THE HOUSE THAT jAcKSON bUILT
The foundations of the classic novel
Shirley Jackson was open about The
Haunting Of Hill House’s influences. In lecture “experience And Fiction”, she recalled a journey to New york in January 1958. As her train pulled into Harlem’s 125th Street Station, she spied “a building so disagreeable that I couldn’t stop looking at it”, so unnerving it led to nightmares. Jackson claimed she later learned it was a building where nine had died in a fire. the tale may be embroidered – her biographer could only find a fire site where three died, not visible by rail. Whatever, Jackson’s interest was piqued. She wrote to her parents requesting pictures of old California houses. they sent clippings and a brochure for the infamous Winchester House. Jackson also claimed she came across a photo in a magazine of a house with an “air of disease and decay”, later discovering that it was built by her own great-grandfather.
Jackson’s research also fed into the book. Naming her protagonist, she may well have had in mind eleanor Jourdain, co-author of The
Adventure (1910), two edwardian women’s account of a timeslip at the Palace of Versailles. And Haunted People (1951), a book about poltergeists, probably inspired the detail of the young eleanor being plagued by showers of stones…