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The Haunting of Hill House

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  242,794 ratings  ·  23,073 reviews
The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theod
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Paperback, 246 pages
Published June 5th 1984 by Penguin Group (first published October 16th 1959)
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Robyn Copley-Hirst For me, yes.

More than that, I would say the novel only makes complete sense in that light. The most terrifying thing in the book is the traditional fa…more
For me, yes.

More than that, I would say the novel only makes complete sense in that light. The most terrifying thing in the book is the traditional family structure. Anyone who does not fit into this has no place to belong.

We have these echoes of women who have no place in the world. They do not fit into the traditional family. The 'companion' of the previous lady of Hill House who had been hated to death by the family and had finally committed suicide. To me that read as a gay woman who the family could not accept had been left the house in the will. She's one of the first omens that there is no place for lesbians in society at this time.

We've then got Theodora. She and her 'room mate' are on a break. And this offers Eleanor the hope that there might be a family she can fit into: one with Theo.

I understand why some straight people might think that Eleanors revulsion at Theo's touch means she's not gay, but accepting something society tells you is repulsive is very complicated process, even today. Back then this absolutely would be typical for a lot of gay people with these feelings.

There's also that really interesting moment. Both women know they are about to ask the question: do you love me? This hope for a relationship is squashed not by some terrifying monster but by a vision of a traditional family picnic.

It's the traditional family that leaves no space for gay women... and in fact the family, for me, is the true haunting for all of the main characters.

Throw in those 'wink wink' moments: the holding eachother in bed, wondering whether to wear trousers, and only showing you have trousers when the other woman admits she does (this is code that still goes on today; revealing your hidden identity in small ways and fashions). I could go on about this book for days...

But, at the end of the book, Eleanor kills herself because she realises there is no place for her in a family. The odd family they've created at Hill House is coming to an end, her own family don't even have a bedroom or real bed for her to go back to, and finally Theo says that she will not allow Eleanor to live with her,

That's the killer, she's risked it all and been told no, Theo is going back to her girlfriend (sorry, room mate!). And this is as close as the publishers would have allowed Jackson to go at this time. This is the moment she decides to kill herself, just as the previous 'companion' had done at Hill House.

If the book had been any more obvious it would have been banned, or never published in the first place.(less)
Jane The Robert Wise version (1963) is outstanding. Julie Harris is perfect in the role of Eleanor. I remember being terrified after seeing it for the firs…moreThe Robert Wise version (1963) is outstanding. Julie Harris is perfect in the role of Eleanor. I remember being terrified after seeing it for the first time many years ago. The 1999 remake is absolutely dreadful.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  242,794 ratings  ·  23,073 reviews


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Michael
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
I'm falling in love with this book all over again as I re-read it. The premise is that of a science experiment--an academic exercise to test the reality of house-haunting. I love the fact that the opening pages essentially replicate the clinical nature of the premise: here's the chief investigator, here are the three other characters, all described at a clinical remove before we get into the "story" itself. A contemporary editor might have said: "Cut this out and get right to the story," but to ...more
Bill Kerwin
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing

The Haunting of Hill House (1959) is justly revered as an exemplar of the horror genre, not only because its plot provides the template for all those haunted house tales to come, but also because its superb prose and subtle psychology transcend genre, transforming what might otherwise have been merely a sensational tale into a artful novel, worthy of a discerning reader.

The novel suffers from its own pervasive influence, for, as soon as it gets underway, it seems—whether or not you've seen eithe
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Keith
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Erm. This book was lent to me with the assurance that it was one of the ten-or-so greatest horror novels of all time.

So, just having finished it, I'm already forgetting having read it. The two stars it gets are because, quite literally, "it was ok" -- Jackson has an interesting writing style and an ear for consistent, if not always realistic, quirky dialogue. But the characters spend so much time being weirdly objective about their own fears that when bad stuff happens, I feel sort of...objecti
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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, horror
”No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alon ...more
emma
Honestly, all you need to know about my reading experience with this book is the following:
- I never (EVER!!!!) get scared of books.
- My least favorite genre of movie is horror, because they're not scary and are therefore just ~boring~.
- I am obsessed with ghost stories but they are never satisfying to me.
- This book made me so frightened, in broad daylight, at 10 am with my roommate in the next room and a cat on my lap, that I had to put it down.
- BROAD DAYLIGHT I TELL YOU!!!

This book is The Bl
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Maria
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
1,6/5 Stars ⭐️⭐️

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”


This book was so conflicting to me... not in terms of the plot but it terms of WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE IT? It was literally a void of a book, a very bizarre and extravagant but not really book. It's a 240 page lil booky thing, which contained roughly 50 pages of actual plot and moved like a fucking snail. I just don't get it.

