The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 gothic horror novel by American author Shirley Jackson. A finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century,[1] it has been made into two feature films and a play, and is the basis of a Netflix series. Jackson's novel relies on terror rather than horror to elicit emotion in the reader, using complex relationships between the mysterious events in the house and the characters’ psyches.

The Haunting of Hill House
Cover of the first edition
AuthorShirley Jackson
CountryUnited States
GenreGothic fiction, psychological horror
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)


The author decided to write "a ghost story" after reading about a group of nineteenth century "psychic researchers" who studied a house and somberly reported their supposedly scientific findings to the Society for Psychic Research. What Jackson discovered in their "dry reports was not the story of a haunted house, it was the story of several earnest, I believe misguided, certainly determined people, with their differing motivations and background." Excited by the prospect of creating her own haunted house and the characters to explore it, she launched into research.[2] She later claimed to have found a picture of a California house she believed was suitably haunted-looking in a magazine. She asked her mother, who lived in California, to help find information about the dwelling. According to Jackson, her mother identified the house as one the author's own great-great-grandfather, an architect who had designed some of San Francisco's oldest buildings, had built. Jackson also read volume upon volume of traditional ghost stories while preparing to write her own, "No one can get into a novel about a haunted house without hitting the subject of reality head-on; either I have to believe in ghosts, which I do, or I have to write another kind of novel altogether."
- Paula Guran[1]

Jackson sketched floor plans of downstairs and upstairs of Hill House and a rendering of the exterior.[3]


Hill House is a mansion in a location that is never specified but is between many hills, built by long-deceased Hugh Crain. The story concerns four main characters: Dr. John Montague, an investigator of the supernatural; Eleanor Vance, a shy young woman who resents having lived as a recluse caring for her demanding disabled mother;[4] Theodora, a flamboyant, bohemian artist and Luke Sanderson, the young heir to Hill House, who is host to the others.

Dr. Montague hopes to find scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He rents Hill House for a summer and invites as his guests several people whom he has chosen because of their experiences with paranormal events. Of these, only Eleanor and Theodora accept. Eleanor travels to the house, where she and Theodora will live in isolation with Montague and Luke.

Hill House has two caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who refuse to stay near the house at night. The blunt and single-minded Mrs. Dudley is a source of some comic relief. The four overnight visitors begin to form friendships as Dr. Montague explains the building's history, which encompasses suicide and other violent deaths.

All four of the inhabitants begin to experience strange events while in the house, including unseen noises and ghosts roaming the halls at night, strange writing on the walls and other unexplained events. Eleanor tends to experience phenomena to which the others are oblivious. At the same time, Eleanor may be losing touch with reality, and the narrative implies that at least some of what Eleanor witnesses may be products of her imagination. Another implied possibility is that Eleanor possesses a subconscious telekinetic ability that is itself the cause of many of the disturbances experienced by her and other members of the investigative team (which might indicate there is no ghost in the house at all). This possibility is suggested especially by references early in the novel to Eleanor's childhood memories about episodes of a poltergeist-like entity that seemed to involve mainly her.

Later in the novel, the bossy and arrogant Mrs. Montague and her companion Arthur Parker, the headmaster of a boys’ school, arrive to spend a weekend at Hill House and to help investigate it. They, too, are interested in the supernatural, including séances and spirit writing. Unlike the other four characters, they do not experience anything supernatural, although some of Mrs. Montague's alleged spirit writings seem to communicate with Eleanor. Mrs. Montague's haughtiness and self-importance provide another source of comic relief.

Much of the supernatural phenomena that occur are described only vaguely, or else are partly hidden from the characters themselves.[5] Eleanor and Theodora are in a bedroom with an unseen force trying the door, and Eleanor believes after the fact that the hand she was holding in the darkness was not Theodora's. In one episode, as Theodora and Eleanor walk outside Hill House at night, they see a ghostly family picnic that seems to be taking place in daylight. Theodora screams in fear for Eleanor to run, warning her not to look back, though the book never explains what Theodora sees.[6]

By this point in the book, it is becoming clear to the characters that the house is beginning to possess Eleanor. Fearing for her safety, Dr. Montague and Luke declare that she must leave. Eleanor, however, regards the house as her home and resists. Dr. Montague and Luke force her into her car; she bids them farewell and drives off, but before leaving the property grounds she propels the car into a large oak tree, and it is assumed that she is killed. In the short, final paragraph that follows, the reader is left uncertain whether Eleanor was simply an emotionally disturbed woman who committed suicide, or whether her death at Hill House has a supernatural significance.[7]


Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre (1981), a non-fiction review of the horror genre, lists The Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century and provides a lengthy review.[8] According to The Wall Street Journal, the book is "now widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written."[9] In his review column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre books of 1959, declaring it "in a class by itself."[10]

Reappraising the book in The Guardian in 2010, Sophie Missing wrote, "Jackson treats her material – which could be reduced to penny dreadful stuff in less deft hands – with great skill and subtlety. […] The horror inherent in the novel does not lie in Hill House (monstrous though it is) or the events that take place within it, but in the unexplored recesses of its characters' – and its readers' – minds. This is perhaps why it remains the definitive haunted house story".[11] In 2018, two of thirteen writers polled by The New York Times identified it as the scariest book of fiction they have ever read.[12]


The book has been adapted to film twice, in 1963 and again in 1999, both times under the title The Haunting. The 1963 version is a relatively faithful adaptation and received critical praise. The 1999 version, considerably different from the novel and widely panned by critics, is an overt fantasy horror in which all the main characters are terrorized and two are killed by explicitly supernatural deaths. It was also parodied in Scary Movie 2 (2001).

The book was first adapted for stage in 1964 by F. Andrew Leslie.[13] In 2015, Anthony Neilson prepared a new stage adaptation for Sonia Friedman and Hammer for production at the Liverpool Playhouse.[14]

In 1997, the book was abridged for radio by Alison Joseph and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in eight 15-minute episodes, read by Emma Fielding.[15]

In 2017, it was announced that Mike Flanagan would be adapting the novel into a Netflix series, of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House,[16] later re-titled to simply The Haunting.[17][18] In the same year, Timothy Hutton, Carla Gugino, Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Lulu Wilson, Victoria Pedretti and Henry Thomas had been cast in the show. It was released on October 12, 2018.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House
  2. ^ Eggener, Keith (29 October 2013). "When Buildings Kill". Places Journal (2013). doi:10.22269/131029. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  3. ^ Susan Scarf Merrell (August 10, 2010). "Shirley Jackson Doesn't Have a House". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Why Are they leaving me? Revisiting THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Whatever Walked There, Walked Alone: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson". 6 December 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  6. ^ ""Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House and the Specter of the Lesbian"". 20 March 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  7. ^ Arreola, Cristina. "The Book That Inspired Netflix's 'The Haunting Of Hill House' Is SUPER Creepy". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  8. ^ King, Stephen (1981). Danse Macabre. New York: Gallery Books. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-4391-7116-5.
  9. ^ Miller, John J. (29 October 2009). "Chilling Fiction. ." Retrieved 16 October 2018 – via
  10. ^ "Books", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1960, p.98
  11. ^ Missing, Sophie (7 February 2010). "The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  12. ^ "The Book That Terrified Neil Gaiman. And Carmen Maria Machado. And Dan Simmons". The New York Times. July 16, 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  13. ^ Leslie, F. Andrew (1964). The Haunting of Hill House: A Drama of Suspense in Three Acts. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, Inc. ISBN 9780822205043. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Liverpool Playhouse to Present The Haunting of Hill House". Broadway World. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Netflix Orders TV Series Adaptation Of 'The Haunting of Hill House' Book From Mike Flanagan, Amblin TV & Paramount TV". Deadline. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  17. ^ Otterson, Joe (February 21, 2019). "'Haunting of Hill House' Renewed as Anthology, Creators Ink Overall TV Deal at Netflix". Variety. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  18. ^ Petski, Denise (February 21, 2019). "Theme of 'The Haunting' 2nd Installment Revealed". Deadline. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  19. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "Timothy Hutton To Star In 'The Haunting Of Hill House' Netflix TV Series Adaptation". Deadline. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  20. ^ N'Duka, Amanda. "'The Haunting Of Hill House': Lulu Wilson & Victoria Pedretti Cast In Netflix Series Re-Imagining". Deadline. Retrieved 15 September 2017.

Further reading

External links

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David Moretti

David Moretti (also known as David Shae) (born September 3, 1981 in Cranston, Rhode Island) is an American actor.

Moretti graduated from the University of Southern California in 2002 with a degree in English. He was a member of the Delta Chi fraternity .

He currently resides in Atlanta, GA. Recent credits include The Haunting of Hill House, Life Size 2, and Lodge 49.

