This House Is Haunted fittingly begins when Eliza Caine and her father decide to attend a reading by Charles Dickens of his ghost story A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, Eliza’s father takes a chill as a result of this outing and dies.
It is not long before the landlord informs Eliza that, rather than owning the house she has lived in all her life, her father had been leasing it, and the rent is exorbitant, too much for a schoolteacher to afford. Grief-stricken Eliza rather hastily decides that she wants to change her life, so she applies for a job as governess at Gaudlin Hall.
With this Dickensian beginning and the title of the novel, it is no surprise that Eliza will soon find herself living in a haunted mansion.
In fact, things become strange before Eliza even arrives at the house. In the station at Norwich, she feels someone push her in front of a train, and she only survives because a Mr. Toxley pulls her back. When Mr. Toxley and his friendly wife learn of her destination, however, they react oddly.
Eliza is especially taken aback by her reception in her new home. After being dropped at the house by Heckley, the surly and taciturn coachman, she is received by the children, Isabella and Eustace Westerley. No adults but Heckley are anywhere to be seen. She was engaged by an H. Bennet, whom she believed to be the master, but no one by that name resides at the Hall. When she finally gets a chance to talk with the Gaudlin solicitor, Mr. Raisin, he is evasive. The villagers behave oddly when they find out who she is. And the situation soon gets a lot worse.
All of this is a lead-in to a pleasantly creepy ghost story of a Victorian nature, with reminders of Jane Eyre and The Turn of the Screw. The narrative style is convincingly appropriate, more inclined to the descriptive than the conversational and old-fashioned without being difficult for the modern reader.
If I have any complaint at all, it is that the title itself telegraphs a little too much too early. I did not feel the chill that I sometimes feel when a ghost story takes me by surprise. In addition, the style of writing itself promotes a lightness of tone that never led me to dread. In general, though, I found the novel entertaining and endearingly old-fashioned in style and tone.