Netflix’s series adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House will premiere on the streaming service on Oct. 12, and horror fans can’t wait to check it out. Before you watch, put on your paranormal investigator togs and take a look at six of the spooky places that inspired The Haunting of Hill House, which I have listed for you below.
Published in 1959, The Haunting of Hill House centers on four adults — a paranormal investigator, his two assistants, and the titular mansion’s inheritor — as they go in search of Hill House’s infamous ghosts. Once inside, the little crew find themselves plagued by supernatural activity they cannot explain.
Shirley Jackson did a lot of research while writing her most famous ghost story, most of it centered on the design of Hill House itself. According to her biographer, Ruth Franklin, “[Jackson] needed a good house for inspiration. For some time she had been collecting newspaper clippings of old houses: Wallace Fowlie gave her some from France, and Hyman bought her a box of hundreds of postcards depicting houses from around the world. . . . She wanted something ornate, like the Château de Monte-Cristo, a turreted Renaissance castle built by Alexandre Dumas père; Neuschwanstein Castle, a fairy-tale-like Romanesque Revival palace in Bavaria; or Grim’s Dyke, a combination Gothic Revival/late Elizabethan mansion in London that had belonged to W. S. Gilbert.” (You can check out Franklin’s book Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life for more.)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin, $17.95, Amazon or Indiebound
Thanks to Jackson’s detailed records, we know which spooky places inspired The Haunting of Hill House:
From Shirley Jackson’s essay, “Experience and Fiction”:
According to Ruth Franklin, the Hill House author exaggerated the details of her account. In Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Franklin writes:
From “Experience and Fiction”:
The house Jackson spotted was a Nob Hill mansion belonging to Charles Crocker, and was built by her great-grandfather, Samuel Bugbee. The house existed at the center of a long property dispute between Crocker and his neighbor, Nicholas Yung, during which time Crocker built a 40-foot-tall spite fence around Yung’s land. The Crocker Mansion was destroyed in the early 20th century, but some parts of the fence remained. The site is now the home of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.
Although many sources point to Bennington College’s Jennings Music Building — the next item on this list — as the inspiration for Jackson’s haunted house, Franklin disagrees:
Franklin may not believe that the Jennings Music Building inspired Jackson’s titular Hill House, but students at Bennington College, where the author’s husband taught in the 1950s, do. The college’s head music librarian told Cosmopolitan earlier this year that “the basement [of the music building] is very creepy . . . That’s the one place I’m scared to go to, even during the day. It’s a long, dark corridor. It has safety lights, but there’s a feeling of darkness . . . There’s all these little caged spaces and locked doors, where faculty used to store items.”
Sounds pretty haunted to me.
The site of the Moberly-Jourdain incident, as chronicled in Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain’s 1911 book, An Adventure, Petit Trianon was originally the home of Louis XV’s mistresses, and was later the private estate of Marie Antoinette. An Adventure recalls a 1901 trip to Versailles in which the two authors claim to have entered a time slip that transported them back to 18th century France, where they met various servants and Marie Antoinette herself.
For Moberly and Jourdain’s strange encounter, there may have been a more logical explanation than time travel, however. From The Telegraph:
Either way, the story seems to have stuck with Jackson. In Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Franklin writes, “In her notes for [Hill House], Jackson refers to An Adventure as ‘one of the greatest ghost stories of all time.’”
Finally, there’s the Winchester Mystery House, which got its own horror movie in early 2018. The house has a colorful history, having been built and rebuilt over a period of nearly 40 years until the death of its owner, Sarah Winchester, in 1922. She was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the son of Winchester rifle creator Oliver Winchester, and the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
According to legend, Sarah Winchester believed that her house was haunted by the ghosts of people killed by her in-laws’ rifle company, and that the only way to outwit the spirits was to build a house so confounding in its design that they could not navigate it. From Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life:
Sounds like a pretty great place to set a ghost story, right?