Elizabeth Reaser

Elizabeth Ann Reaser (born July 2, 1975) is an American film, television, and stage actress. Her work includes the films Stay, The Family Stone, Sweet Land, Against the Current, The Twilight Saga, Young Adult, and Ouija: Origin of Evil, and the TV series Saved, Grey's Anatomy, The Ex-List, The Good Wife, True Detective and The Haunting of Hill House.

Go In and Out the Window

"Go In and Out the Window" is a popular song composed by Hall of Fame songwriter Lew Pollack (1895–1946). The song remains popular

as a children's music standard.The lyrics of the song were featured in Shirley Jackson's horror novel "The Haunting of Hill House."

Melody c. 1762; lyrics "Bear Went" c. 1939 (Linscott); Earliest Date for US version of Go in and Out the Window: 1911; certainly dates back to 19th century. English versions published 1898.

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"I Want U" is a song by Australian electronic DJ and Producer Alison Wonderland. It was released on 2 May 2014 as the lead single from Wonderland's debut extended play studio album, Calm Down. The song peaked at number 38 in Australia and was certified gold in 2016, then platinum in 2018. It was also featured in the video games "NBA 2K17" and "Forza Horizon 3". This song was then recently featured on the Netflix television show "The Haunting of Hill House".

Kate Siegel

Kate Siegel (; born August 9, 1982) is an American actress and screenwriter. Siegel is best known for her collaborations with her husband Mike Flanagan, appearing in the acclaimed horror films Oculus (2013), Hush (2016), which she also co-wrote, Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), and Gerald's Game (2017). Siegel also starred as Theodora Crain in the Netflix supernatural horror series The Haunting of Hill House (2018).

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Lulu Wilson

Lulu Wilson (born October 7, 2005) is an American child actress. Wilson is known for her roles in the well-received horror films Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), Annabelle: Creation (2017), and the 2018 adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House.

Mckenna Grace

Mckenna Grace (born June 25, 2006) is an American child actress. She began acting professionally at the age of 6, her earliest roles including Jasmine Bernstein in the Disney XD comedy series Crash & Bernstein (2012–2014) and Faith Newman in the soap opera The Young and the Restless (2013–2015). Her early film roles include supporting performances in the drama Mr. Church (2016), the science fiction film Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), and the comedy How to Be a Latin Lover (2017). She gained recognition for her critically acclaimed performance in Gifted (2017), for which she was nominated for the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer, and for portraying a young Tonya Harding in I, Tonya (2017). Grace is also known for portraying Penny Kirkman in the ABC drama Designated Survivor and young Theodora Crain in the Netflix supernatural horror series The Haunting of Hill House (2018–present). She also has had a recurring role in the Netflix series Fuller House as Rose Harbenberger, guest stars in another Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as young Sabrina Spellman, as well as the lead role in Lifetime's made-for-television remake of the 1956 film of the same name based on the homonymous novel by William March The Bad Seed as Emma Grossman. In 2019, she shared the role of young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel with London Fuller.

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Michiel Huisman

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Huisman began his career on Dutch television, in the Dutch soap opera Goede tijden, slechte tijden (1998). He later played starring roles in the Dutch TV series De co-assistent (2007–10) and Bloedverwanten (2010), supporting roles in the Dutch films Costa! (2001) and Full Moon Party (2002), and leading roles in Phileine Says Sorry (2003) and Floris (2004). He also played a supporting role in Black Book (2006). During the early years of his acting career, Huisman was also part of a band called Fontane.

Huisman's first international acting experience came in 2006, when he guest-starred in an episode of the British TV series Dalziel and Pascoe. He subsequently appeared in The Young Victoria (2009), World War Z (2013), Wild (2014), The Invitation (2015) and The Age of Adaline (2015).

Mike Flanagan (director)

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Shirley Jackson

Shirley Hardie Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American writer, known primarily for her works of horror and mystery. Over the duration of her writing career, which spanned over two decades, she composed six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.

A native of San Francisco, California, Jackson later attended Syracuse University in New York, where she became involved with the university's literary magazine and met her future husband Stanley Edgar Hyman. The couple settled in North Bennington, Vermont in 1940, after which Hyman established a career as a literary critic, and Jackson began writing.

