Skeletons in the Closet

From The American Scholar:

As autumn ushers in longer, cooler nights and the sound of crunching leaves, it also calls forth stories of ghosts and haunted houses. Especially this year, as increased time at home makes these earlier sunsets and colder days feel particularly dispiriting, the escapism of a fictional house rattling and creaking with secrets feels strangely welcome. There are, of course, classics like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, but the following literary haunted houses are ghostly in less straightforward—but equally uncanny—ways.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s novel is best known for its meditations on truth and beauty, along with her portrayal of Mrs. and Mrs. Ramsay’s internal lives as a means of exploring gender and marriage. But the novel is as much about the disappointments of midlife, legacy, and loss. Its middle section, “Time Passes,” depicts the Ramsays’ summer home on the Isle of Skye as ravaged by year after year of summer storms, neglect, and decay. We learn of World War I, and the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay and two of her children, each in a single sentence. Abstract concepts like “loveliness” and “stillness” move actively through the empty house. When the family returns to it years later, these deaths and the war’s enormous destruction haunt the house and the surviving Ramsays.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The house in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is just as haunted—at least metaphorically speaking—as her more famous Hill House. Here, main character Merricat lives with her sister Constance and their uncle Julian in their family’s once-grand estate. Readers gradually come to understand that Constance was accused and acquitted of murdering her parents, brother, and aunt with arsenic-laced blueberries, and also that while she delights in long taxonomies of the many poisonous plants in her garden, she is not the one responsible for the family’s death.

Link to the rest at The American Scholar