The Haunting Of Hill House
We know the big problem with horrors is this — why do people stay? Run, you fools!
And that is why The Haunting of Hill House is great, as people have come specifically to experience the haunting, so it makes sense to stay there (and take notes.) The only other forgiveable times are when people are unable to get off the island, or are stuck on a ship. Otherwise, I don’t care if you have to steal a car or just get walking, remove yourselves from the situation, dummies.
The book was published in 1959 and is set in something like the 1940s or 1950s (women wear trousers, but not often). The two young women, Eleanor and Theodora, that agree to help Doctor Montague with his studies, and the young man who is related to the owner of the house overseeing it all are all sharp, witty and sassy. The house has a dark personality, all the doors are in the wrong place (a proper feng shui nightmare, by the sounds of it) which rubs off on the occupants as they turn on each other some loosen their grip on reality more than others. And the spooky goings-on are perfect. Subtle, strange, and classic. Isolation (both geographical and emotional), noises we can’t find the origin of, a ghost writing and therefore knowing our name (and not just being an unconscious echo) are deeply disturbing.
After being disappointed with Sugar Hall, I found this book has made up for it nicely. It genuinely scared me at times, as like nearly everyone else, I am more scared by what I cannot see, the suggestion and effects of the invisible, than by a ghost that has form or features. As with The Lottery, Shirley Jackson knows how to push the fear buttons. Sadly, she was only 48 when she died of a heart attack. Smoking kills, kids.