The following is another essay cut from “Writers Gone Wild” for lack of space (although Shirley’s encounter with Dylan Thomas did make it into the book).
While Shirley Jackson made her bones with her creepy short story “The Lottery” and her horror novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” she was reluctant to own up publicly to her interest in the dark arts. But privately, she fit her husband’s description as “the only contemporary writer who is a practicing amateur witch.”
She had a talent for it as well. Her tarot readings were so uncanny that several friends refused to let her read for them. During a dinner party, after a grey cat jumped on her shoulder at the table and nuzzled her ear, she claimed that the cat had whispered a poem to her, which she then recited.
She also found magic to be a help in the kitchen. When she wanted a utensile from a drawer crowded with them, she’d slam it shut, call out its name, pull out the drawer and find it on top.
One time, when her husband was fighting with his publisher, Alfred Knopf, she declared, “Unfortunately, my powers do not extend to New York State. But let him be warned. If he enters my territory, Vermont, evil will befall him.”
A few weeks later, when she learned that Knopf would be skiing near her home, she fashioned a wax image of him and plunged a pin in one leg.
Knopf broke his leg in three places.