The Funhouse (novel)

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The Funhouse
The Funhouse cover Owen West.jpg
First edition
Author Dean Koontz (as Owen West)
Country United States
Language English
Genre Suspense, Mystery novel, Horror novel, Thriller
Publisher Jove Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 333 pp
ISBN 0-425-14248-5
OCLC 30373917
Preceded by The Key to Midnight
Followed by Whispers

The Funhouse is a 1980 novelization, by best-selling author Dean Koontz, of a Larry Block screenplay, which was made into the 1981 film The Funhouse, directed by Tobe Hooper. As the film production took longer than expected, the book was released before the film.

Koontz originally published the novel under the pseudonym Owen West.[1][2]

Plot synopsis[edit]

In 1955, Ellen, a young woman tired of being oppressed by her meek father and psychotically religious mother, falls in love with a barker from a traveling carnival named Conrad. Despite her mother's pleas, Ellen runs away with the carnival and marries Conrad.

However, soon after her marriage, it becomes clear that Conrad is using Ellen to spawn the Antichrist, as she later finds out that he is a Satan worshiper. Stuck at the carnival, as she can't go back to her parents, Ellen eventually gives birth to a hideously deformed infant.

One stormy night, the baby, which possesses demon-like traits and strength, attacks Ellen. She crushes it to death just as Conrad comes home. Enraged, he beats her, but does not kill her, stating that he will hunt her down one day and kill her own children. Ellen runs off into the night.

25 years later, a girl named Amy gets pregnant from her boyfriend, Jerry. She tells him of the child at their senior prom. He refused to raise their child or even pay for an abortion. She tearfully insults him and then runs home to her psychotically religious, alcoholic mother, who is later revealed to be Ellen. Amy eventually tells Ellen that she is pregnant, causing her to strike Amy and force her to pray on the floor. She then agrees to pay for an abortion, but only to stop Amy from "Giving birth to the Antichrist".

Meanwhile, Amy's younger brother, Joey, is secretly afraid of his mother, as she frequently yells and scolds him for being interested in horror comics and movies. Saving up enough money, he decides to run away with the carnival that is coming to town the following week.

The carnival that is coming to town is revealed to be Conrad's. After 25 years of searching, the other carnies try to persuade Conrad that he will never find Ellen, but he refuses to give up. That night, a young couple that visits the carnival is lured to the carnival's funhouse, where they are disemboweled and partially eaten by Gunther, the demonic, monstrous son that Conrad had with the carnival's fortune teller, Madame Zena. Conrad plans to use Gunther to kill Ellen's children.

After the abortion, Amy visits the diner where her promiscuous best friend, Liz, works. Liz reveals that she is going to run away to Las Vegas and become a high-end prostitute and call girl. She invites Amy to run away with her the day after they go to the carinval together.

Joey visits the carnival during the day and is recognized by Conrad as a possibility of being Ellen's child. When asked what his mother's name is, Joey is frigthened and lies about the name. Conrad is disappointed, but lets Joey go.

That night, after running background checks on most of the residents of town through a private investigator, Conrad learns that Amy and Joey are Ellen's children. He reveals his plan to lure them the funhouse and kill them to a horrified Madame Zena. When she refuses to help him with his plan, he strangles her to death.

That night, Amy, Liz, and their dates, Buzz and Ritchie, descend on the carnival. Joey escapes home and goes to the carnival as well, with the intent of running away with it. He finds Conrad and reveals his desire. Conrad lures him to the funhouse and reveals that he knows he lied about his mother's name before tying him up in the basement.

Everything goes well until the group arrive at the funhouse. Conrad shuts off the power to the ride and goes out to hunt the teens. Gunther kills Ritchie by pulling him through the ceiling. Liz runs away in fright just as Conrad appears from behind and shoots Buzz to death. He gives a chilling speech about his past with Ellen to Amy at gunpoint, but before he can finish, she pulls out her pocketknife and stabs him to death.

Meanwhile, Liz is found by Gunther and dragged into the funhouse's basement, where she is raped and murdered by him. Hearing Liz's screams, Amy runs to the basement and finds a tied-up Joey, whom she rescues. Gunther appears from behind, trying to kill them, but Amy pushesh him into the funhouse's machinery, where he is torn to shreds. Amy then carries a grateful Joey into the dawn sunrise outside the funhouse.


  • Ellen Harper - mother of Amy and Joey
  • Conrad Straker - owner and barker of the carnival funhouse
  • Amy Harper - Ellen's daughter
  • Joey Harper - Amy's younger brother
  • Ghost - carnival employee
  • Gunther - carnival employee and Conrad's second son
  • Paul Harper - Ellen's husband
  • Madame Zena - carnival fortune teller
  • Liz - friend of Amy
  • Buzz - Amy's date to the carnival
  • Richie - Liz's boyfriend
  • Marco the Magnificent - carnival magician
  • Victor - Conrad and Ellen's baby


External links[edit]