Before I bought this book, I had watched the Netflix series based o
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s.penkevich
Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within…

Of all the haunted places, your own mind can be the most terrifying. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House interplays between supernatural and psychological horror where a twisted and sinister haunted house hellbent on isolation becomes a representation of a mind twisted by trauma and full of its own ghosts, and it is a truly remarkable and unsettling read. ‘To learn what we fear is to learn who we are,’ Ja
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Fabian
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is not about fear but rather about the love of being afraid--for the ravenous gauging of limits. Adrenaline is searched for.... neurosis & a dreadful collective paranoia ensues. & cause, naturally, follows effect.

"Books are frequently very good carriers... Materializations are often best produced in rooms where there're books. I cannot think of any time when material was in any way hampered by the presence of books." [186]

There is an aura of authentic literary splicing here: the psycho
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Meghna Agrawal (On a Review-Writing Break!)

My Views-


There was once an authoress with a dogged-determination,
To give her readers heebie-jeebies,
By weaving a plot around a notorious deranged Victorian Hill-House,
Standing tall for 80 years,
With an impressive long-list of tragedies in it’s honour.
We all live and die somewhere, afterall!
She constructed a tale of sheer-brilliance,
for her readers to construe.
Is it a tale of the supernatural? Maybe yes…..
Is it a tale of psychiatric anomalies? Maybe yes….
Is it a tale of the subconscious decipher
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Stephen
Shirley Jackson, you saucy little devil, where have you been all my life? I never knew she could spread prose like this. This is an impressive bit of work and definitely belongs among the classics of literate horror novels.

Right from the first pitch, you can see that Ms Jackson…Shirl…is smitten with language and she uses it to great effect to create an emotionally charged, disorientating atmosphere with healthy heapings of melodrama. Very gothic in feel and actually reminded me of Wuthering Hei
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Julie G ("Doctor, my eyes!"  Offline for a week)
Hand me my damn smelling salts. . . please.

I feel like I'm recovering from the flu, finishing this read.

It's been a disorienting time. . . just like a nasty run-in with influenza: headaches, sleeplessness, fever, delusions. . . no cure for you until it's over.

Wow.

I talked to this book (always the scariest and most sincere sign of my personal devotion).

I apologized to Shirley Jackson (aloud, in my room, alone).

I asked her to forgive me for not reading this before. This ridiculously short, lit
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Shawn
May 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Why rehash what the 5 star reviewers say below? Why even engage the lame arguments by the people who didn't enjoy the book (weak ending? unrealistic dialogue!? not enough happens!?! Christ, people, have an imagination! - although I will say this, they don't seem to be teaching kids what an "unreliable narrator" is in school nowadays, as this book is all about Eleanor's weak and self-centered take on her surroundings and how that slowly gets worked over by Hill House - so an unreliable narration ...more
megs_bookrack
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in college, a little film called The Haunting was released. Starring Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, this Supernatural Horror flick was essentially a modern re-imagining of Shirley Jackson's, The Haunting of Hill House.



My Mom and I went see it at the theater and I promptly fell in love.

Soon after, I was able to buy it on VHS ((I know, right!?!)) and commenced watching it 2,638,450 times. I wish this was an exaggeration, but sadly, it is not.



I had never read the ori
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Joe
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Sgt Pepper and the Citizen Kane of ghost stories.
Anne
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit surprised that The Haunting of Hill House had a scary vibe to it. A lot of these classic horror stories don't. Not really.
They're all psychological and you end up with some sort of abstruse feeling that the characters might just be weirdly disturbed or flat-out crazy.
Not so with this one.
Hill House is fucking haunted.

description

The gist is that this professor (John) wants to gather hard evidence that the paranormal is real, and invites a small group of strangers who have some rather suspect p
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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I got this from the library and I can't figure out what to rate it so I had to go with a 3 for right now.

Here's the thing. I loved the movies better than the book. But I did enjoy the crazy, through the rabbit hole ness of the book. It's not scary in the least. Not to me anyway. But it's good weird and just uggg I can't explain it.

Anyway, sorry so short. I don't feel that good. I wanted to do a longer review on this one. 😕

Mel ❤️
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Bionic Jean
"Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

This comes from the opening to The Haunting of Hill House, a 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, an American writer who died far too young at the age of
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Luvtoread
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great classic horror story! It just may be one of the best, because of the year she wrote this book
truly makes it unique and a precursor of all or most of the haunted house stories to be written thereafter.
The movie The Haunting old b&w based on this story is excellent and truly scary and creepy especially for that era
and so eerie and suspenseful and no blood and gore just an old fashioned scare the wits out of you haunted house story!
jessica
i started this book expecting horror and what i got instead was terror. i wasnt so much spooked by the creepy things happening, but concerned by the implications of psychological torment. scary in its own right, but not the kind of scary i was hoping for. which is probably a good thing as i wont be having any nightmares tonight.

that being said, while i found the writing/language itself to be very effective, the overall pacing and minimal substance kind of disappointed me. the characters are unl
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Lyn
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weird, weird book.

