The Haunting of Hill House Summary
How It All Goes Down
Dr. Montague decides it's time science proved the existence of the supernatural and that Hill House, a mansion with a pretty haunted history, is the place to prove it. His experiment will only consist of the most rigorous science and indisputable evidence. Translation: he's going to live at Hill House for a summer Ghost Hunter-style and see what happens. Sounds legit, we guess.
Dr. Montague sends a volley of letters in hopes of snatching up some lab rats—sorry, assistants; he refers to them as assistants. Only two people respond: socially repressed Eleanor Vance and emotional livewire Theodora. The current owner of Hill House convinces Dr. Montague to take her nephew, Luke, off her hands for a while. That makes four.
Eleanor Vance goes to Hill House against her family's wishes, which requires a bit of grand theft auto on her part. She initially regrets coming to a place of such doom and gloom but perks up when Theodora arrives. The two become instant BFFs. Then they meet Dr. Montague and Luke, and, wouldn't you know, everyone gets along fabulously.
During the first night of the epic slumber party, Dr. Montague informs his three assistants of Hill House's terrifically terrifying past. We are sad to admit that it lacks ghosts, ghouls, or curses from lands most ancient. There was a suicide, though, and some pneumonia, and plenty of family bickering over the good china.
The four settle in over the next few days, and Hill House stretches its supernatural muscles. Strange happenings occur: bangs echo up and down the hallway, doors slam shut for no obvious reason, and messages appear across the hall walls. The House even goes all animal-rights activist and throws blood on Theodora's clothes.
Eleanor seems particularly vulnerable to Hill House's ways. She experiences all the manifestations the others do—and a few special ones meant just for her. Although harrowing, the experiences excite and enthrall Eleanor, who feels her life has been wasted up until her time here. Her bond with the house strengthens.
Enter Mrs. Montague and her faithful companion, Arthur, to solve the case. They aren't armed with PKE meters, proton packs, or ghost traps, but they brought a planchette and a belief in the supernatural. As Mrs. Montague performs her investigations, Eleanor's relationship with the others deteriorates, and Eleanor loses herself to Hill House.
Eleanor begins to feel that she and the house are one, and that she and the house can both hear and feel the others moving about in the bedrooms and halls. Possibly possessed, and certainly deranged, Eleanor enters the library in a desire to climb the spiral stairway to the top of the turret. Thanks to the heroic stair-climbing efforts of Luke, she is saved.
Although Eleanor seems to return to her senses, Dr. Montague fears for her safety if she stays in Hill House. He sends her away, telling her to go home, but Eleanor doesn't believe she has a home outside of Hill House anymore. While driving away from the house, Eleanor steers her car into a tree, killing herself.
Afterward, Dr. Montague ends his investigation, and the investigators go their separate ways. As it has done for eighty years, Hill House stands alone.