherdays in French Landing the entities explain these really are the slippery slippage days.
In the Libertyville section of town, Fred Marshall, his wife Judy and son Tyler live. Judy had been acting psychotic lately probably due to all the descriptions of the Fisherman murders. Fred is a jogger and goes every morning for a run. As Fred ran he started to feel better about his wife’s weird behavior and hoped it would just pass. The entity goes ahead of Fred back to his house. Here Judy is muttering and she writes “The Black House is the doorway to Abbalah the entrance to hell, Sheol Munshun.” Flying down the hall to Tyler’s room the entities see him wake up. Tyler hears the radio DJ George Rathburn talking about the Fisherman telling everyone to just relax.
The entity now leaves to check on George Rathburn. Henry Leyden is a slim man with grey hair wearing a white fedora. Henry is blind and he has numerous radio/entertaining characters. Henry plays the character George Rathburn in the morning on KDCU in French Landing. Morris, an intern at KDCU, identified him as the Wisconsin Rat on KWLA an FM station in La Riviere Wisconsin. Henry swore Morris to secrecy regarding his identity as the Rat. Henry agreed to spin the seventh track on a CD if Morris will leave it taped on Henry’s locker. It is 7 a.m. and the entity is in flight again.
Chief Dale Gilbertson, wife Sarah and six-year-old son David live in a brick house on Herman Street. Chief Dale hated the Wendell Green headline about the Fisherman. Albert Fish killed and ate his victims in New York sixty-five years ago. The similarities between Albert Fish and the Fisherman cases are amazing. Chief Dale held letters from the murderer to the victim’s parents in his brief case. He had to look at one letter from the 1928 Albert Fish case and the two recent letters from the Fisherman case. The Albert Fish letter and the two Fisherman letters are so similar. Sarah asked him to water the flowers and as he was doing so he decided to ask Jack again if he would help with the Fisherman murders. Jack, thirty-five-years old, previously said he was retired. Dale helped Jack solve an LA case. They found the prostitute murderer Kinderling in Coulee Country.
The entities concluded: one, the town of French Landing is in distress; two, Judy Marshall and Charles Burnside know that the trouble is greater than the pedophile-murderer; three, no one is aware of the slippage that is eminent. This blindness regarding the slippage is also true for the people we haven’t met – Beezer St. Pierre, Wendell Green and the two state police Officers Brown and Black and a casual FBI buy. The entities are in flight. They fly to visit Jack Sawyer.
Dale sold Jack his father’s house with five acres three years ago. The entity arrives at the farmhouse where Jack is listening to George Rathburn (Henry Leyden) on KDCU. Jack was a retired police lieutenant from the Homicide Division in Los Angeles. As a boy Jack traveled across the United States to find a Talisman. He used it bravely and was a great hero. He remembers nothing of that adventure. Jack asked Dale to help him hang some pictures after he had moved in. Dale was very surprised to see how Jack’s furniture fit in the house like it belonged there. The house was transformed into a Park Avenue home. Dale was in awe of the huge pieces of art that they uncrated. Dale wished his Uncle Henry could see these works but Uncle Henry was blind. Dale helped hang the pictures for hours. When Dale inquired about Jack’s parents, Jack said they were in the entertainment business and that they were “great people”. Dale did not receive any dinner but they drank some beers. Jack thanked Dale and Dale drove home.
The entity finds Jack scrambling eggs. Jack is described as hansom and dependable. Everyone thought he would be police commissioner of San Diego or Seattle and then on to San Francisco or New York. Jack was to pick up Henry Leyden at the end of his shift. Jack started to think about the night he broke up with a girl then found himself at the scene of a homicide on the Santa Monica pier. A black man lay dead near the carousel. Fifty-six days and eleven hours later, he turned in his shield. Retired.
