Here is where I admit to relegating Shirley Jackson to a middle school English reading requirement. I have hazy memories of reading The Lottery and thinking it was super creepy but not much more than that. I know, I know. Just wanted to start with a little honesty here. The only reason that I FINALLY grabbed a Jackson book from the library was that I fell completely in love with The Haunting of Hill House adaptation on Netflix. Not to make this a tv review, but that show was BRILLIANT. It took me a while to watch the series version because I had to convince my husband to watch it with me. I had watched the first episode when it came out and knew it was gonna be a show that required someone to walk upstairs with me after each episode and to turn out the lights AFTER I got into bed. I have a very active imagination.
After I survived watching the series, I was desperate to get my hands on the source material. I knew it had deviated greatly and I wanted to see how the novel informed that adaptation. Turns out, that it wasn’t as far from the root of the story as I thought.
An anthropologist, Dr. Montague, who is obsessed with scientifically studying the supernatural rents a supposed haunted house for three months. He engages in a search for a “team” of people with a supernatural history of their own to help in his studies. Only two women turn up in the end: Eleanor, a woman who has spent most of her young adult life caring for an ailing mother, and Theodora, a free-spirited pot stirrer with psychic abilities. Rounding out the group is the dapper nephew of the home’s owner who is sent to keep an eye on things. The only other people they encounter are the couple that caretakes the house and grounds who, wisely, refuse to be in the house after dark.
While the house itself is certainly full of scary shenanigans, it’s more about the darkness inside each of its inhabitants. It’s not the campfire story that makes you startle and cry out in the dark. It’s your guilt and anger and fear that fuels the fire.