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Holding Hands With A Ghost

Aauthor Shirley Jackson is probably best known for her eerie and unsettling short story, The Lottery, which is still read in many high school English classes. Not only is The Lottery a tale about irrational fear and deadly superstition, but it’s often interpreted as a protest against the Communist “witch hunts” of the 1950s as well as the evils of unthinking social conformity.

But Jackson also wrote The Haunting of Hill House, one of the finest literary ghost stories of the Twentieth Century. Jackson’s 1959 novel was adapted into a 1963 movie of the same name—and the movie itself, along with being faithful to the book, is quite fine. In fact, it’s considered one of the scariest movies of the Twentieth Century.

The Haunting of Hill House stars Julie Harris as Eleanor Vance, a repressed young woman with such a dull and constricted social life that she accepts a mysterious invitation to visit a mansion in the Vermont countryside despite the fact that the old place is reputed to be full of ghosts.

At first, Eleanor enjoys the company of her host, a middle-aged ghost hunter, and several other guests at the haunted house. She even develops romantic feelings for a roguish young man who is a member of the party. But after a couple of days the ghosts start to get inside her head, and as she slowly unravels, the audience is both horrified and at the same time uncertain whether spirits are really responsible for Eleanor’s mental disintegration, or if the real fault lies with the psychological problems she brought with her to the mansion.

In this chilling scene, Eleanor, frightened by strange voices in another room, reaches out for the hand of a friend who isn’t there—although someone else is. Enjoy.

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