Jack’s house is twenty-five miles from French Landing. Jack’s Los Angeles homicide job overwhelmed him and he moved to Wisconsin to escape. Now, three years later, he finds he can’t escape the murderous Fisherman. The evil has tracked him down again. State officers Brown and Black have set Dale up to take a fall over the Fisherman case and Jack can’t make himself help Dale.
As Jack stirred the eggs he was remembering the appearance of red feathers blowing at him about a month before the murders started. He ruined the omelet, threw it in the garbage and went to the refrigerator for more eggs. Here he found a robin’s egg. It was blue and he dropped it in the garbage disposal. Jack called his Mom’s phone number but realized she was dead. He also remembers that he probably found the robin’s egg in May and put it in the frig to keep it safe.
Jack picked up Henry at KDCU. Jack reminisced about one evening he finished reading a book to Henry. Henry identified an aspect of Jack’s voice and matched it to Lily Cavanaugh’s voice. Lily Cavanaugh is Jack’s Mom, an actress. Henry has the ability to hear things that most people can not hear. Just like being able to pick up on such a subtle aspect of Jack’s voice and matching it to his mother’s who has been dead for years. Henry has only heard her voice on 1950’s and 1960’s movies on TV.
Henry confides to Jack that he hears his dead wife in their house at night and he cries. Jack soothes him and explains it as a waking dream. Jack realizes that he is also telling himself that the waking dream explains the red feathers and the robin’s egg. He drops Henry off at his house. When Jack arrives home he hears a clunking in his ash tray. He pulls it out and there is another blue robin’s egg. He drops it on the ground and steps on it.
Pete Wexler, a janitor at Maxton Elder Care, puts cigarettes out on the backs of the Alzheimer patients. Charles Burnside changes from an Alzheimer patient into Carl Bierstone, someone who is not human. Burnside calls for Gorg. Tyler Marshall couldn’t ride as fast as his friends and fell behind. He saw a curious looking crow and stopped. The crow talks to Tyler Marshall saying, “Gorg, Ty, Abbalah.” Burnside yells “Abbalah!... Munshun Gorg.” And Burnside disappeared from a bathroom stall at Maxton’s. Tyler Marshall was talking to Gorg by the Maxton Elder Care home when he was grabbed through the bushes by Burnside and thumped on the head with a rock. Burnside and Tyler then disappeared.
Tyler’s mother Judy found a basket in the kitchen with a note. “Sorry there is only one “KIDDIE-KNEE” (KIDNEY). The other I fried and ate. It was very good! The Fisherman.” Judy lost it tearing at all the walls in the house. A neighbor called her husband and Fred comes home, settles Judy down to sleep but not until she tells him that Tyler was gone. Fred attempted to clean up the house and then he laid down next to Judy to rest. He had no intention of falling asleep but he did. Fred woke up to find Judy choking on paper she had jammed down her throat. Fred pulled it out and laid her on the bed. It was 4:15 p.m. and Tyler wasn’t home. Fred called the police and found out they had Tyler’s bike.
The Maxton Elder Home had the Strawberry Feast! With Henry spinning the records as one of his characters Symphonic Stan. Burnside was nasty to everyone. He called Henry some crude names and scared Rebecca Vilas with his ugly talk. Rebecca is the owner’s girlfriend. Chipper Maxton inherited the business and with every opportunity has swindled as much money from families and government programs as he can think of ways to lie.
Henry called Jack telling him that his detective skills were required because he heard that another boy was missing. Chief Dale called Jack again requesting his help and told him that Fred Marshal wanted to see him. Jack came into the police station and interviewed the three boys that were with Tyler just before he disappeared. Jack separated the three boys skillfully and he got the story on how they left Tyler by riding much faster than Tyler on their bikes. Then they told how they found Tyler’s bike by the Maxton Elder Care Facility.
