Study Guide

The Haunting of Hill House Chapter 3

By Shirley Jackson

Chapter 3

  • Back at Hill House, someone waits for Eleanor and Theodora. He and another man have arrived together, and they have both been greeted by a "sour-faced beldame" (3.5). Mrs. Dudley strikes again.
  • One man introduces himself as Luke Sanderson, future owner of Hill House.
  • Then Dr. Montague joins the group, welcomes the guests to Hill House, and asks if Luke knows how to make a martini. After a quick time leap, we find that Luke can make a martini, but just barely.
  • Luke wonders about the exact nature of the guests' jobs at Hill House. Dr. Montague says they'll be taking notes but doesn't elaborate.
  • Eleanor takes in the room—it's themed purple this time—and also considers her new companions. She finds Montague to be the type of man best suited for eating scones near a fireplace, while Theodora is wrapped up in her chair like a cat. Luke can't sit still for anything.
  • The group members get to know each other. They play a little game where they make up fancy stories about themselves. Dr. Montague's not the best at the whole make-believe thing.
  • Afterward, Theodora wants to know more about Hill House, but Dr. Montague suggests they leave that for tomorrow and instead see what Mrs. Dudley has made them for dinner.
  • Dr. Montague leads them to the dining room with a table lavishly set for four people.
  • The setup leads to a discussion of the Dudleys, and Dr. Montague informs the guests that the Dudleys have cared for Hill House for as long as anyone can remember, though no one knows why.
  • Eleanor brings up the question of why they are at Hill House, but Dr. Montague refuses to answer. He says he won't tell, for fear that they'll try to leave, and the last person who tried to leave Hill House in the dark died, thanks to a lethal combo of spooked horse and a big tree.
  • The guests promise not to run away, and Dr. Montague relents. He'll tell them after dinner so long as Luke provides coffee and some good brandy.
  • With coffee and brandy in hand, Dr. Montague tells his captives—er, guests—their purpose in Hill House, which is to investigate the paranormal for science, and all that.
  • Dr. Montague was first intrigued about Hill House when he met some of its former residents and discovered they all left well before their leases had expired. As he dug deeper, he learned of scandals, the local history, and "suicide and madness and lawsuits" (3.97).
  • Unable to resist, he contacted Luke's aunt and got permission to conduct his experiment. Luke claims he was put into their company to dissuade the group from digging too deep into old family scandals.
  • Dr. Montague tells Eleanor and Theodora that they are both present because of their unique histories with the paranormal.
  • Eleanor flusters a bit at her past haunts, claiming the whole thing was the doing of her neighbors, since they didn't like her mother.
  • Dr. Montague gives them all one more chance to back out, but none go for it. Now, on to the history of Hill House (and more of that killer brandy).
  • The house was built by Hugh Crain to give his children a place to live luxuriously. But things went south pretty quickly. While Mrs. Crain was en route to the new home, her carriage flipped and killed her dead.
  • The children grew up in the house, and Hugh married twice more. Mr. Crain and Mrs. Crain the third moved to Europe for Mrs. Crain's health and left the two girls to live in Hill House with their governess.
  • When his third wife died, Hugh decided to stay abroad. He moved the girls to a cousin's house and closed Hill House.
  • When Hugh died, the house remained vacant until the girls came of age. The older got Hill House; the younger married.
  • The older daughter lived in Hill House alone until she met a village girl and invited her to live there, too.
  • The sisters fought for years, the younger claiming she was to receive some family heirlooms (some dishes especially) in exchange for giving up her right to Hill House.
  • Eventually the older sister died of pneumonia, and you'd think the story would end here, but oh, no, we've got some distance still to go. The younger sister took the fight to the older sister's village girl companion, who had inherited the house.
  • The women even went to court. The companion girl believed the younger sister was sneaking into the house stealing stuff while the younger Crain accused the companion of murder.
  • The companion won the case and Hill House with it, but that didn't stop the younger sister from harassing her. Over time, the companion grew weary of the slander and gossip. She hanged herself.
  • The Sandersons, being cousins to the poor dead girl, inherited Hill House as a result. When the younger sister showed up to harass them, they sent her packing.
  • The younger Crain sister died not long after, deranged but insisting she never stole a thing. She claimed it was impossible since she wouldn't enter Hill House at night.
  • The Sandersons stayed a few nights and then put Hill House on the market. Since then, no one has lived in the place for more than a couple of days.
  • After a story like that, there's only one thing to do: play some games. Dr. Montague asks if the guests play bridge, but Theodora doesn't. Dr. Montague and Luke play chess instead.
  • Dr. Montague goes to retrieve the chess set and returns noting how the house watches every move you make.
  • Theodora grows bored. She and Eleanor talk with each other about themselves more honestly. Eleanor mentions her mother and the years she wasted caring for her. Pretty heartbreaking stuff, really.
  • Both ladies discuss their homes. Eleanor lies about hers, drawing inspiration from the homes she saw on the road to Hill House.
  • Dr. Montague checkmates Luke, and with that, it's off to bed. Montague, all father-like, says he'll be awake for a few hours more reading. If they need anything, he says, they should just holler. We also learn that the two guys have color themed rooms too, yellow for the doctor, pink for Luke.
  • Eleanor locks the door and wishes she had a sleeping pill to help her sleep. She makes do with pulling the covers up over her head.
  • Theodora sleeps with her light on, Luke with his "lucky piece" on the bedside table. Dr. Montague reads (3.229).
  • Miles away, Mrs. Dudley, Mrs. Sanderson, Theodora's friend, and Eleanor's sister also sleep.

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