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The Haunting of Hill House

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It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

182 pages, Paperback

First published October 16, 1959

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About the author

Shirley Jackson

302 books8,419 followers
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown America. In her critical biography of Shirley Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" was published in the June 28, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received." Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, "bewilderment, speculation and old-fashioned abuse."

Jackson's husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote in his preface to a posthumous anthology of her work that "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years." Hyman insisted the darker aspects of Jackson's works were not, as some critics claimed, the product of "personal, even neurotic, fantasies", but that Jackson intended, as "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb", to mirror humanity's Cold War-era fears. Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as revealed by Hyman's statement that she "was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned The Lottery', and she felt that they at least understood the story".

In 1965, Jackson died of heart failure in her sleep, at her home in North Bennington Vermont, at the age of 48.

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Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,356 followers
April 29, 2018
I'm falling in love with this book all over again as I re-read it. The premise is that of a science experiment--an academic exercise to test the reality of house-haunting. I love the fact that the opening pages essentially replicate the clinical nature of the premise: here's the chief investigator, here are the three other characters, all described at a clinical remove before we get into the "story" itself. A contemporary editor might have said: "Cut this out and get right to the story," but to me these opening pages are wonderful little character studies.

Then we follow Eleanor, the main character, as she takes the car she shares with her sister and drives to Hill House. Again, it takes a few pages to get there, but it allows for wonderful scenes where her imagination takes flight or where she interacts, awkwardly, with the townsfolk in the nearest small town. The interaction in the diner is classic Shirley Jackson--capturing the suspicion and unease and boredom of small town life.

Now for the house itself. I'd forgotten just what a genius description of the Hill House we're treated to when Eleanor first sees it. I find it fascinating that Jackson describes the house for nearly two pages without ever physically describing it, other than to say it's "enormous and dark" and has steps leading up to a veranda. And yet...we somehow know it intimately nonetheless. It's presented as being alive, as being almost a lover who "enshadows" Eleanor when she walks up those steps, and in that description you get not only a sense of the house itself, but a sense of Eleanor, of her loneliness and perhaps even madness. She's afraid of Hill House in the same way she'd be afraid of a lover. Here is this strong presence who threatens to swallow her up, and in a way, when she walks in, a sort of Gothic romance is born.

The moment when Eleanor first meets Theodora is so brilliantly done. Eleanor is at the top of the stairs, looking down, and she begins talking before you realize there's anyone else there. "Thank heaven you're here," she says. To whom? Is there anyone really? Maybe not! Maybe Eleanor is mad. It's a disorienting moment, and then Eleanor sees Mrs. Dudley, but Eleanor is still not described as seeing anyone else until Theodora introduces herself. But even then, there is no physical description of Theodora--there's just a voice: "I'm Theodora." Is this all in Eleanor's head? Wow.

There really is so little physical description of the other characters, with the possible exception of Doctor Montague, who's described as "round and rosy and bearded" and who "looked as though he might be more suitably established before a fire in a pleasant little sitting room, with a cat on his knee and a rosy little wife to bring him jellied scones....". I love that description, but what amazes even more is how the other characters really aren't described at all. Only the house is tangible in a way.

I love the playfulness in Shirley Jackson, and the first conversation, when all four characters are sitting around talking, is a marvelous example of it. They're playing a game, inventing whimsical characters for themselves, but all is not pure fun--there's the flash of Eleanor's jealousy when Theodora gives Luke a "quick, understanding glance"--the same kind of glance "she had earlier given Eleanor." Beneath the fun and games lies something deadly serious.

The relationship between Theodora and Eleanor makes me think of a major theme in this book--sisterhood. You have Eleanor and her sister, of course, at the beginning of the book, and then the tale of the orphaned sisters who lived in Hill House, and then Eleanor and Theodora themselves, who quickly become like sisters. All those relationships are marked and marred by jealousy, one that lies just beneath the polite surface of things. Fascinating.

Interesting to study how Jackson builds the sense of disquiet throughout the novel. She does it through so many small decisions like the one I mentioned earlier, where she doesn't physically describe her characters. There's also a wonderful moment at the beginning of Chapter 4, where Eleanor and Theodora wake up after the first (uneventful) night at Hill House. It's a small moment, yet so revealing of Jackson's technique. Theodora is in the bathroom, taking a bath. Eleanor is in her room, looking out the window. Then in the very next paragraph, with no transition whatsoever, Theodora is suddenly pounding on the bathroom door telling Eleanor to hurry up. What? It takes a moment to realize what has happened--to realize that now Eleanor is in the bath, and Theordora is outside waiting for her. It's a startling jump-cut, to use a movie term. Jackson is constantly doing that sort of thing, unsettling the reader's expectations, making us realize that anything can happen and we can't rely on the usual narrative logic. It's so subtle, yet so masterful.

I've been thinking of the line that Eleanor keeps quoting: "Journeys end in lovers meeting." I didn't know this before, but it's actually from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night--it's a line sung by the "fool" in that play. Does this have any significance for Jackson's novel? I'm not sure. It's an interesting line in and of itself--so revealing of Eleanor's romantic desires, the way she seems so attracted to Theodora and to Hill House itself. She has the overwhelming sense that she belongs here, that she's part of this slapdash "family" of people staying at the house. She's excited; she's happy; she's constantly afraid of "missing something." In short, she's having the time of her life. This is her journey's end, and she's met her lover (or lovers), and she relishes every moment.

But then things start to turn--the relationship between Eleanor and Theodora starts to fray. It's begins with something immensely small--Theodora painting Eleanor's toenails red without Eleanor's permission. It's a small moment, but Eleanor harkens back to it later, when Theodora is frightened by the bloody creepy words painted on her wall: HELP ELEANOR COME HOME ELEANOR. Theodora is badly shaken and they all wonder if it's really blood and, of course, who put it there. Suspicion immediately falls on Eleanor, and you can see her struggle with what to say, her thoughts veering back to the red of her toenails and focusing on the fact that Theodora will now have to stay in her room and wear her clothes, and you can't help wonder if all this is Eleanor's elaborate revenge. Even afterwards, as they're all sitting talking, Eleanor's anger can't help coming through in her thoughts. "I would like to hit her with a stick, Eleanor thought, looking down on Theodora's head beside her chair; I would like to batter her with rocks." We see the fraying not only of the relationship, but of Eleanor's mind. Suddenly she feels suddenly like an outsider, like someone who's apart from the others--she sees how they stare at her, how they scrutinize what she says, as odd things begin to slip out in her speech and she begins to wonder what she's been saying, how much she's been revealing of herself.

Mrs. Montague is a wonderful character who bursts onto the scene in all her grand foolishness. But like Shakespeare's fools, she is perceptive in her own way--in this case, about Eleanor's relationship with her mother, which is one of Eleanor's dark secrets and which Mrs. Montague perceives after her session with planchette (a Ouija board). There's a dark horror at the heart of it, which we can't quite grasp, and it's all conveyed by this great fool, and so shot through with her bombastic comedy, that it leaves the reader unsure whether to laugh or cringe (or both).