Jack wanted to go with Fred to see his wife because Jack believed Judy knows the Fisherman. Judy had been taken to a local hospital’s Ward D, the mental wing. Fred and Jack agreed to meet tomorrow to go see Judy. That night Jack had a dream where he talked to his old friend Speedy. Speedy told him to get it together and help stop the Crimson King who needed only one more child. The Crimson King is powerful. He only needs one more Breaker. That dream woke Jack. He went outside to breathe and on his front porch he found a shoe box. Inside were a child’s gnawed on foot in a sneaker and many crow’s feathers. Jack started running out into his field. He fell and recognized the sweet smell. Jack was back in the territories. He walked about a mile in the territories and found Tyler’s Brewer’s baseball cap on the road. Jack is remembering everything about how he can flip from the Americas to the territories and his travels when he was twelve years old. When he flipped back to home he was four miles from his house instead of just the mile he had walked. Distance is different in the territories. He got a ride back to Henry’s with Henry’s housekeeper. Jack ran home from Henry’s, packaged all the evidence and found a note from the Fisherman in the bottom of the shoe box. He didn’t see the note earlier. The note told Jack where Irma’s body was located. Jack called Henry and asked him to go with him to Ed’s Eat’s.
Dale called Jack and they were all to meet at Ed’s Eat’s. The Fisherman had called the 911 line and told the officer (The Mad Hungarian) where Irma’s body was located as well. This was an unfortunate incident for Dale as well as Jack because the officer who answered the 911 call told his wife who told her best friends and they told their best friends and pretty soon everyone knew where Irma’s body was located.
At Ed’s Eat’s Dale told Jack to put the child’s foot with her body so Jack would not be under suspicion. As the word of the 911 call got around town everyone in town was on their way to Ed’s Eat’s. The police guarded the main road to Ed’s. The Thunder Five bikers including Amy’s father Beezer St. Pierre, go in the back way. Beezer always is the lead biker. Wendell Green the reporter follows them on foot recognizing that they must know a back way to get to Ed’s. Wendell sees Jack put Tyler’s baseball cap in his truck and Wendell thinks he was removing evidence. Beezer St. Pierre stopped Wendell and pulled out the film. Jack punched Wendell in the stomach. State Officers Brown and Black take the investigation from Dale. Fred and Jack go to the hospital to see Judy. Fred tells Jack that Judy thinks Tyler is alive in another world and Jack is the only one who can save him.
Jack and Fred visit Judy. Judy tells Jack she knows he is a traveler and she has knowledge of other worlds. She told Jack that she believed Tyler was alive in a place she called Faraway. Jack calls it the territories. Jack sees Judy as the most beautiful woman ever and he feels that she is someone he hasn’t met yet. Fred and Jack leave and Jack promises to do everything he can to bring Tyler home.
Andy Railsback lives at the old Nelson Hotel. He sees Burnside walking down the third floor corridor and he follows him as Burnside tries all the door knobs. Around the corner, Burnside disappears and Andy goes in the only open door. It is George Potter’s room. Andy discovers a terrible secret in George Potter’s closet but does not find Burnside the would-be-thief. Burnside had reappeared at the Maxton Home. Andy told Morty the hotel manager to call the police. George Potter is the Fisherman and there are Polaroids in his closet of French Landing’s missing children.
Dale proceeds to arrest Potter. Jack is more interested in the guy we know as Burnside – who disappeared in front of Andy. Potter is arrested and locked in a cell on the second floor of the police station. Outside of the police station, two hundred to two-hundred and fifty people have gathered. Irma’s mother Tansy Freneau leads the mob holding a rope in the shape of a noose.
Speedy called Jack on his cell and Jack retrieved some white lilies in Dale’s bathroom. Speedy left them for Jack to give to Tansy. The lilies are from the territories. When presented with the lilies and their sweet smell, Tansy calmed and went home. Jack wanted to talk to Potter before the state police got there. Using his lily scented hands, he was able to get Potter to remember Charles Burnside, a moke he had beat out of a builder’s job in Chicago. (Burnside took out his revenge on Potter by setting him up as the Fisherman with the Polaroids.) Potter also told Jack about Burnside’s retirement house in French Landing. Burnside’s house had no light even at noon and no shadows. The house was haunted and was called the Black House. Potter was taken away by the state officers Brown and Black. They believed they had caught the Fisherman.
