Saturday, March 14, 2015

And I digress: following the path of the haunted house -- post number one

from "The Haunting" -- Hill House

A few weeks ago,  I read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and was just blown away with just how great of a book it is. It's definitely not your average haunted house story, for example, as in the case of John Boyne's This House is Haunted, where there is an actual spirit in the house who haunts the governesses of her children, or in  Haunted by James Herbert where there are definitely ghosts who cause trouble for a paranormal investigator. While there's absolutely  nothing wrong with the appearance of ghosts and other creepy entities in haunted house novel (and let's face it -- they're fun when you want a bit of light reading and want that nice shiver of fright running down your spine), The Haunting of Hill House gave me an entirely new perspective on things.  When it was over and I thought about it, I realized that unlike the straight-up haunted house novels mentioned above,  The Haunting of Hill House works at a much deeper level, focusing mainly on the character of Eleanor Vance.  At some point I remember asking myself whether it could possibly be Eleanor herself  unconsciously projecting her own neurosis (and she has many psychological issues that revealed themselves as I went through the book)  and actually creating the "hauntings" that occurred there. On the other hand, it could be the house itself  that is evil in its own right, something malevolent that wants something from the people within. Actually, now that I'm rehashing it in my head, maybe it's a combination of both.

Borley Rectory, England
As much as I would love to talk about the psychological implications of Jackson's novel, since to me they're at the very core of this story,  this post isn't a "review" of the novel at all. Reading Jackson's book has kind of put me onto this haunted house kick, so until I get really sick and tired of the topic, I'm thinking I'd like to do kind of a survey of haunted house fiction to explore how different authors use these spooky dwellings in their work. Nothing too literary, mind you -- just reading for my own entertainment and personal enlightenment.  Right now I'm sort of flying by the seat of my pants re my book choices, sticking to what I have on hand, but I think I'll spend some time researching the history of haunted house literature and sort of arrange my findings/reading in some kind of chronological order if possible. [As an interesting sidebar, I read somewhere once that one of the Plinies even wrote an account of someone staying in a house that was supposedly haunted, but I'll have to double check that].

So far since Jackson, I've read Nazareth Hill, by Ramsey Campbell (another excellent novel but not quite in the same range of excellence as Haunting of Hill House, imo, but close), which I will discuss sometime soon down the road, and another I'll post about shortly, Kim Newman's An English Ghost Story.  Currently I'm reading The Feast of Bacchus by Ernest G. Henham written in 1907 and republished by Valancourt Books.

 Any help with titles would be welcomed, the more obscure, the better.


  1. I'd recommend "The Voices" by F.R. Tallis. A recently-wed English couple--a movie-music composer and his intuitive wife--move into a Victorian house. The husband begins picking up stray voices on his tapes--remarks in several languages, none of which appear to be regular broadcasts. He wants to use these uncanny words in a new piece of music. She's increasingly nervous. Great read, with a harrowing ending. [Take that, Scotland Yard!]


Say what you will, but do it in a nice way.