I will try not to give too much away of the ending. I'll just say that it's fascinating to watch Eleanor: her rage, her jealousy, her giddiness. How she perceives the other characters, how she watches them and listens to them and to the house itself, how she hurtles toward the end ("I am doing this all by myself, now, at last; this is me, I am really really really doing it by myself."). And then that amazing ending, recapitulating the opening, and that final word--"alone"--capturing a sense of the house as a sentient being much like Eleanor herself. Just breathtaking. A truly remarkable book.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
May 17, 2019

The Haunting of Hill House (1959) is justly revered as an exemplar of the horror genre, not only because its plot provides the template for all those haunted house tales to come, but also because its superb prose and subtle psychology transcend genre, transforming what might otherwise have been merely a sensational tale into a artful novel, worthy of a discerning reader.

The novel suffers from its own pervasive influence, for, as soon as it gets underway, it seems—whether or not you've seen either movie version—woefully familiar. Dr Montague (stuffy old scientific type), wishing to investigate a haunted house, enlists the aid of Eleanor (shy,retiring type), Theodora (flamboyant bohemian type), and Luke (handsome upper-class type), the heir to the house. At first, by daylight, things don't seem half-bad, but then night comes, and... well, you get idea. (Of course you do. You've heard it all before.)

What you have not heard before, however, is the intelligent tone or the distinctive music of her prose. Witness part of the description of Hill House, early in the second chapter, as seen through the eyes of Eleanor:
This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.
What a wonderful repetition of “for” in the last sentence! (Instead, I probably would have written “not a fit place for people, love, or hope.” And I would have been wrong.)

In addition to its prose, the book's subtle psychology—similar to James' Turn of the Screw--interests and entrances the reader with its ambiguity. Are the phenomena real or caused by one of the experimenters? Is the house possessing them, or is one of them possessing the house? Shirley Jackson is too good a writer to decide for us. We must choose to decide—or not to decide—for ourselves.

The book would have my highest praise except for the fact that the infuriating Mrs. Montague and her pompous friend Arthur Parker, brought in three-quarters of the way through to ease tension and give comic relief, are not only unnecessary but dissipate tension rather than relieve it. Besides, the laconic, creepy Mrs. Dudley (“I don't stay after six. Not after it begins to get dark.") is plenty of comic relief all by herself.

But Mrs. M. and her friend P. are but a minor flaw. Give The Haunting of Hill House a chance. It is, in addition to being a classic of the genre, an excellent novel.
Profile Image for Keith.
Author 12 books235 followers
January 19, 2009
Erm. This book was lent to me with the assurance that it was one of the ten-or-so greatest horror novels of all time.

So, just having finished it, I'm already forgetting having read it. The two stars it gets are because, quite literally, "it was ok" -- Jackson has an interesting writing style and an ear for consistent, if not always realistic, quirky dialogue. But the characters spend so much time being weirdly objective about their own fears that when bad stuff happens, I feel sort of...objective about it. The book veers between said objectivity and long hallucinatory 'scary' bits, but I found those bits sort of messily written and vague to the point of being coy, and just scanned through them.

I dunno, it's like a bunch of hipstery academic fucks try to have an adventure, and instead spend most of the time discussing the adventure they're currently having, instead of actually having it.

Oh, and the last ten pages got a little more focused and they were sort of creepy, but I was kind of forcing it because I really wanted to get something more out of the book than I actually did. The end.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.5k followers
September 22, 2023
Honestly, all you need to know about my reading experience with this book is the following:
- I never (EVER!!!!) get scared of books.
- My least favorite genre of movie is horror, because they're not scary and are therefore just ~boring~.
- I am obsessed with ghost stories but they are never satisfying to me.
- This book made me so frightened, in broad daylight, at 10 am with my roommate in the next room and a cat on my lap, that I had to put it down.

This book is The Blueprint.

Also I felt a huge affection for the characters, I loved the writing, I felt the spirals and the rollercoasters alongside our protagonist, and the ending was...chef's kiss.

Already raised this from a 4 to a 4.5...now wondering if I should raise it higher.

Bottom line: Just remembered I drunkenly lent my copy of this to my neighbor. DON'T LET DRUNK ME NEAR MY BOOKS EVER AGAIN.


yes i DID finish reading this in the wee hours of Halloween night under a full moon. thank you for asking.

review to come / 4.5 stars

currently-reading updates

feel like i'm legally obligated to read this in october
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
October 29, 2020
”No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

The opening paragraph gives me my first tingle of unease. ”Whatever walked there, walked alone.” I am already conjuring up malevolent thoughts about what kind of creature could be haunting the hallways of Hill House in the dead of night. Is it a ghost, demon, beast, or something new? Or is it just a manifestation of fear, unattached to anything existing outside the mind?

Dr. John Montague wants to conduct a thorough, scientific investigation of Hill House. He has asked Eleanor Vance, Theodora, just Theodora, and Luke Sanderson to join him. Eleanor and Theodora are selected because they have experienced phenomenon before, and both exhibit minds that are more receptive to psychic and telekinetic occurrences. Luke is the heir of Hill House and the host of this inquiry.

Mrs. Dudley, caretaker from a nearby town, is only in the house during very regimented times to serve meals.

”’I don’t stay after I set out dinner,‘ Mrs. Dudley went on. ‘Not after it begins to get dark. I leave before dark comes.’

‘I know,’ Eleanor said.

‘We live over in the town, six miles away.’

‘Yes,’ Eleanor said, remembering Hillsdale.

‘So there won’t be anyone around if you need help.’

‘I understand.’

‘We couldn’t even hear you, in the night.’

‘I don’t suppose---’

‘No one could. No one lives any nearer than the town. No one else will come any nearer than that.’

‘I know,’ Eleanor said tiredly.

‘In the night,’ Mrs. Dudley said, and smiled outright. ‘In the dark,’ she said, and closed the door behind her.

Eleanor almost giggled, thinking of herself calling, ‘Oh, Mrs. Dudley, I need your help in the dark,’ and then she shivered.”

Mrs. Dudley, despite being creepy on par with Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca, actually provides some comic relief throughout the story as her pedantic adherence to keeping to a specific time table amuses the guests and relieves some of the growing oppressiveness of fear that the house is beginning to impose upon the guests. Later when Mrs. Montague, wife of the doctor, and her chauffeur Arthur arrive, they, too, provide some comic relief through her fussiness and bossiness and Arthur’s boneheaded machismo.

If horror is handled right, especially in films, the audience should have moments where they gasp, cringe, and laugh, sometimes all at the same time. Shirley Jackson understood that people in terrifying situations are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, to the point that giggling and screaming are equally normal reactions to adverse conditions. Instead of being annoying, Mrs. Dudley’s insistence on structure in the midst of chaos is hilarious.

Eleanor is the central character to the story. With the death of her mother, she is finally free to experience life. When the summons from Montague comes, she is determined to attend the investigation at Hill House. Even if someone had told her the house contains a cult and she was destined to be sacrificed on a blood altar, it would not have deterred her. She attaches herself to Luke and then to Theodora. It is easy to see that she has never really had friends before and is hungry for acceptance.