But well worth the time reading it.

Jackson was a masterful storyteller, using a minimalistic approach and a terse, almost journalistic narrative, she creates a mood and sense of expectancy and mystery that grips the reader slowly and completely and lasts until the very end.

And unlike other ghost stories that struggle with an ending, Jackson's haunted house tale brilliantly ends with the same mystery and psychological tension as the narrative held throughout, she leaves the re
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Ahmad Sharabiani
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller (Introduction)

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 Gothic horror novel by American author Shirley Jackson.

Hill House is a mansion in a location that is never specified but is between many hills.
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;
Theodora, a flamboyant, bohemian art
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Matthew
I was hoping for more from this book. I wanted a thrilling and suspenseful story of a creepy haunted house that would end up keeping me up at night. It was not bad, per se, but that is not what I got.

Instead it was a somewhat tedious and repetitive decent into madness. The writing was disorienting – and I think that was intentionally so in order to help the reader feel the house taking over the minds of the characters. Clever . . . but almost headache inducing at times.

The characters were the mo
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 Teodora
3.35/5 ⭐

Completely honest now, this wasn't a terrible read but it did not blow me away either.
I felt like nothing really happened, not even a tiny psychological scare-jump. It was more like a hide-and-seek game where the characters were after something but they couldn't exactly find out what. Like no one could put a finger on what was going on.

I'll have to say, the whole atmosphere was authentic, I liked it. And the characters were well individualised, but they were very odd in the sense that t
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Dan Schwent
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
October Buddy Read with the Pantsless Ones

When an occult scholar recruits people to help him research the paranormal events at Hill House, will the house let any of them leave unscathed?

I've heard this touted as a classic haunted house story for decades and finally decided to take the plunge when the Pantless Ones picked it for an October read. I was not overly impressed.

I don't know if this was the case of wrong book/wrong time but I was not engaged by this book. All of the characters seemed li
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Aoibhínn
The plot, of The Haunting of Hill House, is about three people named, Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, who are invited to stay in a supposedly haunted house for the summer to aid a scientist, Dr. Montague, in his pursuit of paranormal investigation. The book started out as a tale about a creepy old haunted house and then turned into a story about a young mentally unstable woman losing her mind.

I was disappointed by this book to be honest. I felt the novel did not live up to its potential and it certa
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Nilufer Ozmekik
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another horror masterpiece and one of the best choices to read on Halloween month to sharpen your facing to your fears skills!

The original story has so many differences from the adaptation of Netflix series. It’s pure diabolical, brain cell twister, heart pounder, nerve bender! It gives everything I dreamed of : so eerie, so soul shaking, so disturbing and so bleak haunting mansion theme! My nerves are tenser than guitar strings. You can play “Stairway to heaven” with them!

The story
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Upping my rating from 3.5 stars to 4.5 on reread. It’s so strange, how much better this classic 1959 haunted house tale worked for me on rereading, knowing what to expect from it. It's creepy in a subdued, elusive sort of way--not the sort of explicit horror that we're more used to nowadays. But the second time through, I could really appreciate all the hints and subtleties and just the sheer artistry in Shirley Jones’ writing.

Dr. John Montague, whose “true vocation” is researching and analyzing
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J.L.   Sutton
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a fantastic story! Like the House of Usher, Hill House draws you into its mystery and the unfolding terror. From the outset, there is an undefinable sense of unease and dread. The first lines indicate that the house holds darkness within (great opening!).
The house finds a way to isolate visitors from the rest of the world, and frightens us with our own demons. We see that happening to characters who have been invited to Hill House.

Strange to me t
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Kayla Dawn
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
2,5* / I don't know, maybe I'm too stupid to appreciate this story.
I was basically bored throughout the whole book. I didn't feel anything for the characters and even the atmosphere didn't quite get to me.

I liked the writing style though and Eleanor as a narrator was really interesting.

I'm still having hopes for the Netflix show!! I heard nothing but awesome things, so I'm really curious about it.

Update: I just finished the show and wooooooow that was heartbreaking and beautiful and SO well done
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Char
I finished my audio re-read today. My opinion and review below still stands. If it's possible, I loved it even more this time around.
A super scary book with sentences that you want to stop and marvel over.
This is an excellent haunted house story with a psychological aspect.
HIGHLY recommended!

Quote: “I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.”

And what I think is the best opening paragraph in all of literature:

"
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Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri
...more

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  Connoisseurs of horror fiction can tell you: The genre is much more sophisticated and generous than its reputation might suggest. There...
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“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.” 1106 likes
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” 770 likes
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