The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

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by Shirley Jackson

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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

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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"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Penguin Horror Classics:

“The new Penguin Horror editions, selected by Guillermo del Toro, feature some of the best art-direction (by Paul Buckley) I've seen in a cover in quite some time.” – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

"Each cover does a pretty spectacular job of evoking the mood of the title in bold, screenprint-style iconography." – Dan Solomon, Fast Company

Gale Research
Carol Cleveland explained in And Then There Were Nine . . . More Women of Mystery that with this novel Jackson had given the traditional gothic story a twist. "The classic gothic formula, " Cleveland wrote, "brings a vulnerable young girl to an isolated mansion with a reputation for ghosts, exposes her to a few weird happenings to heighten the suspense, then explains the `supernatural' away by a perfectly human, if evil, plot and leaves the heroine in the strong arms of the hero. In House, the heroine is exceedingly vulnerable, the weird happenings quite real, the house really haunted."

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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page



The Haunting of Hill House

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9



SHIRLEY JACKSON was born in San Francisco in 1916. She first received wide critical acclaim for her short story “The Lottery,” which was published in 1949. Her novels—which include The Sundial, The Bird’s Nest, Hangsaman, The Road through the Wall, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin), in addition to The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin)—are characterized by her use of realistic settings for tales that often involve elements of horror and the occult. Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are her two works of nonfiction. Come Along With Me (Penguin) is a collection of stories, lectures, and part of the novel she was working on when she died in 1965.

LAURA MILLER is a journalist and critic living in New York. She is a cofounder of, where she is currently a staff writer, and a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, and other publications. She is the editor of The Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors (Penguin, 2000).


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First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press 1959
Published in Penguin Books 1984
This edition with an introduction by Laura Miller published 2006

Copyright © Shirley Jackson, 1959

Copyright renewed Laurence Hyman, Barry Hyman, Sarah Webster, and Joanne Schnurer, 1987

Introduction copright © Laura Miller, 2006

All rights reserved

Publisher’s Note:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

eISBN : 978-1-101-53064-1

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The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Leonard Brown


Like all good ghost stories, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House sets a trap for its protagonist. In the classic version of the form, as established by the British writer M. R. James, the hero is a gentleman of mildly investigatory bent: a scholar, a collector, or an antiquarian. What lures him into the vicinity of the ghost is often intellectual curiosity and, occasionally, greed; what attracts the ghost’s wrath or malevolence is the hero’s tendency to meddle, to open the sealed room, to root around for treasure, to pocket a souvenir. The hero (“victim” might be a better word) typically hasn’t got much personality beyond his intrusiveness. He’s just someone inclined to put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and to rue the consequences.

What makes The Haunting of Hill House a great ghost story is that Jackson also sets a trap for her readers. Eleanor Vance, the young woman around whom the uncanny events of the novel constellate, is no mere snoop. She is drawn into this adventure, the narrator implies, by the house itself, and the terrible things that happen there emerge from and express her inner life. Eleanor is a genuine literary character rather than a device of the narrative. She is a complicated and distinctive individual, peculiar even, although not so peculiar that she fails to engage the reader’s sympathy. We experience the novel from within Eleanor’s consciousness, and however unreliable we know her to be, we are wedded to her. When the house infiltrates her psyche, the reader, so thoroughly bound up in her, is also invaded. When the ground pitches and ripples beneath her feet, we are unsteadied, too. When Eleanor is snared, so are we. Most ghost stories offer a cozy armchair chill or two, but The Haunting of Hill House exudes a lingering, clammy dread.

The true antecedents of The Haunting of Hill House are not the traditional English ghost stories of M. R. James or Sheridan LeFanu, or even the gothic fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, but the ghostly tales of Henry James. The Turn of the Screw, another short novel about a lonely, imaginative young woman in a big isolated house, is a probable influence, and so, perhaps, is “The Jolly Corner,” the story of a middle-aged aesthete who roams the empty rooms of his childhood home, haunted by the specter of the man he would have been if he had lived his life differently. The ghost story is a small genre to begin with, but its subgenre, the psychological ghost story, the category to which The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James’s tales belong, is tinier still. The literary effect we call horror turns on the dissolution of boundaries, between the living and the dead, of course, but also, at the crudest level, between the outside of the body and everything that ought to stay inside. In the psychological ghost story, the dissolving boundary is the one between the mind and the exterior world. During the third major manifestation at Hill House, as Eleanor’s resistance begins to buckle, she thinks, “how can these others hear the noise when it is coming from inside my head?”

