Indeed, beyond a few changes to some of the characters (Dr. Montague is now Dr. Markway, and his wife is not an insufferable Spiritualist but instead scoffs at the idea of ghosts) and the elimination of Arthur, the overbearing boys’ school headmaster, it does a great deal to enhance the book, a rare case where the movie, if not necessarily better than the book, is at least a worthy supplement to it.
Today’s installment of Spring Break Shorty Story Recommendations is actually not a short story, but rather a novella or short novel, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. My copy is the 1984 Penguin Books edition, which runs at about 246 pages of text. That seems like standard novel length, but the print is a bit large, and while there are distinct chapters, the book feels like a very long short story or a shorter novel.
Nevertheless, it’s my blog and I have decided to feature this chilling novella in this year’s Spring Break Short Story Recommendations. It is a classic of the haunted house genre, and is a powerfully psychological tale.
Ah, yes—ghost stories. They are perhaps my favorite variation on the short story form. I always find it fascinating that the Victorians liked their ghost stories at Christmastime, but it makes sense—what else are you going to do on those long, dark, cold nights? Best to huddle around the fire and spin some yuletide yarns.
Every culture has its ghosts, spooks, haunts, haints, devils, and the like. As I’m writing this post, I’m reading about the boo hags of the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Apparently, homes in the Charleston still feature porch ceilings painted “haint blue” to ward off evil spirits.
Looks I’ll be heading to the hardware store for some Behr Premium Ultra Lowcountry Haint Blue.
It’s the so-called “spooky season” again, which naturally turns my mind to things not seen. Lately, I’ve been pondering the pre-modern mind, and how differently pre-moderns saw the world. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it. What must it have been like to fear God—naturally (as in, without the scientistic arrogance we moderns seem inculcated into at an early age)? To suspect mercurial forces at play in every tree or lonely bog?
There’s so much we don’t know; so much we can’t see (even if it’s caught on video). Ironically, for all of our assuredness about how the world works, we find ourselves in an age of constant epistemological confusion, one in which we seem incapable of knowing what is True or not.
Heady contemplations, indeed. The possible existence of Bigfoot or any other number of odd creatures, corporeal or otherwise, is not insignificant: if supernatural beings exist, God Exists (or, more probably, because God Exists, there are all manner of spirits and angels and the like at work, just beyond our perception).
Today marks the official start of my glorious Thanksgiving Break. My sage advice—to sacrifice Columbus Day as a day off in exchange for an entire week of freedom for Thanksgiving—has apparently, via osmosis, found its way to my school’s administration, and after slogging it out for three months, we’re finally reaping the benefits of that sacrifice.
This past weekend was also the first time in a few weeks I did not have to travel out of town for one reason or another, so I have watched a lot of movies on Shudder—the good, the bad, and the forgettable (I also managed to get in a late-night session of Civilization VI, eschewing my most recent playthrough as the Celts and cranking up a new run as the Incan Empire, which is slowly expanding across South America at the time of this writing). I managed to catch two flicks with the word “Ghostland” in their titles, one memorable and somewhat good, the other absolutely terrible: 2021’s Prisoners of Ghostland and 2018’s Incident in a Ghostland, respectively.
So, for the second year in a row, I’m looking back this TBT to 2019’s “On Ghost Stories,” a post that now will hold the distinction of being a perennial favorite.
One might think that as scary as the real world is, we’d spend less time reading spooky fiction. It seems the opposite is the case. Perhaps the idea that malevolence is not necessarily the result of human frailty, but rather due to wicked supernatural influences, is oddly comforting. That evil is the result of our fallen nature—and, of course, the malignant supernatural influence up on it—is a bit easier to forget, perhaps, when reading about some ghostly figure wreaking havoc in the English countryside.
More likely, it’s just that we enjoy being scared—when we can easily flip off the television or close the book. Horror is fun when there are no real consequences attached to it. Then again, just watching horror movies probably isn’t healthy (I’ll report back if I suddenly get any macabre urges).
Well, whatever the reason, a good ghost story is hard to pass up. With that, here is “TBT: On Ghost Stories“:
Despite my griping about South Carolina weather in yesterday’s post, the first day of September was surprisingly cool and overcast, giving the slightest taste of the crisp autumnality to come. This time of year always gets me thinking about Halloween and spooky stuff, especially as everything feels more magical.
Our modern minds have diminished and dismissed the supernatural as mere superstition, often accompanied with attempts to explain away supernatural phenomena with explanations that themselves require faith to believe. That “faith” is in scientism, a counterfeit “religion” built purely on a material understanding of the world.
We see but through a glass darkly. There is more to our world than meets the eye—more to it than what we can observe. God tells us much of what is there—at least, what we need to know—and Scripture seems to suggest we shouldn’t go looking for things beyond Him and His Son.