Theodora is beautiful, cruel, and caring in equal measures. She is living with a “friend,” and somehow, without Jackson writing a word of corroboration, I catch a whiff of lesbianism which, of course, if spelled out, would have been too much for an audience in 1959 and would have overwhelmed and detracted from the plot. Still, I love the way Jackson so cunningly plants the seed in the dark of the night, and it is morning before I realize that I have been left a clue.

The house reacts to Eleanor the most, with sprawled messages evoking her name. She hears things and sees things that the others cannot. The transition is interesting to experience as Eleanor goes from being irritated and terrified about being singled out to finding it strangely comforting. ”None of them heard it, she thought with joy; nobody heard it but me.” If people won’t accept her, maybe a haunted house will.

The house is built at angles, in such a way that a person is perpetually discombobulated. The compass in the mind is confused as rooms that one thinks should be just overhead are actually on the other side of the house. The front door appears where it logically shouldn’t be. Even with other people around, everyone feels isolated and untethered. Those feelings are continually magnified by occurrences that give the house power beyond what an inanimate object should have.

Manifestations happen. The air turns Arctic cold in spots. They are tricked by illusions. Something knocks on their doors vigorously enough to nearly spring the hinges. The question of who or what is behind all this remains elusive, but the chills and thrills continue to frighten. ”Little pattings came from around the doorframe, small seeking sounds, feeling the edges of the door, trying to sneak a way in. The doorknob was fondling, and Eleanor, whispering, asked, ‘Is it locked?’ and Theodora nodded…”

No one is as affected as Eleanor, and soon the Doctor realizes that he has to get her out of the house, but Eleanor feels like she has finally come home. Someone, something wants her. “I am really doing it, I am doing this all by myself, now, at last; this is me, I am really really really doing it by myself.”

Skeptics and believers can both read and enjoy this story. Jackson leaves much up to the reader to interpret. Bread crumbs lead the reader down a hallway only to see the crumbs split into two paths going opposite directions. Your natural tendencies will lead you down the path of your own choosing. Whatever conclusions you come to will be supportable and refutable. The one thing I hope we can all agree on is that this is a masterpiece and this story’s influence on literature is incontestable.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Profile Image for Maria.
67 reviews8,578 followers
February 16, 2020
1,6/5 Stars ⭐️⭐️

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.��

This book was so conflicting to me... not in terms of the plot but it terms of WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE IT? It was literally a void of a book, a very bizarre and extravagant but not really book. It's a 240 page lil booky thing, which contained roughly 50 pages of actual plot and moved like a fucking snail. I just don't get it.

Before I bought this book, I had watched the Netflix series based on it. It was truly excellent, on the horror aspect but the characterization aspect too. This book has nothing of the sort. The characters are unlikable but not the "good unlikable" if you know what I'm saying. I like reading about weird and unlikable characters but I need depth, fun, incentive, I need things to keep me going. These characters did nothing for me.

It's basically a weird 70s soap opera, with characters having conversations all day about meaningless things, insulting each other in weird ways, and loving each other in even weirder ones, set in a haunted house which shows its horror elements for like... two seconds. I just didn't give a shit man!

Overall, maybe it's me not the book, idk. I was bored half the time, didn't care the other half and I wanted it to just E N D. I would have DNFed it, but I never DNF books because my bitch ass can't afford to. DON'T READ THIS BITCH, I'M SCREAMING AT YOU. Watch the Netflix adaptation, and I never say this about books becoming forms of other media, but I do now. It's like... 95% different from this book, as far as I'm concerned so go for it. K bye!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
965 reviews6,841 followers
November 1, 2022
Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within…

Of all the haunted places, your own mind can be the most terrifying. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House interplays between supernatural and psychological horror where a twisted and sinister haunted house hellbent on isolation becomes a representation of a mind twisted by trauma and full of its own ghosts, and it is a truly remarkable and unsettling read. ‘To learn what we fear is to learn who we are,’ Jackson writes, ‘horror defies our boundaries and illuminates our souls,’ and the lingering effects of Hill House are the introspective fears that haunt our minds even after the shivers have stopped running down our spine after closing the book. It is a book that destabilizes and disturbs the reader as much as the characters, giving us only enough information to keep going and leaving much to the very same imagination that we worry is growing teeth to gnash at our sanity. Following Elanor and the small team who has chosen to live in and study the house and are written much like a group therapy session, The Haunting of Hill House is a foreboding and frightful examination of loneliness and mental health where the inner demons might just be more terrifying than those that go bump in the night.

I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.

Honestly, this book is my cup of stars and I have returned to it often. Did I just make my bookclub read this so I could finally write a proper review? YUP. Hill House has become a classic, not just of horror but American literature in general, being a prototype for many haunted house books (it could arguably be the quintessential haunted house story) and films and lauded by authors such as Stephen King who references it in several of his novels. A more recent novel, Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt, reconfigures entire passages from Hill House, examining the themes about isolation in a socio-political context about creeping fascism. This book has held a grip on readers since it first appeared in 1959 and it is a book that certainly haunts you after reading it. There is a ferocious tension that keeps you turning pages, and the minimal amount of information—only giving the barest of exposition when absolutely needed—keeps you caught in its grasp and untethered from the world.

The menace of the supernatural is that it attacks where modern minds are weakest, where we have abandoned our protective armor of superstition and have no substitute defense.

This effect is similar to the house itself, isolated in the hills and giving off a frightening exterior visage and uneasy interior as the walls never meet at right angles and everything is vaguely off-kilter. Just looking at the house is enough to unsettle the guests.
No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.

Much of this impression is part of the larger theme of isolation: the house is isolated from the world and thus isolating the team staying inside which is exponentially more psychologically damaging to Eleanor who is already emotionally isolated from society through her traumatic upbringing. Having been the caretaker of her mother for years, her mothers death left her free but without any of the financial or social skills to form much of a sense of self. Her awkward interactions with the rest of the team staying at the house demonstrate her fragile sense of self and the interplay between Theodora and Luke points out that even her own sexuality is stunted and unclear to her. ‘I am a kind of stray cat, aren’t I?’ she admits when Theodora points out she has no real place in the outside world of her own, despite having concocted lies about slowly putting together her ideal apartment. Shoutout to Theodora though for being the best character, and a whole essay could be written about how she is clearly queer-coded but the lack of direct mention about her “friend” and other vague descriptions of her life not only fit the destabalizing effect of the novel but represent the repression and social ostracization of queer people during the time of the novel.

During the whole underside of her life, ever since her first memory, Eleanor had been waiting for something like Hill House.

I love how the novel moves from such a bright and optimistic opening, with Eleanor feeling fresh in her rebellious act of independence, thriving on the imagery of innocence in the cup of stars, and hopefully repeating the line ‘journeys end in lovers meeting,’ only for the book to very rapidly spiral into trauma and darkness. The sea-change of tone hits you like a sudden and violent mood swing, which is very indicative as to what Eleanor herself is experiencing, and Jackson’s control over tone and atmosphere is a memorable aspect of the book. It also helps demonstrate how fear takes hold and becomes another element of isolation. ‘When I am afraid,I can see perfectly the sensible, beautiful, not-afraid side of the world,’ Eleanor says, ‘But when I am afraid I no longer exist in any relation to these things.’ The fears in the house are isolating her from the outside world, from the rational world, and she is spiraling into it. As Doctor Montague says ‘Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns.’ The mind, under the strain of trauma, can become its own haunted house.

