“It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.”
“God! Whose hand was I holding?”
A select group is invited by a mysterious doctor to spend the summer in a countryside mansion to explore its reputed occult phenomena. A strange, ugly building with a troubled past, Hill House disturbs and intrigues its four new guests, and soon begins to live up to its reputation.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House first tingled the spines of America in 1959, taking inspiration from classic ghost stories of the past in the same year that futuristic dreams became reality, with Russia landing the first spacecraft on the moon.
This chilling tale embraces many typical Jackson motifs, such as poisonous human relationships, the darkness within, and the supernatural, and is a great way to give yourself a good scare this Halloween!
Seen from the point of view of Eleanor, a mousy, anxious woman burdened by guilt and resentments, bonds of friendship are formed and broken as the disorientating Hill House gradually reveals its secrets. With a history featuring mysterious deaths, abandoned children, and desperate souls seeking home, the house seems to be trying to reach out to Eleanor, to keep her for itself.
Jackson’s characters try bravely to wisecrack their way through increasingly violent unnatural incidents. While the phenomena grow more extreme, Eleanor’s fragile psyche begins to crumble. As she finds herself alienated from those around her, the relationship between the events in the house and the minds of its occupants becomes less and less clear.
The uncanny, without and within the mind, was a theme that Jackson returned to again and again, the increasingly jarring passages of text and confused narrative mirroring the fractured states of mind of her characters. Suffering from many ‘neuroses’ herself, it is tempting to wonder if Jackson drew from personal experience when describing the fear and confusion of her creations.
But whether the evil dwells in the house or in the minds of the inhabitants, The Haunting of Hill House has the power to terrify, stylishly alternating creeping dread and gnawing horror as it approaches its awful climax.
So when you’ve finished carving scary faces into pumpkins and seen off the last of the trick-or-treaters, dim the lights and curl up with this eerie classic… but don’t come running to us if you have nightmares!