Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House was a perfect slow burn horror story, and it ended with just as many questions as answers.
Director Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the Shirley Jackson horror story took viewers on a chilling and oftentimes emotional journey as it followed the tragic story of the Crain family and their connection to the mysterious Hill House, a home that hides a number of secrets.
Warning: This article contains major spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House.
Filled with horror, death, mystery, ghosts, and too many major twists to count, the season finale attempted to give answers, though there are still some questions burning just as deeply as when one of the Crain siblings attempted to burn Hill House.
Keep scrolling to get some answers regarding your most burning questions about The Haunting of Hill House.
With its towering walls and sprawling expanse of dark hallways, Hill House is the archetypal haunted house, and it has the ghosts and stories to prove it. But how exactly did Hill House come to be haunted and why is it evil?
Ultimately, this is one question that we do not know the answer to.
In an interview with Thrillist, director Mike Flanagan revealed that he initially intended to tell the history of Hill House.
“We had a whole history of Hill House that we were going to shoot. We were going to open several episodes of the show with this kind of history, split out over the whole season, which would show you the construction of Hill House, the history of the Hill family, who everybody was,” Flanagan said.
That plan was eventually scrapped due to a tight filming schedule and limited resources.
This mystery, however, seems to be one that there is currently no answer to, though it would serve as an interesting storyline should The Haunting of Hill House be renewed for a second season.
Abigail and the Dudleys
Abigail was real. She was not a ghost like Poppy Hill or the bowler hat man that haunted Luke. Abigail was real and human and alive until she wasn’t, and her story was tragic.
Although the story originally painted her as another delusion conjured by Hill House and one that only Luke originally ever saw, Abigail was the daughter of the Dudleys, who kept her under a watchful eye at all times following the death of their first child during childbirth.
In Olivia’s attempt to wake her youngest children up from a nonexistent nightmare and commit their souls to their new forever home by pouring rat poison into teacups, Olivia’s thwarted plan was successful in taking the life Abigail, and unable to lose another child, the Dudleys made Hugh promise to keep Hill House standing.
The Red Room
Over the course of the Crain family’s single and tragic summer stay at Hill House, the room behind the home’s ever-locked Red Door remained a mystery. While Hugh took a hammer and chisel to it, it remained close, only later to be revealed to have been opened time and time again for each member of the Crain family.
For Steven it’s a game room; for Shirley it’s a family room; for Theo it’s a dance studio; for Luke it’s a treehouse; for Nell it’s a toy room; and, for Olivia it’s a reading room. The Red Room, thanks to the Hill House, changes, adapting to what each particular person needs, drawing them in so that it can “digest” them.
“Mom says that a house is like a body. And that every house has eyes, and bones, and skin, and a face,” Nell says in the finale. “This room is like the heart of the house. No, not a heart. A stomach.”
Ultimately, the Red Room gave each character exactly what they needed, keeping them complacent in the face of the paranormal activity going on around them.
The Bent-Neck Lady
It was one of the most prominent ghosts of the series and inarguably one of the biggest twists of the season.
After being introduced to the Bent-Neck Lady in episode one and after being shown how the spirit haunted both a young and adult Nell Crain, it was revealed in episode five that the Bent-Neck Lady and Nell were one in the same all along. That notion is enough to cause viewers to scream in confusion; after all, how could Nell be seeing a future version of herself, the version of herself that eventually falls victims to Hill House? It turns out, the answer was given by Nell in the finale.
“Everything’s been out of order…I thought for so long that time was like a line…between the beginning and the end,” Nell says in the final scenes of the season when the Crain siblings are trapped in the Red Room. “But I was wrong. It’s not like that at all. Our moments fall around us like rain.”
When Nell tied the noose around her neck and jumped from the spiral staircase, following in her mother’s footsteps, she jumped through time, unknowingly becoming the specter that haunted her younger self.
There are a number of paranormal elements in The Haunting of Hill House, the most prominent being that of the ghosts. There is Poppy Hill, the ghost with the bowler hat who haunts Luke, and the bed-ridden Hazel Hill, among a number of others, and while the majority of the apparitions are now permanent residents of Hill House, not every specter that the Crain siblings saw is.
Take the man that Shirley slept with for instance. She saw him a number of times through the season, but he is not ghost. The man is still very alive. Rather, what Shirley saw is yet another figment conjured up by Hill House, one that is meant to be a representation of her guilt.
A similar scenario is that of Luke, foaming at the mouth and appearing to be dead, an apparition that both Olivia and Nell saw, his appearance acting as a premonition.
Ultimately, while many of the ghosts are truly that, others serve as the embodiment of a character’s guilt, fears, regrets, and traumas, while others serve as warning signs.
The Happy Ending
After a terrifying night in Hill House and the Crain siblings being forced to confront their biggest fears, The Haunting of Hill House ends with a new beginning. Luke is two years sober; Theo has finally opened herself up and is in a relationship with Trish; Shirley has confessed her infidelity and reconciled with her husband; and, Steve has reconciled with his wife and they are expecting their first child together. Moreover, the Dudleys, with Steve now responsible for keeping Hill House standing, are starting over again within the walls of Hill House.
For those, like many of us here at PopCulture.com who thought the ending was a bit too happy and tonally off given the nature and tone of the rest of the series, take comfort in the knowledge that it may not be as it seems. Director Mike Flanagan originally intended on the final scene being haunted by the presence of the Red Room, alluding to the fact that the Crain’s never made it out.
Why Didn't Hill House Burn?
Luke, determined to put an end to the very thing that tore his family apart, fills five jugs with gasoline and heads to Hill House. He douses the floors in fuel and opens a lighter, but when he tosses the lighter to the floor, the flames die before they even have the chance to grow.
Although it is never directly explained why Hill House is incapable of going up in flames, it is no secret that the home has a great deal of power. It was capable of changing the Red Room, conjure up visions, make Nell disappear, create black mold, and distort time, and it seems likely that it is just as capable at protecting itself. Ultimately, if Hill House isn’t ready to go, it’s probably going to put up a pretty decent fight, including refusing to catch fire.
What Happens to Hill House Now?
Before Hugh sacrificed his life to save his children, he passed the responsibility of Hill House down to his eldest son, Steven, revealing to him exactly what happened the night that Olivia died and finally opening his eyes to the true nature of the home.
“Within, walls continue upright, bricks meet neatly, floors are firm, and doors are sensibly shut. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House,” Steven says in voice-over. “And those who walk there, walk together.”
Although it was the very place that cast a shadow over his family for decades to come, and while Steven would have every reason to want to destroy it, it is more likely that he will be content doing exactly as his father had: leaving Hill House alone and allowing it to continue with the souls inside.