After publishing her debut novel The Road Through the Wall (1948), a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood in California, Jackson gained significant public attention for her short story "The Lottery," which details a secret, sinister underside to a bucolic American village. She continued to publish numerous short stories in literary journals and magazines throughout the 1950s, some of which were assembled and reissued in her 1953 memoir Life Among the Savages. In 1959, she published The Haunting of Hill House, a supernatural horror novel widely considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written.A reclusive woman, Jackson remained in North Bennington for the last years of her life, and was reluctant to discuss her work with the public. By the 1960s, her health began to deteriorate significantly as a result of her increasing weight and cigarette smoking, ultimately leading to her death due to a heart condition in 1965 at the age of 48. Jackson has been cited as an influence on a diverse set of authors, including Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Sarah Waters, Nigel Kneale, Joanne Harris, and Richard Matheson.

Suburban Gothic

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The Haunting (1963 film)

The Haunting is a 1963 British horror film directed and produced by Robert Wise and adapted by Nelson Gidding from the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. The film depicts the experiences of a small group of people invited by a paranormal investigator to investigate a purportedly haunted house.

Screenwriter Gidding, who had worked with director Wise on the 1958 film I Want to Live!, began a six-month write of the script after reading the book, which Wise had given to him. He perceived the book to be more about mental breakdown than ghosts, and although he was informed after meeting author Shirley Jackson that it was very much a supernatural novel, elements of mental breakdown were introduced into the film. The film was shot at MGM-British Studios in the United Kingdom on a budget of US$1.05 million, with exteriors and the grounds shot at Ettington Park (now the Ettington Park Hotel) in the village of Ettington, Warwickshire. Julie Harris was cast by Wise who found her ideal for the psychologically fragile Eleanor, though during production she suffered from depression and had an uneasy relationship with her co-stars. The interior sets were by Elliot Scott, credited by Wise as instrumental in the making of The Haunting. They were designed to be brightly lit, with no dark corners or recesses, and decorated in a Rococo style; all the rooms had ceilings to create a claustrophobic effect on film. Numerous devices and tricks were used in the filming. Wise used a 30mm anamorphic, wide-angle lens Panavision camera that was not technically ready for use and caused distortions. It was only given to Wise on condition that he sign a memorandum in which he acknowledged that the lens was imperfect. Wise and cinematographer Davis Boulton planned sequences that kept the camera moving, utilizing low-angle takes, and incorporating unusual pans and tracking shots.

Upon release on 18 September 1963, the film performed moderately at the box office and was well received, although the plot was widely criticized for being incoherent. Today it has achieved cult status and is considered by many to be one of the best horror films in cinematic history, and one of the most unsettling. In 2010, The Guardian newspaper ranked it as the 13th-best horror film of all time. Director Martin Scorsese has placed The Haunting first on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time. The Haunting was released on DVD in its original screen format with commentary in 2003, and was released on Blu-ray on 15 October 2013. The film was remade in 1999 by director Jan de Bont, starring Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson, but this version was heavily panned by critics and audiences.

The Haunting (1999 film)

The Haunting is a 1999 American supernatural horror film directed by Jan de Bont. The film is a remake of the British psychological horror film of the same name. Both of them are based on the 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting stars Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1999.

The Haunting (TV series)

The Haunting is an American supernatural horror anthology web television series created and directed by Mike Flanagan for Netflix, produced by Amblin Television and Paramount Television. The series is a re-imagining of classic horror literature, including The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

The first season, titled The Haunting of Hill House, featured an ensemble cast consisting of Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, and Victoria Pedretti as the adult counterparts of the Crain siblings. Carla Gugino and Henry Thomas portray parents Olivia and Hugh Crain, with Timothy Hutton appearing as an older version of Hugh.

The first season was released on October 12, 2018, on Netflix. It received positive reviews, with many calling it an "effective ghost story" and praising the acting and directing. In February 2019, Netflix renewed the series for a second season. The second season is titled The Haunting of Bly Manor and is based on James' novel, and is set to be released in 2020.

The Possibility of Evil

"The Possibility of Evil" is a 1965 short story by Shirley Jackson. Published on December 18, 1965, in the Saturday Evening Post, a few months after her death, it won the 1966 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery short story. It has since been reprinted in the 1996 collection Just an Ordinary Day as well as "Elements of English 10" for high school students.While not as well-known or read as her later classic, "The Lottery", it later became a set work in high school English classes.

Victoria Pedretti

Victoria Pedretti (born March 23, 1995) is an American actress best known for her role as Eleanor "Nell" Crain in the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. In 2019, she will portray Lulu in Quentin Tarantino's film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. She has an upcoming role as Love Quinn in the Netflix thriller You.

Short fiction

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