Author: Shirley Jackson
First Published: 1959
Page Count: 182
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
This ghost story feels classically creepy, yet also fairly tame compared to the plethora of true and fictional ghost stories readers have to choose from these days who are looking for a good scare.
*Slow build up of terror *Excentric Characters
*Tame ghost story
“‘It watches,’ he added suddenly. ‘The house. It watches every move you make.’” Dr. Montague has assembled a group of three strangers to spend their summer in Hill House. His mission is to find solid proof for supernatural activity in this rumored haunted house. However, strange events begin to unfold and the four house guests are unaware that the house is not merely trying to scare them, it’s trying to claim one of them for its own.
I read that this is almost unanimously touted as the ghost story of the twentieth century, which told me I needed to read this book. I’ve definitely learned this year in my reading journey that I love a good ghost story. As I started reading, the story was giving me a deja vu feeling, and then I did a little research and realized this was what my first film introduction to Liam Neeson was based on. As panned as the movie was, The Haunting scared the bejesus out of me when I was little and I was obsessed with it. All the more reason to dig into this book. The characters as a group are interesting to read about as they all experience the horrors of Hill House. And when Dr. Montague’s wife arrives on the scene we even get some great humor. But the brilliance of this story is the author’s ability to slowly build up a sense of smothering terror around the house and what might happen to the characters. I felt little chills form as I dove into this story once the sun set.
While the suspense is done well, the book didn’t wow me overall. You don’t find out anything about the reason for the haunting or whether the rumors about the house’s creator are true. There were scenes that were creepy but nothing to really frighten me and keep me awake at night. And the ending was fast and a bit anti-climatic for me. I wanted more to happen to all four of the characters. There doesn’t need to be any resolution to the haunting such as an exorcism, but I never thought that the paranormal activity really reached a huge, awe-inspiring pinnacle.
If you like ghost stories, you do have to read this. It has inspired many famous ghost story writers so that alone is a motivator. It does have the elements of a great, old school haunted house story, but it feels more like a short story then a full fledged book. October’s coming up so I suggest throwing this onto your reading list to get yourself in the spirit for the holiday.
*Film Adaptations: (Starring Julie Harris 1963), (Starring Liam Neeson 1999)