Archive for March, 2012

Jay Anson’s “666”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 31, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I just finished reading the 1981 novel “666” by Jay Anson, author of the infamous “Amityville Horror”. Despite it being part of the late 70’s devil craze, it was pretty subtle with the diabolical imagery until the gruesome climax, and really kept my attention throughout. It tells the tale of a satanic house that is made of grim artifacts from the past. It’s implied in various ways, through dream sequences and conversations that the house is a variant of Satan’s throne on Earth. Its timbers selected from a myriad of sources and their inclusion being contingent upon the fact that they were part of some previous structure or implement of suffering and pain, all of them christened by the blood of innocents.
What it seems to do is find a triangle of people to corrupt and influence so that one of the trio goes mad and ends up killing the others because of some perception of wrongdoing visited on them by the other two. The phrase “Behold, he is in thine hand, only spare his life.” from the Book of Job is brought up a couple of times, originally appearing in Latin on a trident that runs through the foundation of the house which is used as a lightening rod. The explanation being that Satan made a deal with God that he could tempt and torment men all he wanted but could not kill them outright, so he corrupts people into killing one another by using the house, which moves from town to town once it’s goal is accomplished.
There is much talk of the Roman emperor Nero (infamous for his persecution of Christians and for the burning of Rome) and a Roman coin or sestertius, which appears out of the ether and is used as payment for the victim’s journey into the Underworld.
The story mostly concerns a triangle of a young couple, Keith and Jennifer Olson, and a mature but handsome antiques dealer, David Carmichael, who is an old associate and friend of Jennifer’s whom Keith is jealous of. Upon returning from a week’s vacation, the Olson’s find a new house has appeared out of nowhere right down the road from their isolated residence in upstate New York. Keith goes to investigate and finds the front door open. There are many odd things about it, such as some unusual glass etchings in a bay window, or a strange red glow which emanates from said window at night, but the thing which I find most peculiar, and which none in the story addresses is that the house always seems to keep the number 666 regardless of what street it sets up shop on; but I digress…
Just before he leaves the house, a coin seems to materialize out of nowhere and drop into a claw-footed bathtub. Keith realizing its possible value, pockets it to have it looked at, thus sealing his fate. From that point on, the book read more like a psychological thriller with the occasional unexplained occurrence, until the end which is both graphically violent and blatantly supernatural. It builds slowly and inexorably, towards its climax and every step of the way leaves one thinking how easily these people are playing into this diabolical game which both Keith and David attain inklings of through their respective investigations into the house’s origins and past tenants, but don’t seem to see themselves succumbing to.

666_1981_Pocket_insert_paul bacon

Insert from 1981 mass-market edition by Pocket Books

In fine, it wasn’t high art, but it was definitely entertaining and I am surprised it was never made into a movie back in the day on a double feature with another contemporary devil film like The Sentinel.

Jay Anson’s “666”, 1981, Simon & Schuster.