Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "This is the House" (as by Lawrence O'Donnell) (novelette, haunted house, free)

Quote from short story This is the House by Henry Kuttner and C L Moore, writing under their joint pseudonym Lawrence O DonnellThere are a lot of familiar themes here - I'm not sure which of them this story originated, & which it just used. But a very good read. Sort of ... spooky version of authors' "The Twonky" (download).

This also must be among the earliest stories about nano-tech.

Story summary.

Bob Melton, his wife Michaela, & his brother-in-law Phil, have recently moved into a new house. Only, they've been having weird experiences:
  1. "Red ice" in the refrigerator.
  2. Coal furnace in the basement that burns without consuming coals!
  3. Weird noises barely registering with consciousness.
  4. Occasional feeling of complete disorientation; when normalcy returns, a lot of time seems to have passed.
  5. Windows that sometimes refuse to open; other times yield easily.
  6. Door bell that Bob doesn't hear, but Michaela can feel (though not hear)!
  7. ... it goes on & on.
As the story unfolds, we will learn that the previous owner, John French, was probably not human at all. And he seems to have done some "renovating" inside the house for his own comfort, without affecting the house's exterior...


  1. "The previous tenant probably rewired the house."

    "Who was he? Einstein? Or a Martian?"
  2. "Machines can be so simple they're unrecognizable."
  3. "Machines in the walls".

    "Very simple and very complicated. And unrecognizable. Paint is just paint, but you can do a Mona Lisa with it."

    "So French coated the inside walls with paint that acts like a machine?"

    "Invisible and intangible—how should I know? As for those noises at night—"


    "I think the house is just recharging itself".
  4. "Eventually the world of the future—I think—won't be burdened with immense, complicated gadgets. Everything will be so simple—or seem so simple—that a man from the twentieth century might find it quite homelike, except for the results."
  5. Psychiatrist: "Half of my patients are slightly nuts, and, as long as they don't know it, they get along fine."
  6. On effect of environment on human psyche: "Lock a kid up in a dark closet, and he's apt to be afraid of the dark ever after."
  7. "If you had to move into a Ubangi hut and stay there. You wouldn't have anything in common with the natives, would you?"

    "What would you do?"

    "Change the huts a bit. Especially if I wanted to pretend I was a Ubangi, too. I wouldn't alter it outside, but I'd fix it up a bit inside, for my own convenience, and I wouldn't let anybody else come in. Chairs instead of grass mats. I wonder how French had this place furnished."


    "Why would a white man live in a Ubangi village? To study ethnology or entomology, perhaps. Or for the climate. Or simply to rest—to hibernate."

See also.

  1. Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" (download): One of the best known stories featuring an automated live house that keeps on serving long after the original tenants are gone.
  2. Clifford D Simak's "The Big Front Yard": Well known story where the aliens quietly renovate the house, no need to ask permission of its human owner... And the resulting house becoming something else altogether!
  3. Larry Niven's "Wait It Out": A hibernating man - alive but time seems to be moving rather slowly...

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, February 1946.
Download full text.
Rating: A.
Among the stories from Astounding/Analog issues edited by John W Campbell, Jr.


  1. Stories of Henry Kuttner, C L Moore (as by Lawrence O'Donnell).
  2. Tuesday Classics;
  3. Fiction from 1940s.