Jacqueline Baker’s The Broken Hours was Esi Edugyan’s choice for the most recent Globe and Mail Book Club for subscribers. Every week, Globe Books looked at themes drawn from the novel to spark discussion among readers. Here readers share their thoughts on the most frightening haunted houses, in literature and film, in response to Elizabeth Renzetti’s look at the nature of the darkness that resides within the hearts of those inhabiting them. You can catch up on all our coverage of The Broken Hours here.
The singular short story There Are More Things by Jorge Luis Borges is a case study of a truly original literary concept – horror resides in unfamiliar fearful furniture. To see furniture that usually conforms to us and comforts us transformed into a terrifying symbol of otherworldly dread is impressive. Watch where you sit has never been so ominous a warning. – Tony D’Andrea
Easily the most frightening film about a haunted house is the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. My wife and I watched it in our first apartment a few months after we were married. We went to bed scared stiff. What was that in the corner of the bedroom? You see no scary monsters at all in The Haunting; it’s all suggested with sound effects. You imagine what’s there. At one point, the young male protagonist is standing on a raised patio, leaning back on the stone balustrade. He turns around to look up at the roof corner of the house and its sheer malevolence shrieks down in a swift camera movement, as if something terrible is coming down right at him. He almost goes over the balustrade to his death. It’s done by sudden shrieking music, à la Hitchcock’s Psycho scene at the top of the stairs in the Bates Motel. In another scene, Claire Bloom and her girlfriend are cowering in bed against terrifying sounds outside their bedroom door. Bloom says to her friend, “Your hands are cold.” She replies, “I’m not touching you!” We took a long time going to sleep. – Winston Jackson (no relation to Shirley!)
The best haunted house novel has to be Richard Matheson’s Hell House. During a late night reading, I was too terrified to turn out the light and head for bed, since I was alone in the house at that time. The two movies based on the book were awful. – Matt Scholtz
My very favourite scary house is in the 1965 movie Two on a Guillotine with Connie Stevens, Dean Jones and Cesar Romero. It’s about the daughter of a recently deceased magician, who must stay seven nights in her father’s spooky old mansion if she wants to inherit his fortune. Gets a scream out of me every time I watch it. – Lynn Goruk
Hands-down, the original film The Haunting starring Claire Bloom and based on the Shirley Jackson book. I first saw it as teenager; I’m now 65 and still can’t watch it alone. – Lynn Huxtable
When I was but 13, I’d likely have nominated Dracula‘s castle. A little obvious, I know, and perhaps not precisely haunted, but what else could be expected of a 13-year-old? Now, I think I’d plump for the wonderful book whose opening paragraph is quoted by Elizabeth Renzetti – The Haunting of Hill House is my nominee. Long may it frighten us all! – Don Blue
My favourite author would be Algernon Blackwood and his uncanny ability (pun intended) to convey the beauty, loneliness and dangerous aspects of all things wild – be it a European river journey (The Willows with an ever deepening sense of foreboding), supernatural events in the Canadian north-woods (Running Wolf or The Wendigo) or stories requiring a deep understanding of the wilderness (The Lost Valley, The Glamour of the Snow or The Man Whom The Trees Loved). Simply recounting these and other Blackwood stories, quite literally inspires in myself a sense of awe, feelings of unease, melancholy and isolation. – John Nightingale
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