While The Haunting of Hill House is only loosely based off Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, the Netflix original series pays enchanting tribute to its previous adaptation with an uncredited, cameo appearance from one of the main characters of 1963’s The Haunting.
Centering around a family of seven and their one fateful summer at Hill House, the series follows the Crain family whose past still haunts them well into their adult lives, eventually forcing them back to the very place they have avoided for years.
One of the characters most tormented in the 10-episode series is Nell (Victoria Pedretti), the youngest of the bunch, who first returns to the home as an adult after being haunted over the years by “the Bent-Neck Lady” that has lurked at every corner in her life. With Nell wondering how to deal with the long-standing trauma, her new therapist — played none other than Russ Tamblyn — urges her to grapple with her past and make amends with that she cannot fix.
Tamblyn’s credit in the fifth episode, “The Bent-Neck Lady,” won’t be found on IMDb or any casting announcements, but keen eyes and fans of the original will notice director Mike Flanagan implicitly connecting the two in a way that offers a fresh, haunting way to experience the mystery of Hill House.
In the 1963 version of the Jackson’s adaptation, Tamblyn (also most notable for West Side Story and Twin Peaks) plays heir apparent Luke Sanderson, who will soon inherit Hill House and accompanies a group of paranormal, psychic investigators exploring the mansion for spirits.
Of course, Tamblyn didn’t play the same character in the Netflix series, but the Easter egg sees his role as a live character that fulfills the intention of spirits from The Haunting as he nudges Nell toward a confrontation with Hill House, adding to the population of spirits living in the home. While it might have been an innocent mistake that led to Nell’s doom, Tamblyn’s role dramatizes how no one ever truly escapes the home and the hauntings continue long after leaving Hill House.
That is not the only Easter egg viewers can catch in the series. Oliver Jackson-Cohen who plays Luke Crain in the 2018 re-imagining says there are plenty more where that came from, along with a few teasing a possible second season.
“There's a couple of Easter eggs at the end that allow it to [continue for a second season]. But they're very, very slight, they're not so obvious. Again it's [writer] Mike [Flanagan] being a genius. There's something in the background somewhere,” Jackson-Cohen told Digital Spy. “It probably feels like it closed a book but if you look closer it's very much not closed."
The Haunting of Hill House is now streaming on Netflix.