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The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,578427789 (3.91)5 / 817
Fiction. Horror. HTML:

The Haunting Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodara, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, the lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.

.… (more)
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  1. 210
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both have an unreliable narrator, which results in an ambiguous story.
  2. 120
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (alalba)
  3. 80
    White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (upstairsgirl, sturlington)
    upstairsgirl: Similar in premise, less subtle but more disturbing in execution.
    sturlington: Hill House clearly inspired White Is for Witching.
  4. 81
    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Copperskye, 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)
  5. 40
    The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (blacksylph)
  6. 30
    The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (andomck)
  7. 41
    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.)
  8. 30
    Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (andomck)
  9. 31
    Hell House by Richard Matheson (sturlington)
    sturlington: Inspired by The Haunting of Hill House.
  10. 20
    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff (amyblue)
  11. 10
    Wild Fell by Michael Rowe (ShelfMonkey)
  12. 21
    The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (andomck)
    andomck: Both are haunted house stories at their core
  13. 43
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (blacksylph)
    blacksylph: The only haunted house story I've ever read that was scarier than this book.
  14. 10
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (msemmag)
    msemmag: Unreliable narrators, troubled women, dark psychological horror
  15. 77
    ‘Salem's Lot by Stephen King (clif_hiker)
  16. 01
    The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon (Scottneumann)
  17. 45
    Danse Macabre by Stephen King (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Look here for Stephen King's take on The Haunting of Hill House.
  18. 78
    Carrie by Stephen King (artturnerjr, akblanchard)
    artturnerjr: Clearly influenced by The Haunting of Hill House, as is much of King's work.
    akblanchard: Carrie White has much in common with Jackson's shy, bullied heroine Eleanor Vance.
  19. 13
    Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (agmlll)
1950s (36)
AP Lit (38)
Kayla (3)

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English (414)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (426)
Showing 1-5 of 414 (next | show all)
I've had this book forever and have heard multiple people brag about how great it is. It's a "classic" as far as I know. I'm not really into horror, but my wife is and we were looking for something we could finish before the end of the year (like to start the year with a new book).

I'm not sure what the hell this is supposed to be? I guess it's a comedy? But if so, why have a scary cover with blurbs like "Makes your blood chill and your scalp prickle..." ? There were exactly 2 possibly scary parts that were also interspersed with comedy.

It's a couple comedic characters, and about half of it is witty dialogue (the only thing that kept it from getting a 2nd star), that is often funny, then the other half is surreal ranting of a character who must be insane as far as I can tell, because much of it is indecipherable.

At the end there is no resolution. Started skipping pages to get through it and almost gave up a couple times. ( )
  ragwaine | Dec 31, 2023 |
Pure psychological horror from an absolute master. Shirley Jackson does not provide the reader with easy and comfortable answers to what happens in this novel which is partly why it such an effective story. Was Eleanor driven mad by Hill House or was she mentally ill? Is Hill House truly haunted or does fear cause group hallucinations? Does Hill House feed on those who are already disturbed?

  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
This is a classic haunted house story published in 1959, where the house itself is really the main character, and the plot driven by the effect it has on its visitors, especially on young Eleanor Vance, with ultimately tragic consequences - in the words of Dr Montague "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." The story is very atmospheric and claustrophobic, and highly effective in its genre. What marred it slightly for me was some of the bizarre dialogue between the characters, even before the hauntings really took effect. A shocking ending. ( )
  john257hopper | Nov 3, 2023 |
This is mostly me just thinking through how what I felt the book was saying rather than a quality review, I found it really interesting what I think was going on

I was definitely surprised by this book in that for some reason I was expecting more obvious horror, with some sort of explosive horror conclusion. It's not quite like that. Broadly it feels like the first half of the book is a typical haunted house setup before things happen, with a strong focus on the character Eleanor. You're given her backstory of spending most of her young adult years as a 24/7 carer to her mother (while her sister got to live a normal life) and how the invitation to a haunted house has provided a new opportunity to finally do something interesting. Initially she seems to have instantly formed a close bond with the other woman at the house (Theodora), and a kind of intimate one that feels like it's genuinely leading into implied lesbianism. The other two men seem to be fine with her. There's an initial night of strange, creepy ghostly activity that all of them experience.

And then the second half is devoted to destroying her along with our perception of her as a capable human being (turning her into the subordinate character her sister and brother in law wanted her to be) and also the concept of the haunted house novel in the first place. Eleanor has a strangely negative reaction to Theodora painting her toenails and afterwards describes wanting to kill her for a very vague perceived slight. She regularly misses important parts of conversations that we as the reader can only guess at. She hears bizarrely hostile commentary on her from others, some of which is clearly not "real" by context although some is and appears to be a reaction to some private understanding of her behaviour (that we as the reader aren't privy to either, including us in her exclusion). There's a scene where something has written "Eleanor come home" in chalk across the hall where suddenly the other characters accuse her of faking it and wanting to be the centre of attention instead of them taking it as a sign of ghostly activity that they're looking for (again by context Eleanor's experience of events seems confused, but we don't have another account!) Despite everyone coming to the house to find ghosts, they suddenly seem uninterested or disbelieving in the person who the experiences seem centred around and become less friendly with her.

