BLIND WALLS, written by playwrights Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller, is two stories melded into one book, based on the Winchester ‘Mystery’ House in San Jose, Calif. In the late 1880s, Sara Winchester inherited millions after her husband, founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, died. The house, with some 162 rooms, was said to be haunted by the souls of those who died in many different wars from gunshots.
One story is about Raymond Smolett, a blind, veteran tour guide who is just about to retire. He takes visitors through the spooky house and, on his last day, begins to see the dead people he has talked about to tourists for his 30 years on the job.
The second story concerns Chuck Ratowitz, a young carpenter who becomes Project Manager of the Winchester House, under the constant guidance of the aging, ailing and increasingly paranoid Sara Winchester. Ratowitz is an honest and earnest hard-worker, but he falls slave to the mad obsessions of Sara, who insists more and more rooms be built to accommodate the ghosts she sees, who she believes are punishing her for the weapons her husband has manufactured.
Bishop and Fuller weave these narratives together seamlessly, providing just enough detail to keep readers wanting more. The characters often jump off the page in their brooding agony and pain. Ratowitz is a ruined soul, his wife having left him, and his son, a Navy pilot, dead in an aircraft accident. Old Sara’s depravity only deepens as she becomes more profoundly ill and bedridden. The tour guide, Smolett, retires to his lonely apartment and his cat. Readers are likely to feel pity for the characters, while at the same time fighting off a sense of foreboding as the book winds to its tragic end.
The authors might have provided a bit more history on the Winchester House itself, and why it became such a magnet for these tormented people. There are also some annoying typos here and there.
BLIND WALLS is a masterful and eerie tale of obsession, increasing madness, and deepening sadness, surrounding the haphazard construction of a haunted house. It’s a fine and engaging read, a page turner that will not allow readers to put it down without finishing to the very end.
~James Bernstein for IndieReader