What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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The Haunting
of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

Field-Tested by Geff Hinds

in Sedro-Woolley, Washington

For one week during my thirteenth summer, my hometown shrank to the size of my sister’s single-bedroom rental as, alone on her white vinyl couch, I drilled into her battered copy of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. While my niece and nephew played, ate, or slept, I was passed the sordid family secrets of Hugh Crain, and his legacy of evil, insane obsession, now made ghostly. With gaining apprehension, I wandered the vast halls of Hill House alongside poor Eleanor, and like her, labored to pretend that the real world no longer existed outside of our respective walls. While she avoided a smothering, manipulative mother, my hope was to squelch the celebration of Loggerodeo (one word), a fevered state of timberland clamor that descended (and still does) upon my hometown and its people once every year, on or around the Fourth of July, complete with parade.

Fact is, my town of Sedro-Woolley (two words) had one other standing claim to fame at that time, Loggerodeo being the lesser and the considerably less infamous of the two. It was also home to Northern State, a sprawling state facility for the mentally ill located just outside town, an institution which at that time employed nearly everyone that the local timber industry did not. So great was the hospital’s reputation that its name had eventually become synonymous with Sedro-Woolley itself, the two freely exchanged for one another in discussionss of current events exclusive, but not limited to, regional gossip and goings-on. A junior high student at the time, I shared the universal, communal cringe at the out-of-town mention of Northern State, for fear that I should also be stamped with its indelible reputation.

More secretly (and key to the true grip which Hugh Crain held over me), was yet another relationship I shared with the book: a decade earlier, my own father had been committed to Northern State, as a patient.

I read on. My young, rural mind might have been too blunt an instrument to appreciate the wry lesbian overtures flittering between our sweet Eleanor and the cruel, beautiful Theo, but the big headline, the message of familial craziness and generational codgery rang true: there are some houses, and the people who live in them, who truly are haunted. By madness.

Eight or ten blocks away, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Posse led the annual Fourth of July parade down the center of main street, sparing no shit, horse or otherwise.

Geff Hinds began his career in photojournalism, for which he shared a Pulitzer nomination in 1992 with editor Suki Dardarian and writer Rob Carson for their "Right to Die" project. Geff was also the creator of the popular, but now-defunct mountain biking website, Mudsluts. He is currently a senior web designer at REI in Kent, Washington

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