“I think we are only afraid of ourselves," the doctor said slowly.
"No," Luke said. "Of seeing ourselves clearly and without disguise.”

Another aspect I love about the book is how much the group is like a group therapy session. There is the doctor and his crew and their interactions are all based of psychological aspects of one another in the face of trauma. I enjoy when the doctor’s wife barges in with her gun-toting assistant Arthur (who seems a complete foil character to the doctor himself) and we see the isolating effects of the house on the group: it is like reality suddenly shining in and exposing how much deteriorates inside the home. The flat affect of Mrs. Dudley while in the house might also represent how much her outside life is suddenly stripped away while in the home: we view her solely through her interaction with the house and anything else is barely a whisper in the dark…in the night… as she says. Mrs. Montague, and her occult tests likely represent alternative methods of therapy and I enjoy the interplay here that seems to hint at the expanding realm of psychotherapy that was going on in the 50s and 60s.

Best of all in this book is the way the house is written as being truly alive. Alive in dark history and alive in personifications of the house ‘watching you’ or, the best, the house being ‘not sane.’ I love the idea of the house as having mental health, which, essentially, is what the book is directed at. From the very start we are told ‘whatever walked there, walked alone,’ which makes for the most sinister of foreshadowing to a house that would be writing ‘come home’ in blood. Eleanor is a stray cat and the house has laid bait for her, a welcoming embrace that could very well be the embrace of death. It is wickedly well written and the true terror is wondering what bait could wait for us, primed and ready to plunge us into the finality of death and ‘alone’ by playing with our mind to walk straight into the trap.

Certainly there are spots which inevitably attach to themselves an atmosphere of holiness and goodness; it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad.

A classic in terror and psychological literature, Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a terrifying treat that I return to every few years to enjoy. Dark and foreboding, this book lays out the most well crafted atmosphere to draw you into the darkness and then strikes into basic fears of loneliness that makes it really resonate. A perfect spooky season read, but enjoyable at any time of year, I love this book and I hope you might too.

Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
December 6, 2020
This book is not about fear but rather about the love of being afraid--for the ravenous gauging of limits. Adrenaline is searched for.... neurosis & a dreadful collective paranoia ensues. & cause, naturally, follows effect.

"Books are frequently very good carriers... Materializations are often best produced in rooms where there're books. I cannot think of any time when material was in any way hampered by the presence of books." [186]

There is an aura of authentic literary splicing here: the psychological novel (think Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper") and the horror of microsocieties doing their malignant will-type stories (think "The Lottery", as exceptional a short story as this is a superb haunted house prototype, an ingenious fountainhead for all future horror maestros to drink from). The haunted house is in actuality a person who is on the precipice, the verge of disaster; here is the quintessential tome about the inner demons becoming unleashed and wreaking havoc in horrific ways.

A handsome legend, an essential myth. There would be significantly scant haunted house lore without this gothic gem.



October 28, 2022

My Views-

There was once an authoress with a dogged-determination,
To give her readers heebie-jeebies,
By weaving a plot around a notorious deranged Victorian Hill-House,
Standing tall for 80 years,
With an impressive long-list of tragedies in it’s honour.
We all live and die somewhere, afterall!
She constructed a tale of sheer-brilliance,
for her readers to construe.
Is it a tale of the supernatural? Maybe yes…..
Is it a tale of psychiatric anomalies? Maybe yes….
Is it a tale of the subconscious deciphering the real-life battles and the more? Maybe yes…..
Is it a tale of self-deception? Maybe yes…..
Who knows, maybe one of the above or all!
Read it for yourself, to know!!! 😊

A middle-aged quizzical professor of anthropology, Dr. Montague, an occult scholar, invites three folks with telekinetic abilities, to support his research in unravelling the mystery of the Hillhouse, for his research paper.

Out of the three, one is Theodora, an ebullient, open-minded young woman, with telepathic abilities, exhibiting a contrast of kindness and selfishness!

Another one is, Eleanor, spending major youth in nursing the deceased mother, dreamy, self-declared inconsequential-being, carries a truckload of repressed emotions!

The third one to join is, Luke Sanderson, the heir of the Sanderson family and the representative of the Hill house. He is roguish!

Once the gang, starts living in the house, there are multiple events, that leave them flummoxed, finally leading to a legit end!

Many may find the ending to be frizzled-out, but for me, there could not have been any better ending to such a novel, that embodies not only a supernatural element, but much more!

Weighing a novel with few hundred pages, it holds ambiguity, relatability to all the characters (we end-up meeting such characters and living these traits for ourselves), an evenly-paced plot, state-of-art writing, and above all there is a hill-house!!

For me, the hill-house isn’t a non-living entity, but a living entity, and another character in the novel. With multitude of hallways, doors, and the complex gothic architecture, it shouts out, eeriness, darkness, grimness, chaos and dysfunction. This dysfunction emits into the plot, to the highest degree! If you take away the dark and grimly architecture of the Hillhouse from the novel, then no element of gothicism or excitement remains!

A sure-shot scary 5-stars, for this subversive classic-horror!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
December 4, 2013
Shirley Jackson, you saucy little devil, where have you been all my life? I never knew she could spread prose like this. This is an impressive bit of work and definitely belongs among the classics of literate horror novels.

Right from the first pitch, you can see that Ms Jackson…Shirl…is smitten with language and she uses it to great effect to create an emotionally charged, disorientating atmosphere with healthy heapings of melodrama. Very gothic in feel and actually reminded me of Wuthering Heights as far as the sense of emotional bleakness and dread that pervaded the narrative. I say this a good thangalang as I am a true fanboy of Wuthering Heights.

I thought Shirl's writing style was smooth and glassy and had nice flow. It was also an utter mind-trip and I blew my whole thought-wad trying to keep up with her conflicting back and forth sense of "is it real or unreal” "is it genuine horror or psychological terror.” I admit by the end of this fairly short novel I was as drained and spent as a sailor on a weekend pass to Vegas.

On the surface, this appears to be a classic haunted house story with a professor of the supernatural renting Hill House in order to investigate the mysterious phenomena rumored to have occurred within its oddly angled walls. Along with Dr. X-file, we have a Luke (one of the heirs to the house), Theodora and Eleanor. Eleanor is our troubled main protag who has had a happlyless life of playing recluse while taking care of her ungrateful mommie dearest.

I don’t want to give away the plot so I will just say that almost immediately upon arriving at Hill House, the guests begin to experience “oddness” in the form of lost emotional control, muddled thinking, unusual feelings and unexplained sensations and occurrences...sort of like alcohol but no where near as pleasant. These events begin to wear on each of them, however, nothing overtly supernatural is shown to the reader.

That is what was so yummy about the story is that Shirl leaves it up to the reader to determine what is really going on. One thing is very clear though…Hill House and people do not a good combination make and there is a growing sense of dread over the whole narrative from the very beginning. The terror is psychological (whether real or not) and the horror is all about atmosphere and “what if” rather than in your face. Makes of a chilling, intelligent tale.

