The author

The Haunting of Hill House is a novel penned by author Shirley Jackson. I first read it when I was 7 years old. It was the abridged version in an old Readers Digest that I came upon in a dentists office. I got through the first pages before being called in for a cleaning and I nonchalantly slipped the magazine into my book bag (this is now illegal. :) In the days and years to follow I read and reread that abridged version until the digest was in tatters. I discovered the original movie in the 70s and not only did it portray Ms. Jackson's novel to the best of its ability, it scared me half to death.

About the book

Hill House sits behind a pair of gnarled gates, hiding its secret from the world. A madman, Hugh Crane, brings his young wife to Hill House, a mansion he designes himself filled with marble caricatures of himself and his family and horrific scenes from the Bible. Subsequently, his wife goes insane. Shortly after, the nurse Crane hires to care for his young daughter is found hanging from the spiral staircase in the library. Crane raises his daughter to fear and obey only him. A book Crane designs himself is filled with intricate drawings penned to instill fear and madness. He reads it nightly to his young daughter who spends the rest of her life in Hill House, her nursery undisturbed to present time and is now, the heart of Hill House.

The characters

Years later, the house sits empty. The Crane family is dead and the house is maintained by by the caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley. Dr. Montague, a parapsychologist has rented Hill House for the summer, the only caveat being that he must allow the heir apparent, Luke Sanderson to come along for the ride. Montague is attempting to prove or disprove the haunting of Hill House.

Montague also invites Elenor Vance, a timid woman who resentfully cared for her mother until she died. Elenor accepts the invitation hoping to find a place she can call home. Another invitation is sent to Theodora, a wild young woman who will remain locked up with Elenor, Luke, and Dr. Montague until the experiment is over.

It isn't long before the house starts creaking, the doors start closing, wild weeping occurs and the optics are off, just a bit, just enough to make you feel as if you are in a fun house at a carnival.

Then the knocking starts, the banging, the door and the knob start shaking. An animal is heard running down the hallway. Fear and then terror strikes as the team realizes that Hill House is after one of their own.

My thoughts

In my opinion the Haunting of Hill House is the finest psychological horror novel ever written. The original movie opened in 1963 and received critical praise. The 1999 version was a stinker and in no way represents Ms. Jackson's novel.

Where you can find the novel and the movie

The Haunting of Hill House (novel) can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and almost all book stores. If you can't find it, any book store can order it for you. You can almost always find movie for free on Cable in the month of October, but I always watch the movie on a dark and stormy winter night with a glass of wine and chocolate. The movie can be found on Amazon as well.

Trust me, you won't be disappointed.