Listen to a Rare Recording of Shirley Jackson Reading “The Lottery”
In the 74 years since its publication, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” has become not only her most famous work, but also one of the most famous short stories in the history of the genre. When the chilling tale of ritual murder first appeared in a June 1948 issue of The New Yorker, however, it was more infamous than famous. Subscriptions were canceled and so much hate mail poured in that Jackson was forced to spring for a bigger post office box.
The backlash had no bearing on the success of the story itself, which was reprinted frequently enough that Jackson started to worry it might forever overshadow the rest of her work. So, as Ruth Franklin writes in her biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Jackson wasn’t thrilled when Folkways Records asked her to record “The Lottery” in 1959 (the same year her novel The Haunting of Hill House hit shelves). But she consented. Instead of trekking to New York City for the session, she chose Vermont’s Bennington College—where her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, taught literature—and had her teenage son Laurence spearhead the recording session.
For the B-side of the record, the We Have Always Lived in the Castle author recited another unsettling story of hers: “The Daemon Lover,” which follows a bride whose groom fails to show up for their wedding. Folkways Records released the record in 1960; and, according to Franklin’s book, it’s the only audio of Shirley Jackson’s voice that remains today.
It’s still available to purchase on CD or as a digital download from Folkways, which was bought by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987. But the company has also made both stories free to listen to on YouTube. Press play below to hear Jackson’s eerie recitations of “The Lottery” and “The Daemon Lover.”