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The Funhouse is a 1980 novelization by American author Dean Koontz, based on 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.

The Funhouse
The Funhouse cover Owen West.jpg
First edition
AuthorDean Koontz (as Owen West)
CountryUnited States
GenreSuspense, Mystery novel, Horror novel, Thriller
PublisherJove Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages333 pp
Preceded byThe Key to Midnight 
Followed byWhispers 

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


Plot synopsisEdit

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 cannot 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 refuses 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 comes into his room late at night, drunk out of her mind and ranting about how Joey may be a demon in disguise. 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 carnival 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.

Everything goes well until the group arrive at the funhouse. Midway through the ride, Conrad shuts off the power, stranding the four teens inside the funhouse while being hunted by Gunther and Conrad. Almost directly after the ride stops, Richie is dragged away by Gunther through a trap door before having his head torn off. The teens exit the car in an attempt to find an exit. They arm themselves with nearby weapons from the attractions, Buzz having an ax, Amy and Liz with rusty knives. Gunther turns on the ride just to send Richie's head to the surviving teens using one of the cars. It is unknown what happened to Richie's body; most likely it was left mutilated on the other side of the trap door he was dragged through or he was eaten by Gunther. Buzz mistakenly chops Richie's head when it rides by, thinking it was Gunther. This causes Liz to freak out, running further into the funhouse alone. Buzz is disgusted by Richie, and has to vomit. After he finishes vomiting and gets a pep talk from Amy, he is shot dead by Conrad using a small pistol. Conrad brought Joey with him, keeping him at the end of a rope leash, and Amy manages to keep the knife hidden. Amy tricks Conrad into thinking she is approaching Joey to comfort him, before lunging at Conrad with the knife, stabbing him in the throat. Conrad fires a shot at Amy, but it just grazes her cheek. After Conrad is killed, Amy takes his gun and proceeds to continue looking for an exit with Joey.

Meanwhile, Liz is found by Gunther and dragged into the funhouse's basement, where she is raped and torn apart. Amy and Joey, while searching for an exit, find the trapdoor that Liz was dragged down. They then proceed down the hatch, where they are confronted by Gunther. At first, Gunther is not directly hostile, and Amy uses this to approach Gunther before pulling out the pistol she took from Conrad's corpse, and then proceeds to shoot Gunther until he falls into the funhouse's machinery, which kills him. Amy then carries Joey out of the funhouse.


  • Ellen Harper - mother of Amy and Joey and ex-wife to Conrad
  • Conrad Straker - owner and barker of the carnival funhouse, father of Gunther and Victor, ex-husband to Ellen and Madame Zena
  • Amy Harper - Ellen's daughter
  • Joey Harper - Amy's younger brother
  • Jerry Galloway - Amy's ex-boyfriend, father of Amy's aborted child
  • Ghost - carnival employee
  • Gunther - carnival employee and Conrad's second son
  • Paul Harper - Ellen's husband
  • Madame Zena - carnival fortune teller, ex-wife to Conrad, mother of Gunther
  • 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 linksEdit