11 Chilling Facts About “The Haunting of Hill House”

October 14, 2018
Haunted House on the Hill

Haunted House on the Hill


In honor of Netflix's new horror series The Haunting of Hill House, Mental Floss has compiled a list of facts about Shirley Jackson's 1953 classic horror novel--on which the show is based. Here they are:

1. It was inspired by real-life paranormal investigators. Jackson was inspired to write the novel after reading about a group of 19th century “psychic researchers” who rented a house they believed to be haunted in order to study paranormal phenomena.

2. Jackson had a terrifying sleepwalking experience while writing the novel. Jackson awoke one morning to find something terrifying atop her writing desk: A note, with the words “DEAD DEAD” scrawled upon it--written in her own handwriting. 

3. She made an unsettling discovery while researching haunted houses. During her research, Jackson stumbled upon a photo of a house in California that had a particular air of “disease and decay.” She later learned that her own great-grandfather had built it. 

4. There was originally more than one version of Eleanor. Jackson wrote three different iterations of protagonist Eleanor before settling on her final version.

5. It’s a ghost story without ghosts. In her notes for the novel, Jackson explained, “The House is the haunting.” 

6. Jackson’s husband was too afraid to read it. Jackson’s husband Stanley Edgar Hyman was a well-known literary critic and professor, but refused to read her manuscript because he found the concept of ghosts too frightening.

7. The novel has earned comparisons to The Turn of the Screw. In her introduction to The Haunting of Hill House, Laura Miller explains that the two novels share common themes, including “a lonely, imaginative young woman” and “a big isolated house.”

8. It was Jackson’s first profitable novel. For the first time, a novel of Jackson’s had finally earned back its advance and even made a profit. 

9. She sold the film rights for $67,500--and used the money to buy a washing machine. She also used the money to pay off her mortgage and all other debts, and to buy living room drapes, a player piano, and a and dryer.

10. Roald Dahl sent Jackson a letter after reading it. The children’s author was so struck by The Haunting of Hill House, he wrote to Jackson suggesting she write for television. 

11. The novel has a lot of famous fans. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro, and Carmen Maria Machado are all huge fans.