To sum up...a terrific gothic story. Well written, engaging and with what I thought was a Fergaluscious ending that fit perfectly with the rest of the narrative. I think this is a novel that could stay with you and should become even better upon subsequent readings. 4.0 to 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Julie G.
897 reviews2,930 followers
October 5, 2018
Hand me my damn smelling salts. . . please.

I feel like I'm recovering from the flu, finishing this read.

It's been a disorienting time. . . just like a nasty run-in with influenza: headaches, sleeplessness, fever, delusions. . . no cure for you until it's over.


I talked to this book (always the scariest and most sincere sign of my personal devotion).

I apologized to Shirley Jackson (aloud, in my room, alone).

I asked her to forgive me for not reading this before. This ridiculously short, little bullet of a brilliant novel that came out in 1959.

I mean. . . could it be more current?

More essential for all writers?

More intriguing for anyone. . . anyone who loves to get lost in a story?

Could it be more. . . wait for it. . . labyrinthine? (Never used that bad boy before, so, jazz hands).

And Eleanor. . .

Oh, Eleanor!!

I belonged to Eleanor, and she to me, by page 3:

Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. . . She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair.

Sob and cringe, and who can't relate on some level to an adult who feels completely alone in this world?

By the time Eleanor admits her truth to the small crowd at Hill House, she had my affection so completely, I had to put down the book, I was so moved by her honesty:

I haven't any apartment. . . I made it up. I sleep on a cot at my sister's, in the baby's room. I haven't any home, no place at all. . . No home. Everything in all the world that belongs to me is in a carton in the back of my car. That's all I have, some books and things I had when I was a little girl, and a watch my mother gave me. So you see there's no place you can send me.

The 1950s was a cruel time for a single female, and, frankly, it's not that much better now. A woman who can fit all of her possessions in one car and declares that a haunted house is the only place she belongs. . .

Well, I cried right on the damn book.

Oh, and in case you're wondering. . . yes, the story is scary as hell.
Profile Image for Shawn.
800 reviews239 followers
June 2, 2009
Why rehash what the 5 star reviewers say below? Why even engage the lame arguments by the people who didn't enjoy the book (weak ending? unrealistic dialogue!? not enough happens!?! Christ, people, have an imagination! - although I will say this, they don't seem to be teaching kids what an "unreliable narrator" is in school nowadays, as this book is all about Eleanor's weak and self-centered take on her surroundings and how that slowly gets worked over by Hill House - so an unreliable narration subsumed by an even less reliable narration)

Needless to say, if you like subtle, amazing writing (an ending that, if you have any kind of human feelings, should tear your heart out); if you like well-drawn characters who are of their times and psychologically complicated (yes, educated people did actually talk wittily to each other in days of yore - it was called the art of conversation - now go tweet someone about that awful egg McMuffin[tm:] you just ate) and astonishing well-controlled pacing and suspense (what was chasing them on the black, black path with the white, white trees? I'm sure happy I wasn't told, as not knowing was much more effective) then just pick up a copy of this, one of the finest supernatural novels ever written, lock the house, light a candle and relax. And PAY ATTENTION, because every detail is important. And don't trust the narrator, because she can't trust herself.

This isn't a typical, structured review for me - THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is too well known to tread the ground with a plot synopsis. I will add this little idea that came to me (and which I posted on over in the Horror boards):

Since the house seems to not be "haunted" by a spirit, in a traditional "haunted house" way (it certainly doesn't seem to be manifesting something/someone specific), because it seems to be an entity unto itself ("Hill House, Hill House, Hill House" mocks Theo in a wonderfully subtle scene that proves her telepathy) and because of some comments made by Eleanor late in the book, when, nearly gone and identifying wholly with the house and not her friends, she refers to their "clumsy, heavy, roughness" - I started to wonder if the answer to the question "what haunts Hill House?" isn't maybe - Dr. Montague and his team of psychics! Hill House seems to be an entity unto itself and maybe it is irritated and pained by these weak, sensitive, emotional creatures infesting it and wants them out of the picture so it can continue to walk alone.

An amazing book by an amazing writer. Respect it as much as Shirley Jackson respects you, the reader.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,612 reviews10.7k followers
October 4, 2022
When I was in college, a little film called The Haunting was released. Starring Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, this Supernatural Horror flick was essentially a modern re-imagining of Shirley Jackson's, The Haunting of Hill House.

My Mom and I went see it at the theater and I promptly fell in love.

Soon after, I was able to buy it on VHS ((I know, right!?!)) and commenced watching it 2,638,450 times. I wish this was an exaggeration, but sadly, it is not.

I had never read the original source material. As a matter of fact, this is the first time that I have read this 1959-Classic of Horror fiction.

I finally decided to pick it up, spurred on by the celebration of 'Women in Horror Fiction' month.

I listened to the audiobook and was able to get through it quite quickly.

It is a short book, at just under 200-pages, and the narrator was absolutely fabulous. I was so invested in the story. Her voice was mesmerizing and seemed to transport me into that damn house!

I think my early love of the film version, The Haunting, really helped me to imagine the whole narrative.

I will say, after listening to this, that they did a great job in casting that film.

Seriously, Lily Taylor IS Nell. I loved Jackson's creation of her character.

The mousy, sheltered girl who finally gains her freedom after what had to be a traumatic experience of years caring for her ailing mother.

I know, I know. Meg, this is supposed to be a book review, but I couldn't write this review without mentioning that movie, as I know it has impacted my reading experience.

I truly enjoyed this book. The build-up, the atmosphere and the suspense. It was such a ride.

I thought the supernatural, or alleged supernatural elements, were so well done.

I had many spine-chilling, look over your shoulder, moments with this. It was great time.

The character interactions were a high point. I believed their relationships and connections to one another.

Each feeling compelled to participate for their own, very different, reasons. I especially enjoyed the complex relationship between Nell and Theo. Then we get to the ending...

Things were rolling along so nicely and then, POOF, we are finished.

A friend of mine explained it as such: it's like she was writing this great book and then she just got tired of writing it. I agree with that completely.

Done with this project, drop mic, exit.

Even with this in mind though, I did really enjoy my time with this story. I may even revisit it again someday.

This should be appreciated for the great piece of Classic Horror literature that it truly is. It has influenced so many other stories and for that, I doff my cap to Shirley Jackson.

A true pioneer in the genre.

Profile Image for Joe.
Author 526 books25.5k followers
November 22, 2016
The Sgt Pepper and the Citizen Kane of ghost stories.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,060 reviews69.5k followers
May 2, 2023
I was a bit surprised that The Haunting of Hill House had a scary vibe to it. A lot of these classic horror stories don't. Not really.
They're all psychological and you end up with some sort of abstruse feeling that the characters might just be weirdly disturbed or flat-out crazy.
Not so with this one.
Hill House is fucking haunted.


The gist is that this professor (John) wants to gather hard evidence that the paranormal is real, and invites a small group of strangers who have some rather suspect psychic gifts.
Theo guessed a bunch of cards right, Eleanor had her house pelted with rocks when she was 9 or 10, and Luke is going to eventually inherit the infamous Hill House.
As far as being in touch with the spirit world, I was unimpressed with the guest list. In fact, if that was the best I could find, I would have packed up my Ouji board and gone home.


