Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Covers: Haunted Version!

It's time to examine the covers of one of my favorite horror novels. Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has everything I love in a scary story. Beautiful prose that pulls at the reader from the very first word. Characters with rich, complex interactions and motivations. Logic in the midst of mysticism.

Yes, the haunted house has become a bit of a cliche' over the years, but Hill House is special. I promise. It is a character in its own right. It speaks, cries, demands, yearns, shocks, and terrifies. The nighttime scenes are especially terrifying. Maybe it's just because I'm a weenie (hubby read this book and said that, while it was good, it wasn't that scary) but I was reading the "thumping scene" alone in my room at night and I wanted to throw the book on the floor and put a pillow over it so it couldn't get me. I didn't know if I could keep reading. It was too scary. Of course I did. I read all night long.

So, yes. I have a lot of love for this book. (Don't watch the movies. The first is okay, but tainted by too much voiceover. The second is ridiculous and demonstrates no understanding of what makes the book great.)

Here we goes.

This is the third edition, printed in 1957, the same year as the book's release. Yes, it's dated, but I quite enjoy the simplicity of the illustration. Problem is, to my eyes, it looks a little like the witch's house from Hansel and Gretel. I'm waiting for an old woman to step out and offer me a piece of gingerbread. Still scary, just a different kind of scary. The problem might be in the color scheme. If ever a book begged for a black background, this would be the book.

1967. The inevitable movie tie-in. Do I need to tell you how much I hate these? A book is not a Happy Meal toy, printed to help market a movie. A book is a book, an entity and world unto itself. I remain unconvinced that seeing the faces of their favorite movie stars on a book cover will convince people to hand over their money and crack the cover open. However, I am always wrong about these things. I always buy the version of the book that doesn't have the Oprah sticker. Clearly, you shouldn't pay attention to anything I have to say.

Now here's the Hill House I know and love. This is the 1977 version. I like that we get a sense of the forest, but done in the creepiest of ways. It almost seems like the forest is menacing the house. I like that the shadows are printed in reverse, so they're the only point of the illustration containing any light. Love the colors.

Here's another 1977 version. I included it mostly because it's funny and so very 70s.

1982. Love it. Am I wrong, or is there something inherently terrifying about staircases? Especially poorly lit, creaky stairs. Looking up or down them into the darkness, knowing you'll have to step into that darkness at some point... I think Ray Bradbury wrote a short story about that. AND HE WAS RIGHT! This Halloween season, we should agree to avoid all stairs. Might be safer that way.

2006 Penguin Edition. It's fine. Actually, it's probably the closest to the image of Hill House I have in my head. Also, I love amber. So, why am I not in raptures? Eh. I think they're going for a Blair Witch, dun dun dun, voyeuristic feeling with the photography, but the composition feels a little off. Plus, the branches are scary, but the house isn't scary.

2009 Kindle Edition. Although I miss having the house take center stage, I do think this is an extremely effective cover. Not for a physical book, but it works well for Kindle. It's high contrast, which will show up well as a tiny thumbnail, but still maintains a sense of creepiness. The font is simple and well-placed. The reflection shot is interesting, without screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" It also leads to a certain amount of contemplation if you stare at it too long, which is beginning to happen to me... Ahem. So, yeah. Not brilliant, but nice.

What do you think? Which is your favorite? Which just doesn't work?


  1. Ooh, I like the 1977 one too! But mostly because of the creepy demonic face you can see. Took me a second to notice it. Very creepy!

  2. Ooh, how did I totally miss that?!