Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I’ve been feeling the lack of horror in my life. I love fantasy of course, but hardly anything really creeps me out. Stephen King has some amazing masterpieces, but I wanted some other writer – I’ve read so much of him already. Some research pointed out “The Haunting of Hill House” to me and even King recommends it as one of the best horror stories ever written. I gave it a whirl, and I have to admit it has some truly creepy moments.

Even though the “plot” is mostly psychological and we see the possession of a person from the point of view of the possessed, there is a definite terror in the later pages of the book. One scene in particular will always stand out to me as one of the scariest ever when the two girls are sleeping together. Not going into details as I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who wants to read this book.

I feel sad that being scared is so tough for me. As someone who thinks the world is pretty boring in general, being afraid doesn’t come naturally. For me, the scariest scenes are where the “monster” or agent causing the horror isn’t explicitly shown. As an adult, as soon as the terror achieves a specific form, one is more likely to laugh rather than cower. Lovecraft made the mistake of describing Cthulu’s physical appearance. And who can be scared of a walking squid? It’s just too childish.

The Haunting of Hill House does an excellent job of letting our imaginations do the heavy lifting for us. There’s ample evidence that the house is crazy and things are not right. But we are left to describe the terror for ourselves. No monsters or transparent ghosts. At the same time, it’s obvious one of the girls is going crazy – while we watch from her POV! Nothing explicit is mentioned, but she starts out by being this really sweet kid and we’re given a first hand peek of her descent into madness. The little things just hint at what’s coming and slowly progress from there.

I’m going to try out a few more of Stephen King’s ghost story recommendations to see if the genre sticks with me…

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