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The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin…

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics) (original 1959; edition 2006)

by Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller (Introduction)

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Title:The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Shirley Jackson
Other authors:Laura Miller (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:read 2012, read via public library
Tags:Fiction, horror

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

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    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both have an unreliable narrator, which results in an ambiguous story.
  2. 90
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (alalba)
  3. 61
    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (coppers, Jannes)
    Jannes: Not sure if it is a coincidence, but the two perhaps best ghost stories ever written are both by women, in a genre otherwise mostly dominated by men. Both are superb explorations of death, loss, fear, and all those other elementsthat make up the good supernatural tales.… (more)
  4. 50
    White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (upstairsgirl)
    upstairsgirl: Similar in premise, less subtle but more disturbing in execution.
  5. 31
    The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (sturlington)
  6. 20
    Hell House by Richard Matheson (sturlington)
  7. 31
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (blacksylph)
    blacksylph: The only haunted house story I've ever read that was scarier than this book.
  8. 20
    The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (blacksylph)
  9. 31
    Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories by Roald Dahl (SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Dahl's is the best collection of ghost stories available, and Jackson's is the best haunted house story of all time. I think they make a nice pair (as the bishop said to the chorus girl.)
  10. 10
    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff (amyblue)
  11. 00
    The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon (Scottneumann)
  12. 66
    Salem's Lot by Stephen King (clif_hiker)
  13. 11
    Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (agmlll)
  14. 56
    Carrie by Stephen King (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Clearly influenced by The Haunting of Hill House, as is much of King's work.
  15. 35
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    kraaivrouw: Look here for Stephen King's take on The Haunting of Hill House.

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» See also 427 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Yep. I'm going to agree with the pros. The Haunting of Hill House is a defining piece of literature within it's genre. This is the first time I had read this book and thinking back almost every supernatural horror novel that I've read before it contains some echo of this novel.

It's creepy and horrible in the best way and immediately draws you in with Eleanor, who has been unable to create a life of her own because she's spent the past 11 years as the caretaker for her dreadful mother. I especially liked this passage:

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 disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends. This was owing largely to the eleven years she had spent caring for her invalid mother, which had left her with some proficiency as a nurse and an inability to face strong sunlight without blinking. 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.

Hill House, like Eleanor, waits, empty for someone to fill it up. The haunting may seem mundane by modern standards, but it's the atmosphere and the character of the house itself that really creates the atmosphere which makes this novel so effective.

One note about the forward in this edition. IT CONTAINS SPOILERS! Luckily it's a relatively heavy piece of literary analysis and I was ready to go so I skipped it and read it afterwards. If you've already read this book then definitely read the forward as it is excellent, if you haven't, then definitely take the time to read it afterwards. ( )
1 vote steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Stephen King called The Haunting of Hill House the greatest American horror novel of the 20th century; I think I picked it up after reading a Guardian list of 10 unconventional fantasy novels. It revolves around parapsychologist Dr Montague’s investigation of the titular mansion, for which he recruits two young women with previous paranormal experiences, Theodora and Eleanor, and the mansion’s heir, Luke.

The novel largely follows Eleanor’s perspective, whom it eventually becomes clear is an unreliable narrator. Jackson deliberately makes it difficult to tell the border between Eleanor’s own mental instabilities and the house’s disquieting effects. Which is not to say that Hill House’s “haunting” (the details of which I won’t spoil) is a figment of her imagination; Luke and the doctor witness their own paranormal events, and in one particularly disturbing moment Theodora and Eleanor are outside at night when Theodora witnesses something behind them and screams at Eleanor to run. Much of the book consists of the characters speaking, in banter which can sometimes grow tedious, but I can appreciate that the chaff is necessary to make the terrifying moments stand out all the more.

The novel is flawed somewhat towards the end; I’d been having a a perfectly creepy time (partly because I made sure to only read it late at night) when all of a sudden Dr Montague’s wife and her friend Alan show up to join the household. Mrs Montague considers herself a paranormal expert as well, of greater expertise than her husband, and both she and Alan are tiresomely drawn as pompous characters to add an edge of comic relief to a novel which really didn’t need it.

