Haunting of Hill House

Haunting of Hill House

3.9 106
by Shirley Jackson, Roscoe Lee Browne

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The four visitors at Hill House-- some there for knowledge, others for adventure-- are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.  See more details below


The four visitors at Hill House-- some there for knowledge, others for adventure-- are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.

Editorial Reviews

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."
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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NewStar Media, Incorporated
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Unabridged, 4 Cassettes
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4.13(w) x 7.01(h) x 1.19(d)

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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 Salon.com, 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 Salon.com 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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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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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 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 106 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!
smp315 More than 1 year ago
I read this as a teenager after reading Ms. Jackson's classic short story, "The Lottery"(which I loved) in the seventh grade. It is superbly written, but one must remember from a more subtle era. We have become accustomed to a more "in your face" type of fright today. It's good to go back every once in a while and read literature that spawned interest in a genre. For an updated, fresh story about a haunted house I suggest "The Supernaturals" by NY Times bestselling author David Golemon (Event Group Series). A Ghosthuners type TV show plans a live broadcast on Halloween night from a house with an evil past. It's clever, well-paced, creepy and even pays homage to this wonderful tale.
Victoria Sazani More than 1 year ago
This book is a perfect ghost story. Jackson had the ability to create fear just by the way her characters and environment interact. Subtle horror permeates even the most mundane moments. I have never yet been able to find a more perfect first paragraph for a book about a haunted house. This story is flawless which is why this book has served as a template for so many other books and movies. Classy
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 21 days ago
Anonymous 25 days ago
I have heard of this book for forever and am an avid reader of everything. I have seen the movie and was surprised at the liberties they took with that after reading the book. I have to say im not surprised that they had to do that after finding how scary this book is NOT, in any way. Even as a "psychological" thriller. I thought it was just a sad story about Eleanor. There is so much left out of the story, that it doesn't even make much sense. I was very disapponted because i had heard so much about it and all the "scary book" lists have it on and it is far from it. If you want to read scary, read "IT" or "Salem's Lot". I am not scared easily, but i had to put these books down at times because i got so freaked out! To each their own, i guess, when it comes to this one.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Grest Halloween read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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