To defeat an horror book (or film), there’s an easy and well-known method: read in the daylight.
True it is that you’ll completely spoil the thrill, but you’ll be spared by nightmares, at least.
There are some stories, though, that can defy the brightest day and make sunlight look like a sole match in a dark room. ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, written by Shirley Jackson, is one of those.
There I was, lying on the couch. It was early afternoon in a sunny summer day. The light came in from both the windows in the living room, making the inside as bright as the outside.
Birds were singing and a lazy bee buzzed around the flowers on the window-sill.
It was a beautiful day, indeed. I couldn’t see any of it.
To me, it was dark night on the top of the hill and Eleanor was entering one of the most spooky places she’d ever be: Hill House.
Eleanor, a lonely and brittle personality, troubled by the lack of sleep and by the poltergeists, with which she was well acquainted.
With her were Doctor Montague, a scientist who was looking for ‘solid’ evidence of haunting; his assistant Theodora; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House.
Nevertheless, beware: this story is about none of them. Not even the fragile Eleanor, who may be the only one who could realize the creepy atmosphere of the house.
Because that’s what the story is about: Hill House itself, an old ghost who’s gathering its powers and who will soon choose someone to make its own.
No surprise, then, if Shirley Jackson introduces us to the house as a conscient living thing, driven insane by the absolute reality it was standing in:
“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 so 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.”
It’s finally time for doors to open, floors to tremble and silence to sound.
While you go to sleep, Hill House is awakening. Will there be dreams? More likely nightmares.
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