Night of the Warlock
Raymond Giles | Paperback Library | 1968 | 160 pages
On his deathbed, warlock Hugo Knox unleashes a final series of incantations intended to revive him after death. The key to his resurrection does not depend upon the conjured creatures of darkness— snakes, spiders with human eyes, or unspeakable things smacking their lips in dark corners—but rather upon his young niece.
As a condition of her uncle’s will, Dana Knox must spend an entire year in his estate—along with the alternate heirs, housekeeper Nicole Duhamel and her son—to inherit his considerable fortune. Bayard Duhamel, also a practitioner of the black arts, has vowed to assist Hugo by awakening the latent power of witchcraft within Dana, using her as a conduit to raise the dead warlock from the beyond. Her boyfriend, Martin Lott, stands as her only defense from the infernal onslaught, but he harbors an occult secret from his own dark past.
Night of the Warlock introduces a creakily familiar young-heiress-must-stay-in-a-haunted-house-to-collect-her-inheritance trope, but quickly races ahead to an occult battle of wills. A few back-and-forth parries between Martin and Bayard establish the romantic triangle with Dana; or perhaps a romantic quadrangle, considering Nicole’s attempts to distract Martin from his true affection. After only a few days into the required yearlong stay, the rivals for Dana’s attention head for a veritable warlock smack down, with diabolic forces gathering at the threshold of the mortal world.
Without categorically accepting the notion that imagined horrors are always greater than fully realized horrors, the most effective passages occur when the elements escape the routine trappings of the genre. Skulls that scream and statues that come to life are expected funhouse scares. Bayard’s introduction, running parallel to a childhood flashback of an unknown conjured something knocking at the door, is probably the closest the book comes to a genuinely creepy moment.