Summary: Chapter 7

Dr. Montague’s wife, a parapsychologist, arrives at Hill House with her friend, Arthur. Embarrassed by Dr. Montague’s lack of progress, Mrs. Montague claims she’ll set things right with a more methodical approach. After using a planchette device to communicate with spirits, Mrs. Montague reports that a spirit named “Nell” revealed that it wants to go “home” because “mother.” The group feels uncomfortable and looks at Eleanor. Mrs. Montague then insists on spending the night in the nursery, the most haunted room in the house. She tells everyone not to be afraid, as most spirits are just lonely and longing for connection. 

The rest of the group goes to bed but later gathers in one bedroom because Dr. Montague wants them to be together should something else happen. Soon, they hear a banging in the hall. The noise grows louder until it reaches the door, which begins to shake violently. Feeling overwhelmed and cold, Eleanor decides to relinquish possession of herself and loses consciousness. The next morning, Eleanor wakes to find Luke in a chair by the window, his face bruised. Theodora blithely remarks that the house took them all on a “mad midnight fling.” Dr. Montague checks on Mrs. Montague and Arthur, whom he says are still sleeping soundly.

Analysis: Chapter 7

In Chapter 7, Mrs. Montague’s arrival at Hill House ramps up the tension between science and the supernatural. Dr. Montague has hoped to conduct his study with an air of respectability that will earn him favor with his skeptical colleagues. His wife’s investigation methods, however, are at odds with this goal. The results of her planchette session introduce cliché tropes present in countless horror stories, including a nun buried in the walls and a mysterious monk. Her insistence in the truth of these findings invalidate her methods and respectability as a paranormal researcher. The messages she delivers about Eleanor, however, suggest that she does have some psychic abilities. It is unclear, though, whether she is communicating with ghosts or with Eleanor’s mind. Though Mrs. Montague’s belief that she can soothe the spirits of Hill House with love and understanding is humorous, it is so contradictory to her husband’s scientific approach that it seems her presence may sabotage the investigation. With her charlatanic methods and obstinate approach, Mrs. Montague puts the study and its participants in danger of either invalidation or supernatural retribution.

As the house pounds and shakes that night, Eleanor acknowledges her own struggle with the supernatural versus the psychological when she perceives that the noise is coming from her head. Her questioning as to why the others are afraid, when it is she who is the house’s intended target, shows her deeply personal connection to the disturbances. Though her thoughts seem to reveal a descent into madness, her perceptions of the others’ reactions to the house’s violent banging and quaking appear to be rational and accurate. When she submits to the experience and loses consciousness, however, she becomes an unreliable participant. Afterward, Dr. Montague, Luke, and Theodora’s acknowledgement of the incident prove that it has not taken place entirely inside Eleanor’s head. Because they are unaware of Eleanor’s thoughts, they all seem to believe the event was caused entirely by supernatural forces. But it is notable that they all also experienced it while in close proximity to Eleanor. Mrs. Montague and Arthur, who have slept down the hall, are unaware that anything out of the ordinary has happened. Without any memory of what occurred, Eleanor may have also lost the realization of her psychic connection to the supernatural disturbances.