The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In The Haunting of Hill House, a concealed evil is both psychically and physically aroused by the presence of a small group of people brought to a haunted house by a researcher of the paranormal, Dr. John Montague. Montague recruits three others to aid him in his analysis of what appears to be a genuine haunted house. The first, a lonely young woman named Eleanor Vance, had spent eleven years caring for an invalid mother whom she hated and who recently died. Theodora is an attractive artist with strong psychic gifts. Luke Sanderson, a cad with an instinct for self-preservation, is the nephew of Hill Houses current owner. Eleanor finds out that she was chosen by Montague because of a psychic experience she had when she was twelve years old: For three days, a shower of stones had fallen on her home.

As the first to arrive at Hill House, Eleanor immediately is struck by the vile and diseased nature of the mansion. Architecturally, Hill House is ruled by the principle of clashing disharmony; fractionally wrong in all of its dimensions, it is filled with dark woodwork, enclosed rooms, doors that swing shut, rickety staircases, and hideously monochromatic rooms. During the first evening there, Montague relates the story of the family feud and the string of mysterious deaths that constitute the eighty-year history of the house. Despite her clear sense of the pervasive evil emanating from the dwelling, Eleanor feels, for the first time, that she belongs...

(The entire section is 526 words.)