Book Reviews · Horror

The Haunting of Hill House

There’s something about the concept of the haunted house that has always been fascinating to me. I think some of my interest goes back to when I was a kid, watching Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! for the first time. It was one of my favorite shows when I was younger.

As an adult, I’m still a big fan of Scooby-Doo, and I love that the bad guys always spread the story of a haunting to cover up their crimes and keep nosy people away. It was a pretty clever concept at the time, though it certainly wouldn’t work in the real world. Since the creation of shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and Expedition Unknown, there are a lot of amateur paranormal investigators around who would cause problems for a would-be criminal.

Of course, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House tells a far different haunted house story than an episode of Scooby-Doo

The Haunting of Hill House is about four people who have come to spend the summer at Hill House, an imposing house outside the village of Hillsdale. One of them, Dr. Montague, is a doctor of philosophy who is hoping to prove that Hill House is haunted. His three research assistants include Eleanor Vance, a young woman who had an experience with poltergeist activity when she was younger; Theodora, who has apparently shown some psychic abilities; and Luke Sanderson, a member of the family that currently owns the mansion.

Hill House itself is a terrifying place, built with odd angles and doors that never seem to remain open. It definitely seems like a place that could be haunted, and it’s not long before its four house guests begin to experience some strange (and scary) things.

I enjoyed reading The Haunting of Hill House, and I had some difficulty putting it down. To me, the novel seemed more “eerie” than “scary,” which is something I really don’t mind in a horror story. I found myself focused more on the characters’ reactions to Hill House, and the ways in which they interacted with each other, than on the unusual things that happened.

I have heard that there is a 2018 television series based on the novel, which is currently on Netflix. While I haven’t had the opportunity to watch it, I would like to, especially since Timothy Hutton is a member of the cast. I have had the chance to see the 1999 film adaptation (The Haunting). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, but there are a lot of major differences between it and the original story. I thought it was a good movie at the time, and the special effects were impressive, but I wouldn’t call it a faithful adaptation.

If you’re new to Shirley Jackson’s writing, The Haunting of Hill House is a good place to start. I would also highly recommend her short story, The Lottery.

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