The psychological ghost story is as much about the puzzle of identity as it is about madness. The governess in The Turn of the Screw yearns to be a heroine, to do something brave and noble, and to attract the attention of the dashing employer whose sole directive is that she never, ever bother him. She wants to be someone else. Without the mission of protecting her two young charges from mortal danger, she’s merely a young woman squandering her youth in the middle of nowhere, taking care of children who will only grow up to leave her behind. Is the house she presides over haunted by the ghost of brutish Peter Quint and his lover, her predecessor, the sexually degraded Miss Jessel? Or is it haunted by some half-formed, half-desired alternate version of the nameless governess herself? Eleanor may be the target of the haunting of Hill House, or she may be the one doing the haunting. After all, Dr. Montague invited her to participate in the project because of a poltergeist incident during her childhood.

In the 1930s, the critic Edmund Wilson advanced the theory that the ghosts in The Turn of the Screw did not exist at all, that they were manifestations of the governess’s neuroses, arising from sexual frustration. The manifestations in The Haunting of Hill House are more palpable; as Dr. Montague points out, Eleanor is not the only one who hears and sees them. But they could just possibly be caused by her poltergeist—a primitive, spiteful, violent, unthinking force—rather than by the house itself. It should be said that both James and Jackson gave every indication that they considered the ghosts in their short novels to be real within the fictional world that their books describe. Jackson, who had a lifelong interest in the occult, who dabbled in spells and liked to tell reporters that she was a witch, professed to believe in ghosts. But both of these writers were too preoccupied with the notion that people are attended by multiple, imaginary versions of themselves to be unaware of the nonsupernatural implications of their ghost stories.

Shirley Jackson often wrote about solitary, mousy young women. In addition to Eleanor Vance, who spends eleven years caring for her querulous invalid mother, Jackson’s protagonists include a wallflower college freshman who invents an imaginary female friend (in the 1951 novel, Hangsaman) and a young woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder and blames herself for her mother’s death (in the 1954 novel The Bird’s Nest). Jackson’s attraction to stories that pair fragile, lonely girls with more daring alter egos continued after The Haunting of Hill House. In her last novel and masterpiece, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), two reclusive and unstable sisters hole up in the family mansion after the rest of their relatives are wiped out by a mysterious incident involving a poisoned sugar bowl.

It may come as a surprise, then, that although Jackson did love big old houses, she wrote her novels of spooky isolation from the midst of a large, boisterous family. With her husband, the notable critic and academic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Jackson presided over a household that included four children, an indeterminate number of cats, and an endless rotation of guests and visitors, including several great mid-century American literary figures. At times, their life resembled a continuous party, fueled, to the detriment of their health, by liberal amounts of alcohol, rich food, and cigarettes. Their friends included Ralph Ellison, Howard Nemerov, and Bernard Malamud, but Jackson and Hyman held their own. “I have always thought of them as giants,” one friend told Judy Oppenheimer, Jackson’s biographer. “Not physically. They just had more life than most people do.” It was an opinion Nemerov seconded: “You got impressions of immense personal power from both of them . . . Enormous confidence.”

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Penguin Horror Classics:

“The new Penguin Horror editions, selected by Guillermo del Toro, feature some of the best art-direction (by Paul Buckley) I've seen in a cover in quite some time.” – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

"Each cover does a pretty spectacular job of evoking the mood of the title in bold, screenprint-style iconography." – Dan Solomon, Fast Company

