The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

Infobox Book
name = The Haunting of Hill House
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Shirley Jackson
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Horror novel
publisher = Viking Press
release_date = 1959
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 246 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Haunting of Hill House" is a 1959 novel by author Shirley Jackson. Considered one of the finest literary ghost stories published in the twentieth century, [ [ Shirley Jackson and "The Haunting of Hill House"] ] it has been made into two feature films and a play and has often been compared to Henry James’s "The Turn of the Screw" and the Stephen King novel "The Shining", which was partially inspired by it. The novel relies upon the complex relationships between the events and the characters’ psyches.

Plot summary

The story revolves around five main characters including Dr. John Montague, and the young heir, Luke Sanderson, to Hill House who plays host to the others. The fifth main character is Hill House, an eighty year-old mansion built by a man named Hugh Crain.

One character, Doctor Montague, hopes to prove scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He rents Hill House for a summer and invites a number of individuals to stay there as his guests. Of these invitees, whom he has chosen because at one point or another they have all experienced paranormal events, only Eleanor and Theodora accept. The story follows Eleanor as she travels to the house, where she and Theodora will live in isolation with Montague and Luke Sanderson with the exception of two caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who refuse to stay near Hill House at night.

The four begin to form friendships as Doctor Montague explains the building’s history, which encompasses suicide and other violent deaths. Eleanor resents having lived as a recluse who dutifully cared for her smothering invalid mother. She later meets Theodora (the only other female character for much of the story), with whom she developed a sister-like relationship.

All four of the inhabitants begin to experience supernatural events while in the house, including sounds and unseen spirits roaming the halls at night, 'blood' spattered on walls and among clothes, and other unexplained events. Eleanor tends to experience things to which the others are oblivious. At the same time, Eleanor may be losing touch with reality, and the narrative raises the possibility that at least some of the things that Eleanor witnesses are merely products of her imagination.

Many of the hauntings that occur throughout the book are only vaguely described, or else are partly hidden from the characters themselves. They might be in a bedroom with an unseen force trying the door, or Eleanor may realize after the fact that the hand she was holding in the darkness was not Theodora’s. In one episode, as Theodora and Eleanor walk outside Hill House at night, Theodora looks behind them and screams in fear for Eleanor to run, though the book never explains what Theodora saw.

By this point in the book it is becoming clear to the characters that the house is beginning to possess Eleanor. In fear for her safety, Doctor Montague declares that she must leave. But now under Hill House’s spell, Eleanor resists. The others practically have to force her into her car, but she then kills herself by crashing the car at full speed into a large oak tree on the property in order to defy them all and "stay" at a house she now regards as being her home.

Stephen King, in his non-fiction review of the horror medium, "Danse Macabre," lists The Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century and provides a lengthy review within its "Horror Fiction" section.


*1984, "The Haunting of Hill House", Penguin, ISBN 0-14-007108-3

ee also

* "The Haunting" (1963), the first film adaptation
* "The Haunting" (1999), the second adaptation, departs considerably from Jackson's story

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