‘Textbook terror’: How The Haunting of Hill House rewrote horror’s rules

Authors from Joe Hill to Andrew Michael Hurley consider why this 1959 novel, poised for a Netflix adaptation, holds such enduring power to chill

As Shirley Jackson told it, the inspiration for The Haunting of Hill House came after she read about a group of 19th-century psychic researchers who moved into a supposedly haunted house in order to study it. “They thought that they were being terribly scientific and proving all kinds of things,” she said, “and yet the story that kept coming through their dry reports was not at all the story of a haunted house, it was the story of several earnest, I believe misguided, certainly determined people, with their differing motivations and backgrounds.”

Published in 1959, Jackson’s resulting novel has defined the haunted house story ever since. Stephen King, in his history of the horror genre, Danse Macabre, said The Haunting of Hill House is ...