The Shirley Jackson Awards will hold an online auction of a rare book to benefit the award. Peter Schneider has kindly donated a first edition of the 1899 publication of The Alleged Haunting of B—– House. Persons may bid on this item from Tuesday, April 21 through midnight on Thursday, April 30, 2009.

The Alleged Haunting of B—– House is edited by A. Goodrich-Freer and John, Marquess of Bute. While not a copy owned by Jackson, this important book in early psychical research is purported to be the book upon which The Haunting of Hill House is based.

The story of how Shirley Jackson was inspired to write The Haunting of Hill House is readily available in the many biographies and articles dealing with her work: While rummaging through boxes of books in a Vermont barn sale, Jackson came across a small volume that contained an account of a haunted house, as reported by a group of nineteenth-century psychic researchers. This non-fiction narrative provided her with the basic framework for what became her next novel.

After considerable research, it has been established that the book Jackson unearthed that day in the barn can be identified as The Alleged Haunting of B—– House, published by the British firm George Redway in 1899 and sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research. The book recounts the experiences of a group of Society members who spent several days in Ballechin House, situated in the Scottish highlands. This drily clinical report of the supernatural manifestations they experienced during their stay will be instantly familiar to any reader of The Haunting of Hill House, including: a haunted Blue Room, a cold spot, the girl in the tower, messages scrawled on walls, and nightly crashings, and patterings at doors.

The auction of this book presents a rare opportunity. The volume offered is the true first edition of The Alleged Haunting of B—House. It does not appear that any further printings were made by Redway and until recently the book was available only in this one edition. The first edition of The Alleged Haunting of B—– House shows up only rarely on, and when it does it is almost exclusively British booksellers offering it for sale, at prices ranging from a low of $225 US to $680 US. The lower prices reflect the condition of the book which, in these cases, includes battered bindings and heavily foxed pages –- neither of which affects this volume offered for auction.

The donor has fashioned a custom hand-made slipcase with scalloped edges to facilitate removal. The slipcase is covered in a ribbed burgundy Japanese silk fabric and features especially sturdy construction.

In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novelist Jonathan Lethem has called Jackson “one of this century’s most luminous and strange American writers,” and multiple generations of authors would agree.

The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 12th 2009, at Readercon 21, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts. Elizabeth Hand, Readercon Guest of Honor, and author of Generation Loss, which won the 2007 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, will act as host.

Auction site: Shocklines
Ballechin House History

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