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Shirley Jackson – The Haunting Of Hill House

Posted by demonik on August 22, 2007

Shirley Jackson – The Haunting Of Hill HouseĀ  (Robinson, 1987: originally Viking, 1959)

Shirley Jackson Haunting Of Hill House

“Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House and whatever walked there walked alone …”

Shirley Jackson’s milestone of the psychological ghost novel, the tale of an anything but controlled investigation conducted by the not altogether reassuring Dr. John Montague. For the duration of the experiment, Dr. Montague is accompanied by his carefully selected assistants; Luke Sanderson, a sceptic in such matters, the enigmatic and unusually gifted psychic Theodora and one Eleanor Vance, a likeable but patently disturbed thirty-something yet to come to terms with the lingering death of her hated mother. Dr. Montague had originally intended a larger team but two dropped out at the last minute. The dark history of Hill House, as related by the well meaning Dr. Montague, certainly hints at a particularly malignant haunting, but while there are no shortage of seemingly paranormal incidents, we, the readers, are aware that Eleanor is in the throes of a complete psychological breakdown and are never entirely satisfied that the edifice monstrous is anything other than a magnificently ugly chaos of brick and mortar – until, that is, tragedy strikes and the investigation is messily aborted.

Robert “The Sound of Music” Wise directed a fine screen adaptation of the novel as “The Haunting” in 1963, while those who readily acknowledge the influence of the self-dubbed “only practising witch in New England” on their own splendid excursions into similar territory include Robert Marasco (“Burnt Offerings”, 1973), Stephen King (“The Shining”, 1977) and Anne Rivers Siddons (“The House Next Door”, 1978).

There were far earlier tie-ins (which can be found on Jon Older’s excellent Hammerbooks site) but we’ll have to make do with Robinson’s late eighties edition for the time being.

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