Has The Haunting of Hill House Revived the Ghost Story?


20 November 2019

Has The Haunting of Hill House Revived the Ghost Story?

By Charlotte Baker

The Ghost Story Festival touches on a range of debates that emerge from the genres’ historical and current standing within society: the components of a ghost story, the use of the supernatural, creating atmosphere as well as developing the necessary researching skills to start that new project – just to mention a few of the workshops. What I love the most about the current line up ( is the multi-disciplinary nature of this festival: books, television, films – all focused around ghosts – perfect!

Arguably, one of the most recent texts that has revitalised the ghost story has to be the Netflix Original The Haunting of Hill House (2018). HoHH is a modern reimagining of the classic novel by Shirley Jackson. Unlike the novel, the series weaves a narrative together that stretches from the present day, after an apparent suicide in the family, to the Crains’ childhood in which they lived in the country’s most famous haunted house. As the siblings have grown up, they’ve literally and emotionally drifted apart, but this recent trauma pulls the family back together and they must confront all the ghosts of their past that they have avoided for so long.

With its clear pushing of genre boundaries – the ghost story, the gothic, the supernatural and the horror – The Haunting of Hill House (HoHH) reminds its audience of the real force the ghost story. HoHH most certainly holds its audience’s attention through the regular disturbing scenes of the Bent-Neck Lady, the jump scares and our genuine emotional attachment and identification with many of the characters on screen.

I am lucky enough to be running a workshop during the Ghost Story Festival on melodrama and horror (! I’m incredibly excited for us to be analysing The Haunting of Hill House’s key themes, use of blended genres, use of the ‘gothic woman’ and the familial relationships/breakdown. Of course, we will also be examining the ghosts in the series; both obvious and hidden. After combining all their excitement on social media, fans started to break down the ghosts on camera. This was soon followed by creator Mike Flanagan’s comments: “We actually hid dozens of ghosts throughout the series, in plain sight, in the deep background of shots. We don’t call any attention to them, but they’re there. If you look in a door frame, or under the piano, or behind a curtain in a lot of otherwise ordinary scenes, you’ll see someone there…”(Tallerico, 2018). How does this challenge our understanding of ghosts in the text? Should they be ‘the star’ of the show or does their camouflage add to the unsettling dread that builds in the series? How do the ghosts on screen reflect the characters they are haunting? All will be discussed at The Ghost Story Festival at QUAD on 29th November to 1st December, 2019.

Similar to the ghosts that are present in The Haunting of Hill House, you’ll leave the festival with passion, focus and an echoing desire to return…!

Tallerico, B. (2018) The Haunting of Hill House: All the Hidden Ghosts You Missed. Available at:…


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