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Shirley Jackson's slim novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) follows the misadventures of a group of people recruited by Dr. John Montague, a would-be specialist in the "analysis of supernatural manifestations," as they attempt to document the goings-on at Hill House. Hill House ("not sane"), erected in the late nineteenth century, was commissioned by one Hugh Crain--whose first wife died before she even managed to enter the house. His second wife also died. And the third. If this run of suspiciously bad luck wasn't enough, the house has since seen a run of mysterious events, suicides, and strange accidents, all of which have left it with a very unfortunate reputation indeed.

The main characters:

  • Dr. John Montague: The rather fluttery Dr. Montague does his best to study Hill House "scientifically," although he proves completely incapable of understanding what's going on. As we later discover, he's also dominated by his wife, an enthusiast for all things paranormal.
  • Eleanor Vance: Most of the novel is told from Eleanor's perspective. She's thirty-two, unmarried, and under the thumb of her annoying family. For Eleanor, the trip to Hill House represents a last-gasp attempt to free herself from her old life.
  • Theodora: An artistic type who lives with a lover of unidentified gender, and flirts with both Eleanor and Luke Sanderson.
  • Luke Sanderson: Identified point-blank as a "liar" and a "thief," Luke is on the scene because Hill House belongs to his family; he's also the intended heir.

And, last but not least...

  • Hill House: The house is a character in its own right, exuding evil from the very slope of its roof.

In the tradition of Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery," most of the novel's horror derives from Mind Screw instead of graphic terrors. The Haunting of Hill House was adapted to the screen in two films named The Haunting (1963 and 1999), of which the former is considered a classic in its own right. The latter... not so much.

Not to be confused with fellow horror movie House on Haunted Hill.

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