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The Haunting of Hill House 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 62 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a wonderful book, but much of it is very subtle. I found myself feeling sorry for the main character (Eleanor), rather than frightened for her. Her story is a very sad one, and often, it was her character that kept me interested, not the plot itself. The ending leaves many questions about the character of Eleanor and the events at Hill House, but they are questions that are better left unanswered. I was also surprised at the amount of humor in the book. Much of the dialogue between characters was actually funny and it was refreshing amongst the dark nature of the story itself. I came across The Haunting of Hill House after reading Richard Matheson's Hell House, which has a very similar plot (even a similar name). However, Matheson's novel is much more graphic and overall more frightening, I would say. Although I did not find The Haunting of Hill House especially scary, its characters drew me in and made for a very enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like this book and have never seen the original movie from the sixties, you are in for a treat. It is played on AMC and TCM periodically, and it is nothing and I do mean NOTHING like the remake with Catherine Zeta Jones. That was an abomination. The original movie is very true to the book. Just creepy from beginning to end. The book, however, remains the gold standard in the genre in my opinion. If you read only one ghost story in your lifetime, let this be the one. No gore, no blood, no need for it. Boo!
angelosdaughter More than 1 year ago
I love this book and reread it at least once year. The terror is understated and leaves a lot to the imagination, which makes it even more effective. Ir ia left up to your imagination what is behind the manifestations at Hill House. Is the house evil or are the manifestations caused by one or more of the participants? The chilling atmosphere is relieved by the arrival of Mrs. Montague and Arthur, a headmaster and friend of the Montagues. The busybody know it all self-styled sensitive Mrs. Montague with her ouija board and the headmaster, Arthur, are only two people who seem to be immune to sensing the presences in the house and provide comic relief. This is the quintessential ghost story and a great read. The old black and white movie starring Julie Harris and Clare Bloom is wonderful; its only flaw was the omission of Arthur and the reduction of the character of Mrs. Montague to little more than a walk-on. I have seen a play based on the book; it has the same flaw. As someone else stated, the remake with Catherine Zeta-Jones is an abomination, sharing little but the title with the book. The only thing that can be said for it is that it did have some impressive special effects, none of which was based on events in the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like to imagine-really imagine-while you read, this is a great book for it. You can almost hear the sounds, see the scenes, almost draw the floor plan of the Hill House. In some passages, you can also experience a chill sensation in your back. Its 100% terror. Smart terror.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book many years ago after seeing the original black and white film "The Haunting". The horror is subtle which is so much better than graphic gore. I highly recommend this book as well as the original movie. Prepare to be scared. This is horror at its purest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I disagree with the lengthy review of my dear daughter, Julie. This is the scariest book I have ever read, and I, too, have read my fair share of horror stories. I first read it when I was about 15 and made sure I was not alone in the house when I did. I have read it about a dozen times since and still only read it when my husband is home. Trust me, if my daughter woke in the dead of night , alone in her bed, to what sounded like a sledgehammer banging on her door or found all of her clothes inexplicably covered in blood, she would experience much more than goosebumps. Especially if she were alone in a house far from town in the night where no one could here her because no one would come any closer. "Whatever walks there walks alone."
Nightmare_Lord More than 1 year ago
mgoodrich718 More than 1 year ago
The Haunting Of Hill House By Shirley Jackson<br /> <br /> 4 Stars<br /> <br /> The Haunting Of Hill House is a classic horror story. The story begins with Dr. Montague who is a scholar of the occult wanting to have final evidence of a true haunting. He gathers information looking for the perfect people to help him. He rents Hill House for the summer. A house with a tragic past that the town it sits in won't even discuss. The house sits all alone and began it's life tragically when 80 years prior Hugh Crain built the house for his wife who died moments before even reaching it. The tragedies continue from there and no one that has lived there has for very long. Dr.Montague invites his assistant Theodora, Luke the future heir of the house and Eleanor a complicated young women who has had experience with the occult to stay with him. The story moves quickly and many things happen to it's guests. The house is powerful and it's goal is to keep it's inhabitants off kilter at all times. It builds power and takes what it wants for it's own.<br /> <br /> This was a genuinely creepy story. It's one that you really should read sitting in the dark of night. The subtlety of the horror is what I loved most. Horror novels usually do not phase me but this one did. If it touches me and gives me pause then it is definitely good. The characters all had their flaws that were exposed while there. The doctor does not know what he has really done until it's too late. I am glad that I finally picked this up and it will be with me for a long while.
Ophelia52 More than 1 year ago
If your sensibilities have been shaped by video, you will probably not like this. If you are sensitive to nuances of language and atmosphere and skilled at turning text into a waking dream, this will chill you to the bone.
Anonymous 18 days ago
Anonymous 4 months ago
Grest Halloween read.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
