The Haunting of Hill House Summary 📖

‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson is a must-read horror novel about four people who decide to investigate the many reports of ghosts in Hill House. 

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House‘ is a chilling novel about the mysterious phenomena in Hill House, an older home with a tragic and complicated past. The book details the many horrifying occurrences the characters experience and how one main character, Eleanor, handles them. 

Spoiler-Free Summary 

The story of ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ is a thrilling classic gothic horror book that was published in 1959. The book follows a group of four investigators who spend multiple weeks in a haunted house with a long, dark history hoping to record supernatural phenomena. They experience a wide range of unique sights and sounds. The home exerts an impressive pull on one of the characters —Eleanor, and she has an impossible time escaping it. 

Full Summary of The Haunting of Hill House 

Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers

This classic horror novel begins with Dr. John Montague renting out the haunted Hill House, a well-known home filled with supernatural occurrences. Hoping to prove to the world of science that supernatural/paranormal phenomena exist, he picks two people to help him record the many terrifying experiences that occur in the house. 

His two companions are Eleanor Vance, a young woman scarred by an experience she had with a poltergeist when she was a child, and Theodora, another woman who supposedly has psychic abilities. 

The other male main character in the novel is Luke, a young man who is going to inherit Hill House from his aunt. He has a bad reputation and is known to get into trouble. His aunt is very aware of this and wants him to stay busy, watching over the house and making sure that Dr. Montague, Eleanor, and Theodora don’t do anything in the home she wouldn’t approve of. 

Eleanor is the first person to arrive at the home and is immediately struck with feelings of terror. She knows immediately that this is a bad place, somewhere that nothing good is going to happen. Her fear is only enhanced after she meets the caretakers, the Dudleys, who warn her that what she’s feeling is real. She should leave, they say, while she has a chance. Even they are too scared to stay in the house after dark. 

The other female main character, Theodora, comes to Hill House second. She makes the house feel more like a home due to her welcoming personality. She helps put Eleanor at ease. But, at the same time, Eleanor’s complicated past makes it hard for her to open up. Readers learn that Eleanor’s mother recently died and that prior to that, she was entirely responsible for her mother’s care. 

The two men arrive next, and Dr. Montague seems less than excited to reveal the reality of the house they’re staying in. He knows they will feel even worse about the time they’ve committed to staying there, and he doesn’t want them bailing out of his experiment. 

Dr. Montague explains to the other three characters and to the reader, that the house is eighty years old and was originally designed in the shape of a confusing, circular maze. The layout of the home is one of the reasons that the many events that take place there are so terrifying. It’s easy to lose one’s way and become trapped in parts of the house they’ve never been in before. 

A series of dark events occur around the home, including the death of Hugh Crain’s wife (the man who built the home). She died in a carriage crash and never spent any time in the home. Years passed, Dr. Montague explained, and the house passed from Hugh to his eldest daughter’s caretaker, a woman who (after being harassed by the locals) hanged herself. 

The terrifying phenomena that take place in the home quickly show themselves over the next few days. They see animals running the halls, feel cold spots, and even see messages written on the walls in chalk. 

Theodora finds the phrase “Help Eleanor” and “Come home, Eleanor” written on the wall. As time progresses, Mrs. Montague, John’s wife, shows up and states that even though her husband has made no progress, she’s going to change everything and record all the supernatural occurrences in the home. One of the ways she tries to do this is to use her planchette. It allows her, supposedly, to communicate with Nell, a spirit living in the house. The other characters make the connection between the name “Nell” and their companion Eleanor. The group starts to separate themselves from her, worried that something else is going on. 

Eleanor herself worries that something is going on in the house that she can’t control and that she may be tapping into some of the house’s darkest elements without meaning to. She even hears her mother’s voice at one point and tries to find its source. 

The group fears Eleanor’s presence in the house while also fearing for her safety. They urge her to leave the house, but she doesn’t want to; with her mother dead, she has no one to go to and no other home. 

She finally agrees to leave after being convinced that the house is damaging her mind. But, even as she leaves, she realizes that there is nothing she can do to get away from the house. It has a hold on her that she can’t shake. Eleanor suddenly accelerates into an oak tree, feeling as though she’s totally lost control of her actions. In the last pages, Jackson explains that Dr. Montague published a paper explaining everything that happened in Hill House, and no one believes him. 


What is the book The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson about? 

The Haunting of Hill House‘ by Shirley Jackson is a horror novel set in an old and creepy mansion. The novel follows four people: Dr. Montague, Theodora, Luke, and Eleanor, who are summoned to the house to investigate supernatural occurrences.

What is the main conflict of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson? 

The main conflict of ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ by Shirley Jackson is the conflict between the human main characters and the supernatural phenomena occurring within the home. This is particularly true for Eleanor, who forms a terrifying bond with the house while she’s there.

Who are the characters in The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson? 

The main characters in ‘The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson include Dr. John Montague, a paranormal investigator, Eleanor Vance, a shy and awkward woman whose mother has just died, Theodora, and Luke, the nephew of the woman who owns the house. 

What themes are explored in The Haunting of Hill House?

Some of the themes explored in the novel include the power of suggestion, the influence of the past on the present, the nature of fear, and the relationship between the supernatural and the psychological.

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.
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