But apparently, John didn't have that luxury. Partly, I suspect, because his wife (who shows up later) was one of those idiotic people who feel they have been touched with a mystic gift and manage to see the paranormal in everything. Oh, you all know the type I'm talking about. They're convinced that their {insert dead relative here} is always sending them signs - because they're just soooo receptive to that sort of thing. They're also usually the ones who are convinced that their house has a benign spirit of some child that wanders around flipping on lights and moving their remotes.
Ok, hold on, Sally Supernatural! I'm not saying that the otherworldly doesn't exist. I've seen some freaky shit that I can't quite explain. But I don't think that my Nana is trying to contact me by making that rust stain in the driveway look like Jesus.
Anyway. The point is, I think the dude who hosted this little shindig at Hill House didn't have much to look forward to if he backed out of it.


But this isn't John's story, even if he set everything in motion. No, this whole thing revolves around Eleanor - a woman who spent her youth caring for her invalid mother and has nothing to show for it. When the best thing to ever happen to you is getting an invitation to spend the summer in a haunted house, you know life has let you down.


Anyway. Hill House wants Eleanor.
And nobody else really does, you know?
So does that make Hill House evil? Or maybe Hill House is just has a soft spot for people who need a home?
If that's the case, then maybe it's not such a bad thing...


Ok. No, just kidding. That's terrifying. <--for me.
But Eleanor's life was sucky enough that I was sort of like, Meh, why not give the house a shot, girl? What?! It's not like she had a lot to look forward to.


Make no mistake, this isn't going to give most readers the heebie-jeebies, but at least there's some sort of a definite demonic presence here. Even if I feel like said demonic presence has a fondness for losers and weirdos.
And I'd definitely recommend it over a lot of the classics I've read that others have claimed to be scary but just kinda pussed out with an ambiguous ending.

Publisher: Phoenix Books, Inc.
Edition: Unabridged
David Warner - Narrator
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,256 reviews1,129 followers
April 24, 2023
"Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

This comes from the opening to The Haunting of Hill House, a 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, an American writer who died far too young at the age of 48. It is a supernatural horror novel, a classic in the genre, although it is more likely to chill you to the marrow than to churn your stomach, relying more on terror rather than horror. There is some explicit horror, as well as much that is implied, but the blood is more likely to be running down the walls than gushing from dismembered body parts. The Haunting of Hill House owes much to Edgar Allan Poe, and is also in the tradition of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw". Stephen King has credited Shirley Jackson as a great influence on his writing, and other authors such as Neil Gaiman and Nigel Kneale also owe a lot to her work.

The story revolves around four main characters, Dr. John Montague, Eleanor Vance - who is the shy viewpoint character - Theodora, a more confident independent young woman artist, and the irresponsible Luke Sanderson - the young heir to Hill House. Plus, of course, the house itself, which could be viewed as an evil, malevolent character. It has had a history of suicide and violent deaths, which Dr. Montague explains to the three young people, thereby nicely building up the tension in the novel. Hill House had been built 80 years earlier by an unpleasant individual named Hugh Crain, who seemed to delight in making the house's dimensions as twisted and contrary to what the human eye perceives as attractive design, as possible.

"No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice."

The brooding atmosphere is established right at the start. Dr. Montague has invited these three to spend the summer at Hill House as his guests, selecting them because of their past experiences with the paranormal, and renting the house knowing of its reputation for psychic disturbance and being "possessed". He is hoping to find scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural.

"Dr. John Montague was a doctor of philosophy; he had taken his degree in anthropology, feeling obscurely that in this field he might come closest to his true vocation, the analysis of supernatural manifestations. He was scrupulous about the use of his title because, his investigations being so utterly unscientific, he hoped to borrow an air of respectability, even scholarly authority, from his education."

Although he is ostensibly an "expert", the reader is aware from this passage that Dr. Montague is really as green as the others about supernatural events. Thus the story is set up to be a tale of a group of innocents, set against powers of possibly unlimited evil. The reader enjoys their modern scepticism, their jokiness with each other, their repeated avowals that they do not believe anything awful could possibly happen in this ugly old house. And the reader waits.

Because sure enough things do happen. This is a superbly crafted book, the suspense being being wound up in a tightly controlled way, whilst the novel stays very readable. The relationships between the four change. Their friendliness becomes mistrust. Jealousies and petty spites rear their heads. They no longer trust each other. There are many strange events and inexplicable experiences. But are they real? How can the material evidence of spiritual manifestations just disappear? Are they just imagination? Even the reader is less and less sure.

Here is a description of young Eleanor, socially inexperienced and trying to finally break out of her mould,

"She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair. Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words."

Is it significant that most of the phenomena is experienced by her? Are the others really oblivious, or just being kind? Is she perhaps losing touch with reality, and imagining these events? We only have Eleanor's view of the events and people after all, and this may be unreliable. Or does she subconsciously have a telekinetic ability which causes many of the disturbances? We know right at the start of the novel that she had been selected by Dr. Montague because of her early childhood experiences with episodes of poltergeist-like phenomena, although she has no memory of them. Even Eleanor herself wonders if she is responsible,

"Now we are going to have a new noise, Eleanor thought, listening to the inside of her head; it is changing. The pounding had stopped, as though it had proved ineffectual, and there was now a swift movement up and down the hall, as of an animal pacing back and forth with unbelievable impatience, watching first one door and then another, alert for a movement inside, and there was again the little babbling murmur which Eleanor remembered; Am I doing it? She wondered quickly, is that me? And heard the tiny laughter beyond the door, mocking her."

But then there is the house. They all feel the malevolence of the house,

"It watches," he added suddenly. "The house. It watches every move you make."

Is there something in the bricks and mortar? Is there a memory of past evils somehow imprinted in the walls? Is there a spirit or ghost in the house, or somehow attracted or conjured up by one of the party?

When the tension is at its highest, and terror is finally taking over the characters, we are introduced to a new character. We have already had the dour housekeeper Mrs. Dudley, a creepy soul straight out of innumerable gothic novels, with her repeated mantra,

"I clear breakfast at ten o'clock. I set on lunch at one. Dinner I set on at six. It's ten o'clock."

Full of fear and ignorance, she nevertheless relishes what she sees as the young people's gradual acceptance and horror of what they had in their innocence initially scoffed at. She warns, with dark forboding,

"We couldn't even hear you, in the night....
No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one else will come any nearer than that."
"I know," Eleanor said tiredly.
"In the night," Mrs. Dudley said, and smiled outright. "In the dark," she said..."

Mrs. Dudley visits the novel regularly with her doom and gloom, but much later we have the visit of the doctor's wife which had been expected, and these episodes provide much-needed humour, dry wit and irony. It is a welcome contrast.

Dr. Montague throughout tries to keep his scholar's attitude, as with his earlier contention, that,

"Fear ... is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway."

But as the inevitable conclusion is reached, the characters seem less and less in control. The ending is dramatic, and unexpected when it occurs. There have been red herrings; we expected drama and tragedy at various places, and there are still ambiguities.

This by any standards is a very good read, but it is the reader's own imagination which provides much of the terror. The most frightening part of the book for me lay in the five simple words,

"Whose hand was I holding?"

because of the context in which they were written - because of what had gone before. It is a chilling and macabre story about the power of fear, and a large part of this fear is the fear anticipated by the reader. A reader who claims not to find it frightening probably has different expectations. Don't expect the author to describe physical torture, disembowelment, or gruesome entrails. She doesn't, and if this is what you seek in a horror novel you will be disappointed.

If however you are intrigued by the psychological component, the nature of fright, the parameters of human sanity, the possibility - however remote - of the supernatural haunting of a house, then you will find this to be a very satisfying example of the craft.

"Journeys end in lovers meeting; I have spent an all but sleepless night, I have told lies and made a fool of myself, and the very air tastes like wine. I have been frightened half out of my foolish wits, but I have somehow earned this joy; I have been waiting for it for so long."
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,952 followers
August 9, 2019
I got this from the library and I can't figure out what to rate it so I had to go with a 3 for right now.

Here's the thing. I loved the movies better than the book. But I did enjoy the crazy, through the rabbit hole ness of the book. It's not scary in the least. Not to me anyway. But it's good weird and just uggg I can't explain it.

Anyway, sorry so short. I don't feel that good. I wanted to do a longer review on this one. 😕

Mel ❤️
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
June 9, 2020
i started this book expecting horror and what i got instead was terror. i wasnt so much spooked by the creepy things happening, but concerned by the implications of psychological torment. scary in its own right, but not the kind of scary i was hoping for. which is probably a good thing as i wont be having any nightmares tonight.

that being said, while i found the writing/language itself to be very effective, the overall pacing and minimal substance kind of disappointed me. the characters are unlikable and i just didnt care for many of the scenes where they just sitting around, talking. although there are only a few ‘scary’ moments that are quite brief, i do like how the overall structure allows time for the reader to wonder if the events are supernatural in nature or completely psychological.

overall, not the best, but not the worst either.

3 stars
Profile Image for Luvtoread.
512 reviews300 followers
October 13, 2018
What a great classic horror story! It just may be one of the best, because of the year she wrote this book
truly makes it unique and a precursor of all or most of the haunted house stories to be written thereafter.
The movie The Haunting old b&w based on this story is excellent and truly scary and creepy especially for that era
and so eerie and suspenseful and no blood and gore just an old fashioned scare the wits out of you haunted house story!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
November 11, 2017
Weird, weird book.

But well worth the time reading it.

Jackson was a masterful storyteller, using a minimalistic approach and a terse, almost journalistic narrative, she creates a mood and sense of expectancy and mystery that grips the reader slowly and completely and lasts until the very end.

And unlike other ghost stories that struggle with an ending, Jackson's haunted house tale brilliantly ends with the same mystery and psychological tension as the narrative held throughout, she leaves the reader without a falsely satisfying conclusion.

A very good story told by a very good writer.

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,307 reviews44k followers
September 7, 2022
This is another horror masterpiece and one of the best choices to read on Halloween month to sharpen your facing to your fears skills!

The original story has so many differences from the adaptation of Netflix series. It’s pure diabolical, brain cell twister, heart pounder, nerve bender! It gives everything I dreamed of : so eerie, so soul shaking, so disturbing and so bleak haunting mansion theme! My nerves are tenser than guitar strings. You can play “Stairway to heaven” with them!

The story centered on four visitors of this haunted, bleak, extremely claustrophobic mansion! Dr. Montague organizes the group as an occult to find the real proof of supernatural entities in this place. Her reluctant assistant Theodora, a shy woman named Eleanor who has experienced to the encounters with poltergeists from her early childhood become volunteers to join him as the other guests nicely reject his kind request. The house’s bohemian, young future heir Luke is the fourth member of their team.

Dr. Montague concentrates on ominous history of the place: so many people lose their minds, ending their lives by committing suicide and as you may imagine strange things start to occur. As like her childhood times, Eleanor seems like connected with other entities, gaining telekinesis power: moving objects without even touch them, losing her ability to different the nightmares and reality.

The tension gets bigger and you start to feel like you’re locked in this cursed place, the doors are closing on your face, barely breathing, screaming but no words come out! This is kind of classic you have to read this special times when sun is on Scorpio as you curving the pumpkins, whistling: “you should see me in crown” as your evil laughs kills the silence!

Take my five everlasting, horrifying, one of the best Jackson novel ever stars and pour me more wine!!!

Have a spooky upcoming Halloween week to everyone!
Profile Image for  Teodora .
329 reviews1,771 followers
May 7, 2023
3.35/5 ⭐

Completely honest now, this wasn't a terrible read but it did not blow me away either.
I felt like nothing really happened, not even a tiny psychological scare-jump. It was more like a hide-and-seek game where the characters were after something but they couldn't exactly find out what. Like no one could put a finger on what was going on.

I'll have to say, the whole atmosphere was authentic, I liked it. And the characters were well individualised, but they were very odd in the sense that they seemed to have extreme mood swings in 3 seconds time, laced with some sort of ADHD.

Yes, there were some creepy psychological thrillings happening in there, but it did not live to my kind of hype. It was a decent read, I appreciate the whole atmosphere and somehow the oddity of the characters, but it's not really a book that impressed me to tears.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
April 22, 2022
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller (Introduction)

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 Gothic horror novel by American author Shirley Jackson.

Hill House is a mansion in a location that is never specified but is between many hills.
The story concerns four main characters:
Dr. John Montague, an investigator of the supernatural;
Eleanor Vance, a shy young woman who resents having lived as a recluse caring for her demanding disabled mother;
Theodora, a flamboyant, bohemian artist;
and Luke Sanderson, the young heir to Hill House, who is host to the others.

Dr. Montague hopes to find scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He rents Hill House for a summer and invites as his guests several people whom he has chosen because of their experiences with paranormal events. Of these, only Eleanor and Theodora accept. Eleanor travels to the house, where she and Theodora will live in isolation with Montague and Luke.

Hill House has two caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who refuse to stay near the house at night. The blunt and single-minded Mrs. Dudley is a source of some comic relief.

The four overnight visitors begin to form friendships as Dr. Montague explains the building's history, which encompasses suicide and other violent deaths. All four of the inhabitants begin to experience strange events while in the house, including unseen noises and ghosts roaming the halls at night, strange writing on the walls and other unexplained events.

Eleanor tends to experience phenomena to which the others are oblivious. At the same time, Eleanor may be losing touch with reality, and the narrative implies that at least some of what Eleanor witnesses may be products of her imagination.