Jack and Dale join the others for a warm celebration. About an hour later Jack and Henry head home. Henry is very tired but promises to listen to the Fisherman’s 911 call tomorrow morning. Jack sees that his best friend is very tired and he hopes that waiting until tomorrow won’t be too late for another child.
Jack finds he can’t sleep and he wanders outside with his pillow. He rests in the middle of his field and becomes drowsy. He opens his eyes and he realizes he has flipped to the territories. He sleeps. At 5 a.m. he awakens and knows he is back in his own field. He returns to his house and sleeps until 8 a.m. When he wakes he realizes he can flip to and from the territories at will.
It is revealed to us that Mr. Munshun is the evil that shares the body with Charles Burnside. It is also explained that Wanda Kinderling festers hate for Jack Sawyer who captured her husband for the prostitute murders in Los Angles.
Jack went to see Tansy and she told him about Gorg, the talking crow. Tansy has been poisoned by Gorg and now insane. Jack felt sorry for her but left when she requested him to do so. He went to the Sand Bar and the Barkeep “Stinky Cheese” A.K.A. Lester was watching a Lily Cavanaugh western comedy. Lily is Jack’s mother.
The Thunder Five arrive and Jack asks them if they know about the Black House. Mouse tells about his experience of two years ago when he and his girl Little Nancy road back a lane off Route 35. They were doing acid but he saw some things that he believed were really there. Jack left to visit Judy Marshall at Ward D and the Thunder Five went to look for the Black House.
After back tracking, the Thunder Five found the lane. With Mouse in the lead, each one was attached by blinding headaches and vomiting. They tried to shoot a huge red-eyed dog. Finally the giant wolf-like dog ran back to the woods. The Five got themselves up and out, back on to Route 35. Mouse’s leg was badly bitten. He required antibiotics as diagnosed by Doc. Everyone else was bruised and bloodied.
Once Jack met with Judy they held hands and flipped pulling Wendell Green who was hiding in the closet with them. When Jack opened his eyes he was holding the hand of Judy’s twinner. Judy herself stayed back at the hospital. Judy had acted as a conduit to get Jack to her twinner. Judy has been talking to her twinner every since she was a child through walls. Judy and her twinner were not travelers. Jack sees Judy’s twinner and immediately falls in love with her and he knows her perfect name. Sophie. She wants to introduce him to a powerful person. Wendell has also moved into the territories with Jack.
Parkus A.K.A. Speedy greets Jack as a gunslinger “before the world moved on”. They went over the hill to eat. Parkus tells Jack that Carl Bierstone A.K.A. Charlie Burnside has been infested by a demon. The demon is ka, Jack’s destiny. Jack realizes that this business concerns the Dark Tower. The Dark Tower binds many worlds together. The entity that can bring the tower down is Ram Abbalah A.K.A. the Crimson King. Physically the Crimson King is held in a cell at the top of the tower. But also he lives in Can-tah Abbalah which is the Court of the Crimson King. It is the evil Mr. Munshun who will take Tyler from Burnside to the Crimson King. The Crimson King wants to take the telepaths and telekinetics and use them as Breakers to destroy the beams that protect the tower and keeps the Ram Abbalah in the cell. Tyler is a very powerful Breaker. The Crimson King has made a deal with the evil Charles Burnside. The Fisherman A.K.A. Charles Burnside A.K.A. Albert Fish can eat as many children as he wants but if he finds a Breaker he must give the child to the Crimson King. Parkus tells Jack that he must go to the Black House to get to the Furnace Lands and find Tyler. Jack kisses Sophie, expresses his love and flips back with good ol’ Wendell Green. Once back, Jack and Judy are kissing and Wendell starts calling “Rape”. Jack punches him in the jaw. Judy makes her way back to her room on her own. Jack leaves.
