“We couldn’t even hear you in the night.”
“No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one else will come any nearer than that.”
Since it’s nearly Halloween, I thought a post about Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, one of my favorite books, would be appropriate. I always thought that she must have had a particular house in mind, so I looked around to see what fit the bill in North Bennington, Vermont, where she lived with her literary critic husband and four children. I give you the Park-McCullough house, built in 1865.
“No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.”
And the inside isn’t much better.
“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.”
“Perhaps someone had once hoped to lighten the air of the blue room in Hill House with a dainty wallpaper, not seeing how such a hope would evaporate in Hill House, leaving only the faintest hint of its existence, like an almost inaudible echo of sobbing far away…”
And of course, we can’t forget the wonderfully evocative beginning (and end) of the book:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
So, if you are looking for something suitably creepy to read for Halloween, pick up the truly wonderful Haunting of Hill House. If you don’t have time for the book, try the 1963 film version (avoid the 1999 remake like the plague), starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. Here’s one of the most spine tingling scenes:
Note: to be fair, the Park-McCullough house is a lovely spot where people go to get married and enjoy the Vermont countryside. But I do think it probably inspired Shirley Jackson, who had an amazing ability to see the dark underbelly of even the most scenic and wholesome places and people. The source of the first three pictures is http://www.dailygazette.com/photos/galleries/2008/jun/29/0629_parkmculloughpix/809/. The last one I got on google image.
Have a spooky weekend!