Haunted House (1979)   5 comments


This game was was published by Radio Shack — the same ones who made the TRS-80 — and for obvious reasons was only available on that platform. The manual and tapes (it was originally published on two) give a copyright date of 1979, so I’m sticking with that.

It gives no author but mentions “Device Oriented Games” as the developer, who goes on to make them Bedlam (1982) and Pyramid 2000 (1982). Bedlam names the author as Robert Arnstein, who I am fairly certain was the author of every game from that company. Robert Arnstein is also credited as the author of Raäka-Tū (1981) and Xenos (1982) so we’ve got a genuine text adventure auteur on our hands. (Trivia: earlier he wrote 8080 Chess, the very first microcomputer program to participate in the ACM North American Computer Chess Championship.)

Clearly the most dramatic text adventure opening of all time.

Clearly the most dramatic text adventure opening of all time.

Old Man Murray once ran a feature called “Time to Crate” which evaluated games based on how long it took for the game to have a crate. (They were everywhere at the end of the 1990s. Often it took 5 seconds or less to find a crate.) Text adventures of this era could be evaluated on the “time to reference of Crowther/Woods Adventure” system, which in this case is two moves.


Saying “plugh” tosses you inside the haunted house, with an objective to escape. There are no room descriptions, just room names (“YOU ARE AT THE DEN.”) and so far the only danger has been in ignoring a floating knife:


(Just taking the knife prevents the death.)

If you go in a direction that is invalid, the game will just print the room description again. I first thought there were mazelike loops everywhere but given this property happens in every single room it just must be a quirk of the game.

Even for the era the verb set I’ve been able to find is really sparse: directions (NSEW only), OPEN, CLOSE, DROP, GET, READ, POUR, CLIMB (which just gives a response of “NO.”) Trying to use an invalid verb on an object gives the response “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH IT?” which is frustrating in that it almost barely pretends to understand, and the way I found to test if a verb works is to type it without an object upon which the game says “WHAT?” as opposed to “I DON’T UNDERSTAND.”


For a long time I was stuck by a locked door. It turned out to be an absolutely horrible trick. I’ll explain in a second, but take a moment to study the right side of the map and think about it first.

Recall the “loop” property where room descriptions just repeat if you can’t move. There’s a servant’s quarters with a cabinet next to another one with a cabinet. There is no way to distinguish the difference between looping and realizing you’ve entered a new room without having dropped something in the first room.


Things did not improve after I found the key. I came across a raging fire. I happened to be holding a bucket of water (one that magically refills if I pour it, even) but I am completely unable to apply it to the fire.


It’s been a while since I’ve skipped finishing a game for this project without completing it, but I just might have to invoke that option.

Posted September 8, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Haunted House (1979)

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  1. I remember this game! Or at least, I remember the loop room trick. Since you’ve already found that, I think it safe to say that you’ve discovered everything of real interest.

    Also, I suspect that you’re getting two fancy with your more-than-two-word commands. Have you tried just doing “pour bucket” while in the room with the fire?

    • Ayep. That was the first one. I did make it through and it turns out the actual trick to get through is much, much stupider.

      • Sounds like it might be another Adventure reference. “Are you just going to walk through that raging fire?” >YES “Congratulations! You have just walked through a raging fire on your bare feet! (Unbelievable, isn’t it?)”

  2. Aaah! I’ve got a story with this game! A handful of years ago I got a copy for my personal collection of text-adventure physical editions. Right then a competition of game remakes was held at an Amiga forum and I entered with an Amiga remake of Haunted House. It was just a plain port of the original with some niceties as a graphic ornament, background music, an automap feature…

    You can see it at

    and a making-of video can be seen at:

    Shortly after, Jacqueline A Lott wrote a post at several international IF forums inviting authors to participate at the 2011 Indigo Speed-IF comp, including our spanish CAAD site. I enterd with a new Haunted House port. This time using Inform 7 and, instead of adding multimedia stuff, writing a whole story over the original scenario and a few characters (one of them called Indigo to meet the comp requirements).
    A very crude form of it was played at clubfloyd that year, and right after that I started writting an actually polished version with true betatesting and proofreading (which my poor english desperately needed ^_^’ ) It was a great experience to me, but even when it was almost finished, I lost interest on it and the final version was never released. Hopefully, I would make it for this year, as it fits both letter and spirit of the “year of adventure” jam.

  3. Pingback: Haunted House: Finished | Renga in Blue

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