Ever since it dropped on Netflix on October 12, The Haunting of Hill House has been taking horror to a whole new level. The show follows the five Crain siblings, who grew up in a haunted house where their mother died mysteriously. Hill House, with its numerous nightmares and hidden ghosts, is a unique take on the haunted house genre. What fans may not know is that the creepy tale of the Crain family began as "the greatest haunted house story ever written."
The original novel The Haunting of Hill House was published in 1959. The author, Shirley Jackson, has even been praised by Stephen King as one of the best horror writers of the century. In addition to Hill House, Jackson wrote the famous short story "The Lottery" and five more horror and mystery novels. So what was Jackson’s secret to creating such intoxicating and terrifying tales? How have her stories continued to haunt us for so long? The answer may be witchcraft. No, really.
On the jacket of her first novel, the author was billed as “the only contemporary writer who is a practicing amateur witch.” At the time of its release, the press took this information and ran with it. When Jackson’s publisher broke his leg in a skiing accident, it was rumoured that she had hexed him. One reviewer wrote that Jackson “writes not with a pen but a broomstick.”
It seems that Jackson regretted sharing her witchy practices with the world; she reportedly said later in life that she was tired of all the witchcraft talk, and would fly away from it if she really had a broom. Though she often joked about her powers, and being free of the circulating rumours about them, it seems that she privately, she was quite serious about her practice. Jackson’s biographer, Ruth Franklin, says the famous horror writer boasted “a vast library of historical volumes related to witchcraft and to the occult,” and she was known to read Tarot cards for her friends. “She saw it as a way of channelling female power,” Franklin said in a podcast.
Whether or not Jackson was really a witch remains unclear, but either way, Jackson clearly cast her spell on the world of horror.