Jackson&rsquo;s novel, often hailed as a classic of horror fiction, seems decidedly quaint by current horror standards. While all of the fundamental elements of a haunted house tale feature prominently in this novel&mdash;an ill-fated history of death, suicide, and family intrigue, mysterious and unexplained noises, dark passages and an architectural design that appear to defy logic, a remote and isolated locale, strangers assembled to survive in the house cut off from the outside world&mdash;the horror (or more precisely, the terror) that occurs in this story is almost too subtle and too muted. The title of the story might provide some clue regarding the nature of this tale. Note that the title implies that what occurs in this tale is a &ldquo;haunting&rdquo;&mdash;it does not seem to imply that Hill House *is* haunted but rather that what transpires in the novel is a *haunting.* The main character, Eleanor&mdash;an inscrutably lonely romantic prone to imaginative flights of fancy&mdash;might very well be the agent of the haunting. That is, rather than the house haunting the characters, in this story, the characters (or rather, the main character) could be haunting the house, as the title implies. Read this one for the restrained suspense of Jackson&rsquo;s writing and its value as a cornerstone of the genre, but temper your expectations of spine-tingling frights and sleepless nights.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most memorable line of this book: &quot;I am learning the pathways of the heart.&quot; Who thought it ? If you don't know you will never get this book. Shirley Jackson did not set out to write a classic horror story. She set out to make people think about the interior of themselves and find that lonliness which in turn frightens us to the core. If you are not steeped into the violence which pervades a jaded, bloodthirsty NOW generation you will come to know what masterful writing is by reading anything by Shirley Jackson. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote a short on this very theme and did equally as well.
lbyeti More than 1 year ago
My capsule review: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE may be the best haunted house novel ever written. Hadn't read it for years. Ordered this new edition. The book still holds up. Quite simply: a great read!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
InnocenceDiesAbbyDosent More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all time favorite books.
BuWho More than 1 year ago
A good read for a dark and stormy night. Having seen both of Hollywood's versions of The Haunting of Hill House, reading the book was a pleasure. Of the two movies, the 1965 movie follows the book much better and still gives me chills.
frosta33 More than 1 year ago
I just don't get this book. I've read many different types of horror/scary stories from many different authors and time periods, so I consider myself very well rounded in the genre, but this is one classic scary story I just have never been able to see what all the fuss is about it. I'll admit I am a big fan of gore and twisted disturbed characters, but I don't require those things in a horror tale. There are plenty of psychological thrillers I have found quite enjoyable. That being said, I have tried twice to read this book and both times it has come up short for me. I dont even think it is abad story, I just dont see where the scary is. The book carries the warning &quot;dont read this alone&quot; or something to that effect emblazoned across the front cover. All I can say is either I am missing something or people living at the time of this books publication were much more faint of heart. I had hoped to be scared senseless, but instead the book just seemed to be more of look inside the head of a weird recluse. Maybe part of my problem is that I just dont find Eleanor to be a likeable character, and in not liking her or being sympathetic to her I just dont care. I will say her fate in the end was satisfying, it was just a shame it didnt happen earlier in the book and save me some time in reading. I would have liked to have learned more about the other characters, all of whom are more interesting and enjoyable. Also The part of the book I liked the most was the backstory, I would have liked it if the book had delved more into those characters and situations. When Ive talked to fans of the book, and asked them what is it that is scaring them they say something like &quot;its psychological&quot; or something like that. I still dont get it. Bloody clothes and bangs on doors are just not enough to give me goosebumps.
jjelizalde More than 1 year ago
One of, if not the best haunted house story ever. Subtle, psychological gloom builds step by step in this story. Ms. Jackson's writing style is persuasive and simply flows.
Victorian_Lady More than 1 year ago
Imagine that you receive a letter from a paranormal scientist inviting you to live in a haunted house for 3 months as part of an experiment. Most people might refuse the offer, but for a young woman named Eleanor Vance, it is a chance to escape the drudgery of her life and responsibilities. She accepts the offer and is able to travel to the house by &quot;stealing&quot; the car that is jointly owned by her sister (Eleanor is pretty meek, so you do kind of cheer her on anyway!). You learn that she has felt repressed by her family for much of her life and this is her first decision carried out completely on her own. I love the author's description of Eleanor's ride to the house. She imagines herself in different scenarios involving the scenery around her. At the house there are only four of them - Dr. Montague, Eleanor, another girl named Theodora, and the house's family representative, Luke (a young man with a lot of money and not much to do). Strange things happen at Hill House that can't be explained. But the description of the frightening parts isn't very frightening today. I think the most frightening part (and even this isn't very) was when Eleanor and Theodora were walking into the woods aside the house and start being chased. Theodora says to Eleanor &quot;Don't look back!&quot; and Eleanor listens, so the reader never knows who or what chased them. The ending was more sad than frightening and doesn't leave you with a real conclusion as to what exactly happened; you just hope that maybe Eleanor finally got what she wanted. You will have to like traditional gothic literature and character development in order to appreciate this story; it's not for someone who only wants to read a story with a lot of gore. I recommend The Legacy of Winterwyck by Catherine Morland (a false name taken from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey main character) if you can find it - it's out of print but a good story with just the right balance of story/fear factor.
AdamPetersen8 More than 1 year ago
Not so Haunting, Somewhat Interesting If you are looking to be scared...this is not the book for you. It was written in an engaging way that one could relate to and appreciate the characters. I was never bored throughout. I was seldom excited either.
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