The Haunting of Hill House (1963) – Shirley Jackson

Having just finished the amazing Netflix series (seriously, watch it) and loving the Robert Wise film, I felt it was time to re-read the original novel, something I’m sure I hadn’t done for about twenty years.

In fact, I think I read it just before that abomination by Jan De Bont was released in 1999. This time, however, with the series and the film still fresh in my mind, I was eager to dive into the tale as original penned by Shirley Jackson.

What followed, as I delved into the pages, and the corners of Hill House is a truly unnerving tale, elegant in its text and story, and frightening in the way the house begins to take effect on poor Nell.

The story follows a doctor, Montague, who is intent on investigating the purported haunting of Hill House, with the aid of a couple of recruits, who are both sensitive in their way, Eleanor, or Nell, and Theo. They are joined by Luke Sanderson who is in line to inherit the house.


The tale creeps up on you, and under your skin in its telling, as Nell falls victim to the house. We are invited inside her thoughts, and we see the division of self taking root, and how she perceives things, people and events around her.

The tale introduces us to the Dudleys, the caretakers, who are creepy in and of themselves, and never stay past dark in Hill House. In fact there would be no one to hear anyone calling for help in Hill House. In the night. In the dark.

Montague’s wife and her friend Arthur show up three quarters of the way through the book, after it has already wrought some terror on Montague and her group. And while they preach about using planchettes and perfect love, they will not find anything of use to their belief their.

The tale is a quick, but frightening read. I threw myself into the story, and truly enjoyed it this time off, getting so much more out of it than I had in prior readings. And what with the film, and the Netflix series, sequences, character names, moments, lines, descriptions, having a familiar and spooky ring.

It’s also fascinating to see how Mike Flanagan, who directed and oversaw the Netflix series incorporated familiar lines of dialogue, descriptions and some of the house history to help create the reality of his own version of Hill House.

And while the series differs greatly from the original tale, I can heartily recommend reading this as a nice companion piece to your viewing of the show.

Pick it up, read it, enjoy the scares, and Happy Halloween.



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