The haunted house aspect is exploded with the arrival of the comedic Mrs Montague. From a serious "scientific" documentation of experiences and phenomena by Mr Montague, ghost hunting gets turned into a big joke as she insists the home has somehow got a walled up nun and a ghostly monk. A story that has so far avoided the most cliche of ghost concepts suddenly introduces them and attaches them to the house. And then Mrs Montague brings out "the planchette" and "talks" with the house... Which again brings up the same "come home Eleanor" message. And having this come from a comedic character whose approach to ghost hunting is ludicrous undermines the seriousness of what we're led to understand is a very real supernatural experience. And yet at the same time even she refuses to connect this to Eleanor itself. Eleanor's experiences, even when everyone can see them, can't be taken seriously or even acknowledged as comedy. She is apart from friends and the real parts of society even when she's crying out.

By the end the "eleanor come home" message is explicitly connected to her mother and her anxiety that maybe she somehow deliberately killed her by not waking up when she needed her medicine. Eleanor says she wants to go home with Theodora who dismisses her as a "stray cat" and totally refuses. At which point Eleanor says she made up having an apartment and that she sleeps in a cot at her sister's. And then by the end Eleanor is basically saying Hill House is her home... And she's forced from it. There's a section where she appears to hear everything within the house and listens in on conversations but nobody mentions her. Several conversations seem to have forgotten she existed. And then in the climax in the night she climbs the stairs in the tower and again a scene unfolds which appears to be missing details but they're angry with her for unclear reasons (believing she'd kill herself, possibly) and again seemingly uninterested in the paranormal aspect. And they forceably send her home despite her protests. Where "home' is her sister's. Throughout the book Eleanor develops a sense of home for the house because it's the first place she's been able to be free. And then at the end it's taken away. And so she drives her car into a tree in the hope, seemingly, someone will care to intervene. In the desperate last attempt to find home she goes to the grave with her mother, where society was desperate to place her.

And then in a shaggy dog story type ending coda we find that the paper the doctor wrote about the paranormal experiences there was basically ignored. I've read a few Shirley Jackson short stories with a similar sort of conceit, where she really really digs into the lives of vulnerable people and ruins them in every way in absurd circumstances where even the most basic aspects of reality get denied against them. The whole book feels like that, an evisceration of the concept that someone like Eleanor, a woman with a tough history who never got the chance to be herself, could ever really get to appear in a ghost story, that even when the ghost is happening because of her nobody would care and her existence in the story is wrong. It's such an intense and cruel and deeply clever style of story.
( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
This is easily one of my favourite so-called "classic" horror novels and yet, there I was, re-listening to the audio version this time around, in preparation for the sequel by Elizabeth Hand, A Haunting on the Hill ...a sequel I'm praying will hold up to the original, but after this re-read, I seriously have my doubts. This is one of those novels that I know I love, but every time I read it, I realize I've forgotten so much about what makes it so good.

I love that, aside from extremely minor events, virtually nothing horrible is seen, heard, or experienced, other than the nasty people, for the first half of this short novel. And yet, for all of that, Jackson uses such a precise economy of words to give the reader precisely what they need to know about each character, while deftly filling in their personalities. What should come across as trite, or fluffy, instead becomes endearing or, in the case of the less than likeable characters, aggravating in all the right ways.

Honestly, there's times where Jackson sets such a delicate balance, that this book should not work...and yet, it does. So well. Theodora and Eleanor are wonderful characters, and Montague is a relevation...especially once Mrs. Montague arrives.

But this entire thing wouldn't work if Jackson didn't bring the horror. And she does. Exceptionally well.

And then there's Hill House itself. Mad, insane, twisted, broken Hill House. When Jackson focuses on the house, this book is incandescent. And when she begins to tie Eleanor to it...

God, I love this book. ( )
  TobinElliott | Oct 30, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 414 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (79 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jackson, Shirleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dowers, ShonnaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edelfeldt, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gervais, StephenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
King, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krege, WolfgangÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, LauraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmer, ÓscarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
PhotonicaCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toro, Guillermo delIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
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.
Journeys end in lovers meeting.
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. (chapter 1)
The house was vile. She shivered and thought, the words coming freely into her mind, Hill House is vile, it is diseased; get away from here at once. (chapter 1)
When they were silent for a moment the quiet weight of the house pressed down from all around them.
We have grown to trust blindly in our senses of balance and reason and I can see where the mind might fight wildly to preserve its own familiar stable patterns against all evidence that it was leaning sideways. (Dr. Montague, chapter 4)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Fiction. Horror. HTML:

The Haunting Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodara, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, the lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.


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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.

AR 6.3, 11 pts
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