Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas!’ like a scary ghost story set in a haunted house… or maybe it does? Anyway, before you ask, I haven’t seen the Netflix series yet (I wanted to read the book first.)
Dr Montague is a scientist who wishes to study the paranormal phenomena at the hideously ugly and apparently very haunted Hill House. He recruits two young women, Eleanor and Theodora, both with experience in odd experiences, to help him. Heir to the house, Luke, is also present, along with the strange couple who maintain the house (although they make it clear that after dark, the ghost hunters are on their own.) Slowly, the house starts to make its desires known and begins to wind its way into one of their party; is Eleanor, a lonely woman battered by family expectations, really receptive to the house? Or does she drive what the party experiences?
It’s easy to see why The Haunting of Hill House is regularly held up as the scariest ghost story of the 20th century- it is properly terrifying at points. One of the side effects I experienced as I was reading was extremely vivid dreams. I put this down the to the uncertainty of the novel. It’s never explicit whether things that are happening are the product of the house or the damaged souls determined to unlock its secrets. I felt myself second-guessing myself and the characters, wondering whether the rug was going to be pulled from underneath me at any time… and this was brilliant, exactly how a ghost story should be. The underlying feeling of terror and the thrill of spooky happenings make this an excellent novel and one well-worth a read.
Now I just have to be brave enough to watch the Netflix series (I’ve seen some of the gifs… looks like it might have to be a daytime watch!)