Nevertheless, The Haunting of Hill House is a pretty solid haunted house story, with some genuinely scary moments and a well-drawn, brooding atmosphere. There’s a wealth of analytic material there – feminist and gothic and what have you – if you feel like writing an essay on it, but for the ordinary reader it’s just a good, creepy horror novel. ( )
  edgeworth | Mar 5, 2014 |
Horror. It’s pleasing to be able to read horror in the comfort of your armchair, in a pool of light with the lights turned low in the rest of the room, possibly hearing the occasional creak of a settling floorboard or the mournful wail of wind in the trees outside. Environment is conducive to good horror, it would appear, and not just the environment of the reader.
In ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, Shirley Jackson creates a compelling environment for terror within its pages, within Hill House’s walls. In the first paragraph (nine lines in my edition), the author manages to convey such a profound sense of unease that one is almost reading the rest of the book looking over ones shoulder. Which is bloody uncomfortable.
The plot seems, at first glance, straightforward enough, a quartet of investigators spend some time in a house with a reputation for being haunted.
It’s easy for a house to gain an ill reputation, all it takes is a series of accidents or unfortunate events, and a mad and sadistic owner or two before, for instance, ‘don’t go trick or treating at Number 9, and don’t let pets near it’ can become a well known phrase in the neighbourhood.
And it’s easy enough for a house to get a spooky reputation. If all the doors are hung slightly out of true you can either fire the architect, bollock the carpenter and buy some wedges, or decide they are idiosyncratic. They’re not, they’re spooky. And they make your house spooky. And you’re spooky.
But a spooky house is not a haunted house. For a haunted house you need, well, what you need apparently is a history of a house as an unsuccessful holiday let, with people only staying there for a few days or a few hours depending on their emotional constitutions. And being cagy about their reasons for departing.
Just as important as the the house are the other characters in the book. There’s a rather marvellous bit at the start of this rather marvellous book which remarks that back in the good old days of ghost hunting the Doctor leading the experiment that forms the centrepiece to the story, a short stay at Hill House to investigate ‘phenomena’, would have plenty of gentleman psychic investigators queuing up to help.
Now, he’s reduced to hiring people.
Not just anyone of course, one of his investigators is a woman who has exhibited psychic talent and is exceptionally good a ‘reading’ people, the other is a woman fleeing from not just her past but her present. Making up the quartet is a wayward relative of the owner of the house and who can always be relied upon to fetch the brandy after a moment of crisis. (Do not play the Hill House drinking game if driving, or rising early the next morning).
Given the town the house sits near is spooky, the house itself is spooky, the housekeeper and groundsman are both bloody spooky, and the investigators bring their own issues to the experiment, you’d be surprised if the result wasn’t, well, spooky.
Indeed, one might wonder if the haunting referred to in the title of the book is not the ghosts supposedly roaming the halls, but rather the four who intrude on the quiet repose of a house that just wants to be left in peace.
But Hill House is far from peaceful with Dr Montague and his team in place.
As the investigators fail to pack their bags and run screaming for the front gates, they instead settle down to tell their stories, play chess and drink brandy. Among all the potentially supernatural shenanigans, the team begin to bond. This may be a sinister house with an evil reputation, but it also gives the team direction and focus and, for a short time, a home. They explore the house, annoy the staff and discover a mysterious ‘cold spot’ outside the nursery door. Hill House has its Literary Threat Warning upgraded from ‘spooky’ to ‘sinister’.
This is a tale of what it means to have friends and family, and, above all, the need of a sense of place. But Hill House does not want visitors. ( )
  macnabbs | Feb 21, 2014 |
As a young and slightly idiotic preteen, I picked up a copy of this book, thinking it would be JUST LIKE the remake of The Haunting - the one starring Liam Neeson. Needless to say, my twelve-year-old self was disappointed.

Fast forward over ten years later. I still have a special place in my heart for that hokey remake, but now I finally understand why The Haunting of Hill House is so iconic. I loved the subtlety of the paranormal phenomena and the ambiguity between spiritual and psychological. (Some people may vote that everything in the house was happening inside Eleanor's head, but I put my vote in with the spooky stuff.)