Jack heads to One Nailhouse Row to talk to Mouse who is dying of the dog-wolf bite. Doc is with Mouse. Beezer is there nervously waiting so Mouse can tell Jack about the Black House. The other two were scared and left. Only Mouse remembers the details of the Thunder Five’s visit to the Black House.
Henry is at a bar having drinks with an ESPN representative who wants to hire Henry and Henry doesn’t want anything to do with it. Henry called a cab to take him home. Once home, Henry listens to the Fisherman tapes and identifies the voice of Charlie Burnside. Henry remembered him from the Strawberry Fest at the Maxton Elderly Care Facility. Henry is in his home. Here Burnside (Mr. Munshun) attacks him with hedge clippers. Henry is able to find a knife and stab Burnside in the stomach. Henry, with a chunk of his face bitten off, two fingers severed and stabbed in the back, makes his way to his studio. Henry is bleeding to death.
Jack stayed with Mouse and watched his skin melt away. Mouse had black ooze dripping from his eyes and he was rotting on the inside to the out. The dog-wolf bite had poisoned him. Doc gave Mouse some speed and Mouse came out of his delirium and told Jack where the Black House was and that he had to remember an important word, D’yamba. D’yamba is a powerful spell that Jack will call upon in the next few hours.
Henry bleeds to deaths as he leaves a taped message for Jack in his various
characters’ voices. He dies with a smile upon seeing his Rhonda
waiting for him.
Jack decides to tell Henry his whole story tonight. However, Jack discovers Henry’s body and listens to his taped message. Jack calls the police and walks a half mile and lays down in the grass exhausted and grieving for his best friend. Before long he has flipped to the territories. Jack slept.
Burnside returned to Maxton’s where he proceeds to take Henry’s hedge clippers and kills the night nurse and Maxton’s owner Chipper Maxton. Burnside then returns to his bathroom stall and flips to the Black House.
Jack had a romantic encounter with Sophie in the territories and woke up in his field around 6 a.m. He went to his own bed and woke from a nightmare at 10 a.m. He showered, dressed and ate breakfast. Then he called Dale and told him everything. Jack wanted Dale to go with him to the Black House.
Inside the Black House, Burnside is bleeding from Henry’s knife wound and Burnside is sick. Mr. Munshun separates from Burnside and takes form in the Black House as an elongated face that changes. Red tufted hair sometimes appears and he usually only has one eye, sometimes two. It looks like a shark’s eye. He wore a black evening suit and a red ascot. Munshun wakes up Burnside by grabbing and squeezing Burnside’s injured stomach. Once Burnside is awake Munshun tells him to get Tyler and take him to a destination. Munshun leaves to get the mono rail. Munshun will take Tyler on the mono rail to the Crimson King.
Burnside goes deep into the Black House and gets Tyler who was asleep in a cell. Tyler was dreaming of a baseball game. Ty’s injuries consisted of a concussion that he had received from the rock Burnside had used when he took Tyler. Burnside took Tyler down a long set of winding stairs. Tyler counted over one-hundred and fifty steps. At the bottom Tyler had to drive a golf cart through deep woods filled with nasty huge-fanged snakes. Once out of the woods they were on Conger Road which had a wall along it constructed of white stones. With closer inspection Tyler saw that the stones were actually sculls. There were thousands and thousands of sculls. Tyler cried. Burnside made him wear a cap that made Tyler confused and he heard a constant buzzing sound. Tyler saw the Big Combination which was this huge construct of machines that were operated by children. The overseers were green-skinned people-like creatures. The children consisted of kids who had disappeared from their home. Some children were from other worlds. Burnside took Tyler into a shed and tried to shackle Ty to the wall. The shed had all kinds of BBQ equipment and a gas grille. Ty makes a grab at Burnside when Burnside drops a handcuff. Ty crushes Burnside’s balls. Then Ty yanks out Burnside’s intestines and Burnside finally falls over dead.
