The Haunting of Hill House Characters đź“–

The characters of Shirley Jackson’s classic horror novel are quite different from one another. From the reserved and introspective protagonist, Eleanor Vance, to the mysterious and enigmatic Dr. Montague, each character is complex and evocative in their own right.

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

Although there aren’t very many characters in ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ the novel’s close depiction of a few makes the book feel full of characters’ experiences. More than half the characters in the novel are female as well, something that was certainly unusual for the period in which the book was written and its genre. 

Eleanor Vance

Eleanor Vance is one of the main protagonists of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ The other characters often refer to her as Nell.  Eleanor, who is thirty-two years old, has spent most of her life in a state of loneliness but is determined to make a break from her past and start afresh after her mother dies. She arrives at Hill House full of anticipation and excitement but quickly begins to experience supernatural occurrences that make her question her own sanity. 

Throughout the novel, Eleanor’s motives are revealed as she navigates her relationship with the other characters and attempts to come to terms with the strange occurrences that take place within Hill House. Eleanor is haunted by her past, struggling to come to terms with her deceased mother’s actions as well as her own feelings of self-doubt and inferiority. 


Theodora is one of the main characters and is also known as Theo. She is a beautiful young, talented artist and a medium who can sense supernatural forces and communicate with spirits. She is brought into Hill House by Dr. Montague in order to help him investigate the hauntings that occur there. Theodora can come across as cold when she’s not the center of attention.

Much of Theodora’s past is mysterious, including her relationship with her female roommate. It’s also suggested that she is capable of changing her personality to suit other people, as she may have done with Eleanor. 

Luke Sanderson

Luke Sanderson is the nephew of the woman who owns Hill House. His primary motivation throughout the novel is to make money off the sale of Hill House, though he is willing to stay longer if need be. He’s introduced as a selfish character who often gets in trouble. He uses his humor to belittle and insult other people.

Luke is initially portrayed as an irresponsible, carefree character who often jokes around and gets into trouble. However, as the novel progresses, it is revealed that he is actually quite sensitive and caring beneath the surface. Luke also develops a strong bond with the other characters. 

Luke will eventually inherit the house from his aunt, but he moves to Paris at the end of the book. 

Dr. John Montague

Dr. John Montague is an esteemed paranormal researcher and professor, determined to unlock the secrets of Hill House and prove the existence of supernatural forces. His motivation is to make history by exposing and understanding the mysterious phenomena that have long surrounded Hill House.

At the outset of the novel, Dr. Montague invites three people—Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke—to stay in the house for an extended period of time under the pretense of studying it. Through his careful observations, he attempts to document any supernatural occurrences but also hopes to find a scientific explanation for the hauntings. He goes so far as to set up elaborate tests and experiments to try to prove the existence of ghosts.

The Dudleys 

The Dudleys are the caretakers of Hill House. They are a married couple who live near Hill House and take care of the grounds. She is the cook, and he is the property’s caretaker. They rigidly adhere to a specific schedule that ensures that they aren’t there after dark. Mrs. Dudley notes that she has no interest in staying in the house after dark, furthering Eleanor’s fear that there is something malevolent going on.

The Dudleys are more like background characters than actual protagonists in the novel. 

Mrs. Montague 

The wife of Dr. Montague, Mrs. Montague, shows up partway through the novel with the intention of doing what her husband has so far failed to do—prove that there are ghosts in the house. 

Hugh Crain

Hugh Crain is the former owner of Hill House and the man who built it. He was interested in pushing the boundaries of architecture and creating something that had never been done before. The resulting house is a confusing maze of concentric circles. It was created to be intentionally hard to navigate.

As the novel progresses, readers learn that Crain’s wife died before she could move into the home, and he cared for their two daughters on his own. Luke learns that Crain was a less-than-ideal father and may have even abused his children. It seems possible that Crain’s negative influence helps feed the house’s paranormal activity, even years after his death. 

Old Miss Crain

She is one of the two daughters Hugh Crain raised on his own in the house. She spent her life there and left the home to a local woman (who goes unnamed) who was her companion throughout her life. Her younger sister sued the local woman, and the latter eventually committed suicide. 


Who is the main character in The Haunting of Hill House?

The main character in ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ is Eleanor Vance. Eleanor is a sensitive and shy woman in her early thirties who is struggling to come to terms with her troubled past.

Who is the hero of The Haunting of Hill House?

The hero of ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ is arguably Dr. John Montague, who is an expert in paranormal phenomena. He assembles a team to investigate Hill House and, through his understanding and knowledge of the paranormal, is able to keep everyone safe from harm.

Who is the villain in The Haunting of Hill House?

The villain in the story of ‘The Haunting of Hill House is Hugh Crain, the former owner of Hill House. It’s suggested that he’s responsible for the home’s malignant energy. 

Is The Haunting of Hill House based on a true story?

No, the book is a work of fiction. However, the novel has been inspired by real-life haunted houses and paranormal experiences.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap