The Reimann Curse
Jean DeWeese | Ballantine Books | 1975 | 182 pages
A young schoolteacher is menaced by an ancient evil, her obsession with the ruins of an old estate fueling her nightmares, and ultimately unlocking a haunted past.
Following the tragic deaths of her husband and young daughter, Helen Warden accepts a teaching position in a small New England town. Driving cross-country for two days from Wisconsin, Helen takes a wrong turn off the highway a few miles from her destination. She comes across a ruined old estate, a three-story gothic hulk partially destroyed by fire, that she finds strangely compelling—as if someone or something inside is insistently whispering her name.
Turning around and heading back toward the highway, Helen stops at an inn that appears to be a smaller version of the looming mansion she just encountered. Run by Martha and George Groves, Helen learns that the Groves Lodge occupies the former guesthouse of the Reimann estate, its mansion destroyed by fire seventy years previously. Developing a strange fascination with old estate, Helen is troubled by nightmares. Her dreams are filled with the ominous black shape of the Reimann mansion, of distorted faces circling menacingly around her, and of a strange metallic object shifting in her hands. Upon waking, Helen is aware that she was screaming words in some unfamiliar language.
Initially intending only to stay the night, Helen seems unable to leave Groves Lodge, whose only other semi-permanent guests are the elderly Amanda Lund and her son Mark. Helen is fascinated to learn that Amanda was a resident of the Reimann Estate as a small child, leaving upon the death of her parents after the fire seventy years ago. Amanda has returned in an attempt to recover her memory of these early childhood years, lost since the tragedy but haunting her with the promise of some unknown revelation. As Helen’s nightmares continue, she finds her behavior changing, becoming more violent and obsessive about the estate and its dark history.
The evil influence at the core of The Reimann Curse reveals itself to be less traditional curse than the action of an ill-explained Great-Slippery-Silver-Whatsit. Helen’s selection as a victim for this non-titular object’s malevolent touch seems arbitrary [seventy-six year old Amanda would have been the logical one], and her nightmares steadily become little more than passive visions pointing the way to an expected conclusion. However, the brooding atmosphere of the ruined house lurking just beyond the bare tree line, and its insidious pull on Helen’s imagination, deliver enough genre thrills to satisfy.