Jack, Beezer and Doc all know when Burnside is killed by Tyler. They sense it. They are all standing in the parking lot of the Sand Bar. Fred Marshall drives in and gives Jack a package. A bat from Ritchie Sexson arrived in the mail for Tyler. Jack took the bat.
The four men Jack, Dale, Beezer and Doc arrived at the NO TRESPASSING sign and Jack sees something out of the corner of his eye. He doesn’t look at it until he has pulled the .357 then fires five or six rounds. Gorg, the talking crow, is dead. The four men take Dales car and drive up to the Black House. Jack commands the door to open after billions of gold and black bees form a barrier between the house and the creature in the woods.
Tyler wakes up and hears the Big Combination, the children screaming and the whips. He remembers Burnside telling him that Mr. Munshun went to get the mono rail.
Tyler finally grabs the bag with the keys, unlocks the handcuff, slips out of the shackle and walks outside. He no sooner turns around and Lord Malshun grabs Him. And blocking the way to the train is four men from French Landing. Jack’s Ritchie Sexson bat has white light burning from it and fries Malshun’s eye. Beezer’s ring shoots white light and destroys Malshun. Dale grabs Ty. Jack tells Tyler he isn’t done yet. Tyler must free the children. Jack slaps him and in so doing knocks off Tyler’s hat. Ty now wakes up. Jack tells Ty he is a Breaker and he has to break the Big Combination. Ty sets himself and from the fire plant below the earth, things start to explode. The Big Combination starts to moan. The equipment starts to smoke, melt and burn. Machines are welded in place and the children run down the edifice and escape. All the children from other worlds find their doors. The bees protect and lead them. The children from Tyler’s time follow the four men. Ty is on top of Jack’s shoulders and they follow the Queen Bee out.
Once outside the Black House Ty wants to see his mother. The Black House has solidified into a three-story house completely painted black. Beezer promises to come back at midnight and destroy it. All have been brave and all happily head off to get Fred Mitchell and then take them to the hospital to be reunited with Judy. There were over seven-hundred and fifty children found on Route 35 that day. Officers Black and Brown were kept busy dealing with this unexpected event.
At this point the entities which we now know are vaporous flying men from the territories tell us the story is done. If we read further we will not be happy with what happens next. Of course, we must read.
Jack has scheduled a news conference on the banks of the Mississippi in La Riviere. The four men are on stage all with held hands raised and Wanda Kinderling has a .32. With all the clapping and celebrating, she shoots Jack five times in the chest and neck. Speedy picked up Jack and carried him to the Winnebago and they both disappear. Dale told the distraught Doc and Beezer that the black man told Dale, “Let me take him. There still might be a chance.” Dale, Beezer and Doc believed and hoped that their friend Jack will survive.
Sophie is watching after Jack. He is still breathing. Parkus tells her because he once held the Talisman he will be able to recover but he will never be able to return to his home and friends. This, the territories is his world now.
Ten days later Jack opens his eyes and Sophie greets him. “Welcome
back,” She says, “My heart, my life, and my love; welcome
Jack Sawyer – retired police lieutenant from the homicide division in LA.
by Brenda Krekeler
Black House is a marvelous combination of characters that serve to construct a true evil and tear a part of it down. Jack Sawyer, our central character, has become the best homicide detective in Los Angles. His experience with a particular homicide drove him into retirement at age thirty-one. At that time he searched out a friend he had made in French Landing, Wisconsin where he solved a large murder investigation. His friend the police chief sold Jack his father's house. Jack fell in love with the Wisconsin landscape the first time he saw it. The farm was perfection for Jack. Three years after Jack moved to French Landing, the evil had found him again. The Fisherman murderer had taken two children and a third was missing. Jack finally resolved to help find the murderer and in so doing he remembers his previous travels as a twelve-year-old traveler between the Americas and the territories. In Black House we discover other worlds, love, strength and kindness through Jack and many other characters. It is a spell-binding read that will keep you turning the pages until you wish the book never ended.
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