The Devil's Mansion (1931)

Rex Jardin
Walter J. Black, Inc.

Nice entry into the venerable "weird old house" genre.  Sweet and stupid, young Janet Lord accepts a post to be the companion to a lonely old lady living in a small town in remote British Columbia.  Things get weird from the start as a vicious dog with red glowing eyes follows Janet everywhere and growls menacingly anytime she approaches the property line. Also, Janet notices that all the mirrors in the house have been painted over.  That night, finding her room consists of only a cot and an army blanket, she decides to leave first thing in the morning--but her new employer, Miss Boisevain, calmly informs her that she'll never leave the house again...ever!  Understandably alarmed, Janet tries to figure out a way to escape, but "Rajah" the vicious dog with the glowing red eyes follows her everywhere to prevent her fleeing.  The home's mute servant, Nita, takes pity on the girl and tries to warn her of the fate that awaits her if she doesn't leave soon.  Making things even more creepy, Janet begins to hear sobbing in the turret room above her and frantic piano playing at 3 in the morning.  Then a twist!  Miss Boisevain, her seeming jailer, also tells Janet she must escape, confirming that they are all hostage to some other sinister presence in the house.  Could it be.....the DEVIL?! 

Meanwhile, a handsome young man--Blair Rodman--is searching for Janet.  They met briefly in the town the morning Janet was to arrive at her new post, and he is alarmed when he can't get in touch with her (for he is smitten by her innocent charm).  He quickly figures out Janet is a hostage in the "Devil's Mansion," but after getting conked on the head and tied up in the barn, he spends most of the story in the hayloft hoping not to get attacked by Rajah the devil dog.  Also, in a strange touch, he constantly complains to himself about how hungry he is and how great it would be to have a chicken sandwich.

And then the inevitable.  This "thing," this presence, this mysterious other person in the house that refuses to be seen has decided that he will marry Janet!  If she does not marry him, he threatens to kill Blair Rodman for good.  As she is also deeply in love now with Blair (for no real reason other than she is trapped in the house, as far as I could tell), she realizes she must accept her fate and become Mrs. Devil-wife.  There's a lot more suspense shenanigans that I won't bore you with as "the devil" takes Janet to Seattle to begin a round-the-world cruise.  And there's Blair hurrying down the highway to save her (after, I swear, stopping on the way to Vancouver to get a couple of chicken sandwiches). 

So is Janet's unseen groom really the devil?   A supernatural force of absolute evil?  SATAN?

I'm going to tell you.  It is the one big reveal in the book, so do not look below if, in some odd universe of improbability, you actually plan on tracking this novel down.  

But there's another reason you might want to consider not looking below.  If it is Satan, if the Devil is really the Devil in The Devil's Mansion, there's a very good chance you will be damned for all eternity by learning this information.  I know, it seems absurd.  I, too, was laughing things up all  21st-century secular style... until I got to the final chapter.  And then....

Is it Satan?  Does Satan plan to make Janet his bride?  Please, I want you to pause and think this through carefully before proceeding.  Do you really want to know?  Why do you want to know so badly?  Do you realize that in your curiosity you might be risking your eternal soul?  That by continuing to read, you are, in a sense, actively seeking out the presence of the Dark One?  Why would you do that when it would be so easy just to walk away?  To flip to another web page and NEVER RETURN HERE under any circumstance? 

Surely he's jesting, you say, there's no way revealing this final bit of plot information could have any effect on me.  But what if it could? What if it did?   What if The Devil's Mansion is itself a cursed book, damning all who come to its final pages and learn its final forbidden secret?  And what if that damnation could be passed on, even in electronic form, by simply reading about the book's closing paragraphs, the moment when this sinister presence--heard but not seen for 200 pages--is at last revealed? 

Do you want to risk it?  This is your last chance to opt out...for I am about to reveal the true identity of the sinister presence that resides within the "devil's mansion," the dark force that would have sweet Janet as his tortured bride!

One thing it isn't, I will say, is some kind of Scooby Doo prank.  It's not someone trying to con Janet out of money or property or anything like that.  Nor is it Miss Boisevain or Nita or Blair in some kind of dissociative split-personality scenario.  Nope.  

Then again, maybe you're thinking we don't find out one way or another, that the ending maintains some kind of "fantastic" ambiguity.  Let me assure you this is not the case.  There is a DEFINITIVE answer to the question.   In the final chapter, we meet this unseen villain in the flesh, as it were, and all secrets are revealed.

Most likely, such damnation does not await you at the end of The Devil's Mansion.  MOST likely.  But nothing is for certain.  This could all be a devilish little prank.  Then again, perhaps I myself fell prey to Lucifer's trickery, and now I am toying with you in the hopes of dragging you along with me. Perhaps this is the curse Satan put on the author, his book, and all his readers, a cursed curiosity that not only kills "the cat" but casts the profane feline into the eternal flames of hell for not turning back, for ignoring the fact that some things are just not worth knowing.

There.  I can do more.  Consider yourself warned, several times over.  If the mysterious presence in the house is indeed Satan and he also indeed has the ability to damn you in this revelation, so be it. You will have no one to blame but yourself.  You who could not turn back.  You who would know the truth, no matter what the cost.  Your rendezvous with destiny  is soon, I promise.  Knowledge to be gained, perhaps, and yet possibly a soul to be lost.  Moments from now you may well know a minor, insignificant detail from a minor, insignificant novel.  Then again, you might be subject to the hysterical wailing of inconsolable sorrow, wretched in the realization that this was no joke, that you had been warned--repeatedly so--to turn back, to click away, to go see if anything good was on television--anything other than receive the cursed revelation of THE DEVIL'S MANSION!

And so we arrive.  Is it the devil, Satan himself, that prowls The Devil's Mansion?  Is it Lucifer who wishes to make Janet, sweet innocent Janet, his bride in hell?

Is it a mere plot detail...................or is it a gateway to ETERNAL SUFFERING!!!

Nah.  It turns out the guy is Miss Boisevain's mutant son: a two-foot tall dwarf with green scaly skin, topped by a "regular-sized" head with red frizzy hair.  That's why he painted over all the mirrors and only walks around in the dark.  And when he needs to go someplace new, he has someone carry him around in a little leather valise.  This was to be Janet's fate before Blair arrived on scene and, in the simple act of turning on a light, caused this "devil" to drop dead from a heart attack.

You are free to go. 

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