Another implied possibility is that Eleanor possesses a subconscious telekinetic ability that is itself the cause of many of the disturbances experienced by her and other members of the investigative team (which might indicate there is no ghost in the house at all). This possibility is suggested especially by references early in the novel to Eleanor's childhood memories about episodes of a poltergeist-like entity that seemed to involve mainly her. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهارم ماه اکتبر سال2019میلادی

عنوان: تسخیر عمارت هیل؛ نویسنده: شرلی جکسن؛ مترجم: نیلوفر رحمانیان؛ ویراستار مینو ابوذرجهرمی؛ تهران: انتشارات خوب، سال‏‫1398؛ در137ص؛ شابک9786226513708؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م‬

سریالی نیز از این کتاب ساخته شده است، در تابستان سال1992میلادی، زن و شوهر جوانی به نام «هیو» و «اولویا کرین»، به همراه پنج فرزند خود؛ یعنی «استیون»، «شرلی»، «تئودورا»، «لوک» و «الینور»، به‌ طور موقت به خانه‌ ای بسیار کهنسال و بزرگوار می‌روند، که پیشتر خانواده ی دیگری به نام «هیل»، در آن میزیسته اند؛ «هیو» میخواهد با نوسازی کردن خانه، که برای زمانی دراز خالی از سکنه بوده؛ آن را بفروشد تا بتواند پول خوبی به کف دست خویش آورد، اما به مرور رخدادهایی ناباورانه در خانه رخ می‌دهند، که سرنوشت خانواده را برای همیشه دگرگون می‌کند…؛ داستان درباره ی «دکتر مونتاگ» است، که همیشه به دنبال ردپای شیاطین و اثرات جن زدگی است؛ سه تن دیگر به نامهای «تئودور» دستیارش، «النور» زنی مرموز و به ظاهر کلاهبردار، و «لوک» وارث عمارت «هیل»، همراه دکتر در سکونتگاه عجیبی در عمارت «هیل» اقامت دارند؛ در آغاز، ماندگاری آنها، بسیار ساده و عادی به دیده مینشیند، اما بسیار زود نیروهایی شگرف در ساختمان «هیل»، خود را آشکار ساخته، و همگی آنها را زیر تاثیر قرار میدهند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 01/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews927 followers
December 15, 2022
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within"

Shirley Jackson – 'The Haunting of Hill House' – The Folio Society edition – Entertainment Focus

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a fantastic story! Like Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," Hill House draws you into its mystery and the unfolding terror. From the outset, there is an undefinable sense of unease and dread. The first lines indicate that the house holds darkness within (great opening!). The house finds a way to isolate visitors from the rest of the world, and frightens us with our own demons. We see that happening to characters who have been invited to Hill House. Don't really read that much in the horror genre, but I can tell that Jackson's work set the tone for some of the best that followed.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,990 followers
November 22, 2019
I was hoping for more from this book. I wanted a thrilling and suspenseful story of a creepy haunted house that would end up keeping me up at night. It was not bad, per se, but that is not what I got.

Instead it was a somewhat tedious and repetitive decent into madness. The writing was disorienting – and I think that was intentionally so in order to help the reader feel the house taking over the minds of the characters. Clever . . . but almost headache inducing at times.

The characters were the most interesting part to me. Each one had a specific personality and role; some of them amusing, some of them infuriating, but all of them great for the story. At times, and I think it was because of the characters, this book reminded me of the game/movie Clue.

In summary: Not all that scary but disorienting instead. Tedious. Interesting characters that might make you laugh out loud or shake your head in disgust. Many have rated this highly as a classic of horror, but I have also read some reviews that felt like I did. I am glad I read it, but for me it was just okay.
Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews313 followers
February 23, 2023
There is much evidence of what a great wordsmith Shirley Jackson is in this book, for example; in her description of the dour gardener and housekeeper, Mr and Mrs. Dudley: "Her apron was clean, her hair was neat, and yet she gave an indefinable air of dirtiness, quite in keeping with her husband, and the suspicious sullenness of her face was a match for the malicious petulance of his." I love the dual adjectives to describe them.
Comedy and horror are two of the most difficult things to write and Jackson does them both at the same time. She is a master of psychological horror the kind that gets inside you and won't let go.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
October 6, 2015
October Buddy Read with the Pantsless Ones

When an occult scholar recruits people to help him research the paranormal events at Hill House, will the house let any of them leave unscathed?

I've heard this touted as a classic haunted house story for decades and finally decided to take the plunge when the Pantless Ones picked it for an October read. I was not overly impressed.

I don't know if this was the case of wrong book/wrong time but I was not engaged by this book. All of the characters seemed like caricatures to me rather than real people.

There were some creepy parts, like Eleanor holding a hand in the dark that turned out not to be whose she thought, and Eleanor's descent into madness, but I was pretty bored most of the time. The status bar on my Kindle couldn't creep to the right fast enough.

I'm giving it two stars now but I may re-read it in the future when I'm in the mood for such a story.
Profile Image for Aoibhínn.
158 reviews208 followers
October 28, 2012
The plot, of The Haunting of Hill House, is about three people named, Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, who are invited to stay in a supposedly haunted house for the summer to aid a scientist, Dr. Montague, in his pursuit of paranormal investigation. The book started out as a tale about a creepy old haunted house and then turned into a story about a young mentally unstable woman losing her mind.

I was disappointed by this book to be honest. I felt the novel did not live up to its potential and it certainly does not deserve the reputation, of being one of the scariest horror novels, it has gotten. There are a few creepy, spooky scenes but not enough of them. I felt disappointed that there wasn't more scary stuff in it.

I didn't like any of the characters and therefore found it hard to care about them. Eleanor was a paranoid, insecure pain in the ass, Theodora was an immature bitchy cow, and Luke was a boring conceited little wanker. I thought the dialogue, throughout the book, between the characters was very strange. I don't know if the author intended it to be like that or if the book is just incredibly out-dated. Did people actually talk like that back in the 1950's? It was very annoying and childish.

The ending left a lot of unanswered questions. Was the house really haunted or was it all just in Eleanor's mind?

This is one novel where the movie, or in this case movies, are better than the book.

2.5 stars!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
May 6, 2019
Upping my rating from 3.5 stars to 4.5 on reread. It’s so strange, how much better this classic 1959 haunted house tale worked for me on rereading, knowing what to expect from it. It's creepy in a subdued, elusive sort of way--not the sort of explicit horror that we're more used to nowadays. But the second time through, I could really appreciate all the hints and subtleties and just the sheer artistry in Shirley Jones’ writing.

Dr. John Montague, whose “true vocation” is researching and analyzing supernatural manifestations, hears of the eerie Hill House and rents it for the summer, finding some people who have experienced paranormal events in their past and inviting them to join him for the summer as his “assistants”. Two women, Eleanor and Theodora, join him, along with Luke, who will inherit Hill House some day.

The psychological exploration of the various characters who gather at the isolated Hill House was intriguing, especially Eleanor, the timid, disturbed young woman who is the main character. And Hill House seems to be finding those cracks in her psyche and exploiting them.

There’s an interesting ambiguity in the title: is Hill House doing the haunting? Or is something haunting the house? (Or both?)

It's got a lot of subtleties to it that impress me, the longer I think about it. Just don’t expect the Stephen King type of horror.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews902 followers
March 12, 2019
2,5* / I don't know, maybe I'm too stupid to appreciate this story.
I was basically bored throughout the whole book. I didn't feel anything for the characters and even the atmosphere didn't quite get to me.

I liked the writing style though and Eleanor as a narrator was really interesting.

I'm still having hopes for the Netflix show!! I heard nothing but awesome things, so I'm really curious about it.

Update: I just finished the show and wooooooow that was heartbreaking and beautiful and SO well done.
I can definitely recommend it!
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