J’s Halloween Hall of Fame: The Amityville Horror vs. The Haunting of Hill House


On this installment of J’s Halloween Hall of Fame I want to talk about two classic haunted house novels.  The first one is Jay Anson’s 1977 contemporary creeper The Amityville Horror and the other is the 1959 terror treat The Haunting of Hill House written by Shirley Jackson which is considered one of the best literary ghost stories published in the 20th century.  Both of these books have had film adaptations made. Even though both of these books are about similar topics, they’re actually very different from one another.

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The interesting thing about The Amityville Horror is that it is supposedly based on actual events.  It retells the harrowing experience the Lutz family had in this house they had recently moved into back in the mid 1970’s.   They were a typical, hard working American family that thought they were getting the deal of a lifetime.  Here was their dream home with everything they could ever want in it and more at an affordable price.  They saw their dream and they reached out and plucked it off of the tree.  The reason this “dream home” was so affordable was because a man had brutally killed his parents and siblings in it a short time before The Lutz family had moved in.  They knew the history of the house before hand but they went for it anyway.  This book wasted no time getting into the melee.  The spook started off almost right at the beginning and the character development happened as the story progressed.

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The only thing I found a bit frustrating about the book was that they didn’t really answer everything. There were odd rooms they found inside the house and heard strange yet distinct noises inside the house that were never explained.  But I guess if these were actual events they might not have known the reason behind certain things.  Most things were explained after the fact by Psychic Researchers and Paranormal Investigators who studied the house when the Lutz family high tailed it out of there.  I don’t blame them, the only thing I question is why it took them as long as it did!  I did enjoy this book a lot and there are things in here that will haunt your nightmares for quite some time. Five words: Jodie the pig faced playmate!  I highly recommend this book especially around this time of year.  Like I said before they did make a movie about The Amityville Horror, a few actually.  The latest one I know of was in 2005 starring Ryan Reynolds and Chloe Grace Moretz .  I just haven’t seen it because it looks irretrievably awful.

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The Haunting of Hill House is a purely fictional account about a team that was hand picked by a Dr. Montague to explore a supposed honest to goodness real life haunted house.  Dr. Montague wanted a team with him that was sensitive to psychic phenomena. So he sent out a dozen letters to people he had read about that have had some experience with the paranormal but only two people got back to him. One of them was an artist/bohemian type lady named Theodora and the other was a lonely, sheltered woman named Eleanor. The fourth person that joined them was a distant relation to the owners of the home named Luke. So the story starts out with just the four people but were later joined by Dr. Montague’s pain in the arse wife and her manservant.  Unlike Amityville Horror this book takes it’s time to develop the characters and set everything right in it’s place.  Hill House does end up living up to it’s reputation as time goes on but certain members of the team begin to experience things far more intensely than the others.

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I liked this book too, but it does take a while for the cogs to start turning. Once the story begins to wind down the outcome you get is not all that satisfying.  The whole time you’re waiting for things to explode and they never really do. I guess in 1959, when the book was written, the ending may have been shocking but it really isn’t in this day and age.  One thing about this novel however is that the way the story is written. The language the author uses is really fun to read.  It’s written with a lot of that old time-y wit that a lot of writers these days can’t do anymore.  Because of this, the characters are quite colorful and a lot of the fun is seeing how they interact with each other.  Again, there have been a few movie adaptations made from this book and I have seen one.  It’s called The Haunting and was released in 1999 starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen WIlson.  Unfortunately I found the movie to be okay at best.  The Actors were pretty good and portrayed the characters well but the movie had a really unforgivably cheesy spin to it.

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