Hill House, Not Sane

by John J. Miller on October 27, 2009 · 3 comments

in Blog Posts

  • SumoMe

What’s the best opening paragraph to a horror story? Some say Shirley Jackson wrote it, in The Haunting of Hill House:

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 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.

Hill House

  • RM1(SS) (ret)

    46 years since I read the book, and I still remember those four words; Hill House, not sane….

  • tomtallis

    It’s probably the greatest ghost story ever written and the Robert Wise film does it complete justice. Avoid the Jan de Bont remake. It’s bloated, overproduced, and not scary (although the set design is wonderful).

  • mournblade1066

    I always point to the opening paragraph to this masterpiece as an example of a PERFECT introduction. It sets up the tone and atmosphere perfectly, and it never relents. Yet, it never SHOUTS at the reader. (Stephen King dedicated one of his novels–_Firestarter_, I think_ to her. It read something like, “To the memory of Shirley Jackson, who never needed to raise her voice.”)

    The only novels that I have ever read that rival the spookiness of _The Haunting of Hill House_ are Stephen King’s _Pet Sematary_, Richard Matheson’s _Hell House_, and Peter Straub’s _Ghost Story_.

    If anyone else knows of other novels as scary as this, please let me know. I *LOVE* being scared, but I am usually disappointed. I really love Stephen King’s books, but they don’t really scare me. (_It_ and _Bag of Bones_ had a few genuinely scary passages, but weren’t consistently scary throughout.)

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