The thing that I loved most of all was that Shirley Jackson PERSONIFIED Hill House and gave it sentient intelligence. I mean, how creepy is that?? After finishing this book, I realized that this is something I look for in my haunted house stories: is it just a ghost, or is there something larger at work? A disgruntled or unsettled spirit becomes something that can be dealt with and overcome. A sentient house, or the imprint of human emotion upon the house, presents an entirely new set of challenges.

And once I understood that the house was an intelligent, active character, I fell in love with the story. I devoured it in less than 24 hours, and I just wanted to pick it up and read it all over again. This novel became one of my favorite ghost stories literally overnight, and now I see its influence everywhere. It's a great classic for Halloween, but for horror aficionados, it's a must read.


The Unseen - Alexandra Sokoloff. A psychology professor attempts to recreate the disastrous psychic experiments of the parapsychology group at Duke University in the 1960's. A modern ghost story with a slow buildup and a very similar tone to The Haunting of Hill House.

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James. Another classic horror novel with a slow buildup of terror and an uncertainty between what is paranormal and what is occurring in the protagonist's mind.

Hell House - Richard Matheson. One of the recognized horror masters pays tribute to another master with a spooky haunted house story.

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer - Joyce Reardon. A fictional diary about Ellen Rimbauer, an historic woman living in the expansive (and haunted) mansion known as Rose Red. The TV mini series Rose Red (penned by Stephen King) is partially based on this book.

The Woman in Black - Susan Hill. A young lawyer visits the eerie and derelict Eel Marsh House, where he encounters an angry, hateful spirit. Although the house itself is not exactly personified the way Hill House is, the enduring power of the spirit's anger gives this short and engrossing story a larger-than-life quality. ( )
2 vote coloradogirl14 | Dec 31, 2013 |
Interesting story, but I was hoping it would be more exciting, suspenseful, scary and/or creepy. ( )
  Barb_H | Nov 10, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shirley Jacksonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edelfeldt, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, LauraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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Book description
Hill House is an eighty year-old mansion built by a man named Hugh Crain. The story concerns four main characters: Dr. John Montague, an investigator of the supernatural; two young women, Eleanor and Theodora; and a young man, Luke, the heir to Hill House, who is host to the others. Doctor Montague hopes to find scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He rents Hill House for a summer and invites several people to stay there as his guests. Of these invitees, whom he has chosen because at one time or another they have all experienced paranormal events, only Eleanor and Theodora accept.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143039989, Paperback)

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has unnerved readers since its original publication in 1959. A tale of subtle, psychological terror, it has earned its place as one of the significant haunted house stories of the ages.

Eleanor Vance has always been a loner--shy, vulnerable, and bitterly resentful of the 11 years she lost while nursing her dying mother. "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." Eleanor has always sensed that one day something big would happen, and one day it does. She receives an unusual invitation from Dr. John Montague, a man fascinated by "supernatural manifestations." He organizes a ghost watch, inviting people who have been touched by otherworldly events. A paranormal incident from Eleanor's childhood qualifies her to be a part of Montague's bizarre study--along with headstrong Theodora, his assistant, and Luke, a well-to-do aristocrat. They meet at Hill House--a notorious estate in New England.

Hill House is a foreboding structure of towers, buttresses, Gothic spires, gargoyles, strange angles, and rooms within rooms--a place "without kindness, never meant to be lived in...."

Although Eleanor's initial reaction is to flee, the house has a mesmerizing effect, and she begins to feel a strange kind of bliss that entices her to stay. Eleanor is a magnet for the supernatural--she hears deathly wails, feels terrible chills, and sees ghostly apparitions. Once again she feels isolated and alone--neither Theo nor Luke attract so much eerie company. But the physical horror of Hill House is always subtle; more disturbing is the emotional torment Eleanor endures. Intense, literary, and harrowing, The Haunting of Hill House belongs in the same dark league as Henry James's classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. --Naomi Gesinger

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:41 -0400)

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The four visitors at Hill House-- some there for knowledge, others for adventure-- are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.

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