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Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House"
Cat on Caffeine
I'm a member of "Library Thing" and tonight I was browsing discussions like

What Was The Scariest BOOK You've Ever Read and How Did It Affect Your Life And Reading Habit?

No one had mentioned the actual scariest book so I did:

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is part ghost story & part psychological thriller, blended so thoroughly even a careful reader may wonder what is reality & what is mental illness.

When I was in 6th grade, I plucked a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books from a living room shelf. Never steal from your parents. This could happen to you.

Just the first paragraph frightened me, It's also the last paragraph. "...whatever walks there walks alone."

But then there's...
the something knocking on bedroom doors with booms as loud as cannonballs. (never to be seen or described)
The something that isn't there that held Eleanor's hand. (never to be seen or described)
The something in the garden that makes Theo shriek, "Run!" (never to be seen or described).

Jackson knew the secret of creating elemental terror in her v/i/c/t/i/m/s readers. Less is more. Limit description & the reader's imagination will do the rest. And do it better than any author because our imaginations are fine-tuned by our personal experiences.

I didn't sleep for two nights. I pressed my back into one corner of my bedroom and spent the hours staring at the door, hoping that it didn't boom. Staring at each wall in turn, hoping that wallpaper wouldn't appear & then begin sobbing & gibbering to itself...

The Haunting of Hill House

p.s. After reading the book, you may wish to view the film. Be sure it's the 1950-60's(?) B&W version!

See additional commentary at ModernGothic.