Over the pandemic I decided to revisit some of my favorite vintage horror from high school. There were several titles that I remembered as being pretty scary, and a few that I couldn’t even remember the title or author for and had to do a little investigative work to figure it out. One of the latter was Rick Hautala’s Night Stone, which I vaguely remembered as having something to do with stones that a guy would see in his yard when he was dreaming, and as a book that had been creepy enough to kind of stick around in my head over the years. Once I figured out who had written it and the title, I managed to secure a reasonably priced copy online. It even has the original creepy cover that goes between little girl face and skull that I remembered!
Night Stone has everything: a house deal that seems too good to be true, a creepy haunted doll, a possessed horse, underground terror (that is possibly from a Native American burial ground or sacrificial site), family drama with distracting sexual indiscretions, and some bloody deaths orchestrated by the presence haunting the land.
Don decides to move his family – wife Jan and daughter Beth – out to the country and into an older family-owned house that his sister has been taking care of for years. We learn that his mother hadn’t wanted anyone in the family to live in the house and that his sister hadn’t been able to sell it (never a good sign). Problems start immediately as Beth has some type of seizure as they are driving past the large gateposts of the house, and then escalate when she finds a creepy old doll and becomes obsessed with it. Jan becomes bored with the new situation almost immediately and takes a job waiting tables at a pretty sleazy sounding bar and grill in town, and Don becomes increasingly obsessed with the house and with a large stone that he uncovers in the yard. Archaeologists are called in, additional unsanctioned digging is conducted, weird noises and dreams start taking place, and Beth begins talking to her doll and letting it influence her personality. Beth finally gets the horse she’s been begging for and it turns out to be a nightmare on four legs. And, as we’ve seen before in these cases, Don increasingly becomes more unhinged, and the wheels completely come off of the entire enterprise by the end of the book.
The main things I noticed re-reading this book about 30 years later were that it was a lot more crazy than I had remembered. Dolls always creep me out, but the idea of a girl Beth’s age carrying some monstrosity like this around with her everywhere and whispering to it continuously is just a big “nope” for me. (The doll described in the book looks nothing like the somewhat normal one pictured on the cover, so be fair warned!) Also, the entire horse aspect of the plot was both crazier and sadder than I had remembered. All the girl wanted was a sane horse that she could ride around on the farm, and instead she got Goblin, the horse from hell. Lastly, the size of the huge, sacrificial stone in the front yard that Don keeps digging up, along with the underground tunneling aspects of the story, were parts I had completely forgotten. I am not a big fan of tight, underground places, so this part definitely gave me the creeps.
If you are looking for a vintage horror read that delivers nicely on a lot of the typical tropes we think of from the ’70s and ’80s, then I recommend checking out Night Stone. Rick Hautala has also written some other books and short stories that terrified me over the years, such as Mountain King. He’s definitely a horror author worth checking out!