The Haunting of Hill House

A Classic Horror Story on Penguin Horror

While visiting The Tattered Cover in (booming and beautiful) Denver, Colorado, I picked up this horror classic. It was written by San Francisco born Shirley Jackson who wrote the famous short story, “The Lottery”.

This is a perfect book for Halloween and the Fall in general. It takes place in a supposedly haunted house out in the countryside and I’ve read it was inspired by a place near Bennington Vermont.

It has been made into a movie twice, once in 1963 that stayed true to the story and then again in more recent times where they really “borrowed” from the original and which was a total flop.

Nothing beats a well written book – in my view, “special effects” are a total cop out. This is a well written book.

Besides it just being the perfect and fun horror (really more a ghost) story, there were a few telling bits that have links to the SF Bay Area. Besides Shirley being born in SF, which has plenty of Victorian houses that could easily be imagined as haunted, I really like the one sentence that mentioned the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Shirley’s family moved from SF to the peninsula and she went to school there, and you can tell that the Winchester house most definitely was an influence, and a strong one at that.

The other to thing that struck me has an Alfred Hitchcock connection. His movie “Psycho” which took place north of San Francisco, Birds, which took place in the Bodega Bay area. Then there was Vertigo, which took place partly in San Francisco and San Juan Bautista, and Rope, which took place in SF itself (I think).

Shirley Jackson would have been perfect for The Twilight Zone – the only show I have ever watched every episode.

I’ve kayaked in Tamales Bay and gone on Century bike rides around fog shrouded towns like Point Reyes Station, Petaluma, and many other Marin, Sonoma and Napa towns and villages. Knowing that Shirley Jackson ended up in Vermont writing such horror stories helped me make a big connection between SF and just the northern Bay Area and New England. I’ve been to Vermont and come from the northernmost County in NJ – Sussex County, which has more in common with Upstate NY and even a tiny bit of Vermont than NJ or even PA.

Ironically, just recently I was wondering if the SF Bay Area was an “unfriendly” or “stuck up” place. My conclusion is not really, but it is a “patrician” place. There is a connection to New England in this regard – it’s somewhat like the joke about Vermont with it’s expression “You can’t get there from here”, but not exactly. The Bay Area is still just like the 1849 Gold Rush days, only today it’s software and data instead of gold.

Isn’t it funny how a simple horror story can evoke such “musing”?

Guess I got my money’s worth out if this book!

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