Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House

Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits.

Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.

Shirley Jackson (19161965), a celebrated writer of horror, wrote such classic novels as We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Birds Nest, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, The Lottery. She has influenced such writers as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson.

Author: Shirley Jackson
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Duration: 7 hours 27 minutes
Released: 10 Apr 2010
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Language: English

User Review:

sanitarium feeble

I really wanted to like this story. I enjoy a good ghost story that is more on the psychologically spooky side (as opposed to the slasher, gory side), and thought this would fit the bill nicely. But the handling of the characters consistently got in the way of the atmosphere. The problems:

None of the subjects participating in this expedition to the haunted house seemed to be serious about actually trying to discover its secrets. They moved in, experienced the strange phenomena, but afterwards never even discussed among themselves what had happened or even seemed terribly surprised or concerned. We were told they wrote copious notes, but they never seemed to go anywhere.

The too-clever, ironic conversations felt contrived and out of place. Perhaps the wry humor was meant to be a sort of whistling-in-the-dark, but it didn’t work for me.

The crazy bangings and door slammings, voices and wall writings are all sensory events that are difficult to convey in writing with the impact they deserve. Perhaps the impact would have been heightened if the characters themselves had seemed to be more viscerally affected. But they all just got over it a few minutes later, looked for the brandy and made more jokes. I have seen the 1963 film version, and found it satisfyingly spooky, largely because the actors were able to convince me that they were scared themselves.

I found Dr. Montagues wife to be one of the single most irritating characters I have ever read. Worse, her nearly comical militant spiritualist crusade further weakened Dr. Montagues already weak character, undermining any pretense of scientific authority he held.

I wish I could recommend this classic, but for me it did not live up to its billing.