Is this it for the Crain family? Did Hugh have a Red Room experience? What was up with those ghost dogs? And are THESE characters the REAL monsters of this Netflix horror hit!?
"The Haunting of Hill House" is one of Netflix's most bingeworthy shows yet, and if you've finished all 10 episodes in a few sittings like we did, you've probably got a few questions you want answers to.
The show dropped just a few weeks ago, so we're still waiting to hear if the streaming network is greenlighting Season 2, but if they are, the good news is that creator and director Mike Flanagan said he's got ideas.
"I've definitely thought about a second season. There are variables at play, so I can't say much. But I've given it thought," Flanagan told The Hollywood Reporter.
And it sounds like he's got a lot of material to draw from, because he also told THR he and the writers "fleshed out a thorough history for Hill House."
"We intended to shoot it; it was going to open each episode with a chapter from Steven's book," he explained. "Ultimately, we went away from that because it felt like that was taking away from the mystery and enigma of it."
Now, this is where people who haven't finished the series tune out of this article -- spoilers lurking ahead! -- and go tune in to the rest of the episodes, because TooFab is about to take a deep dive into the series that is as smart as it is scary.
If you're still with us, you've met the Crain family. You've journeyed with them from a terrifying and confusing childhood to a very complicated adulthood, layered with all sorts of grief, denial, conflict, addiction and daddy issues, thanks to some serious supernatural childhood trauma.
After watching the siblings face the ghosts of their past and finally recognize the power of Hill House after they got stuck in the shapeshifting Red Room during that emotional finale, we got some very satisfactory closure.
Nell (Victoria Pedretti) is dead, but at least her soul is trapped in that house with her mother Olivia (Carla Gugino) and father Hugh (Henry Thomas/Timothy Hutton), who killed himself in exchange for the rest of his family's live. Meanwhile, Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) told her husband about her one-night stand, and Theo (Kate Siegel) broke down the wall that was preventing her from having a meaningful romantic relationship. A ring on her finger visible at the end of last episode suggests she got married, too. And Steven (Michiel Huisman) finally saw what really happened the night his father rushed them all of out Hill House and why Hugh had to leave their mother for dead. Now, he's in control of the house and it appears his wife has forgiven him for lying about his fertility for all those years.
That brings us to a mix of questions, answers and theories on our mind as more viewers discover the Shirley Jackson novel adaptation that horror master Stephen King praised as "close to a work of genius." Let's start with the future of the Crain family.
As Flanagan said, if Netflix pursued Season 2, he's got a vast history laid out to dig into. We saw dozens of ghosts lining up as Steven walked out, so there's no shortage of characters and horror stories to explore.
But we find it hard to believe the Crains would be out of the picture entirely. After all, Steven's got the keys to the castle now, and we're betting his surviving sisters have questions they're going to want answers to. Plus, their dad described the family as an "unfinished meal" for the house, which successfully lured Nell in when she was vulnerable, so what's to stop it from continuing to try to digest them all?
Well, according to Flanagan, he's over this family and is open to taking the anthology approach, much like "American Horror Story," where every season tells a different story.
"As far as I've ever been concerned with this, the story of the Crain family is told. It's done. I think that there are all sorts of different directions we could go in, with the house or with something completely different. I love the idea of an anthology, as well," he told Entertainment Weekly.
"But to me, I felt like the Crains have been through enough, and we left them exactly as we all wanted to remember them, those of us who worked on it," he continued. "We toyed with a cliffhanger ending and we toyed with other ideas, but ultimately, in the writers' room and with the cast and everything else, we really felt like the story demanded a certain kind of closure from us and we were happy to close the book on that family."
"That said, I think more than anything, the show is about haunted places and haunted people, as Steve says, and there's no shortage of either," he concluded on the subject. "So, there's any number of things we could do, in or out of Hill House."
Did All of the Girls Inherit Their Mother's Sensitivity to the Supernatural?
We know Theo was able to sense things through touch, but Flanagan confirmed in an Entertainment Weekly interview that Shirley and Nell had abilities, too. We'll let him explain:
To steal from Stephen King, we talked about how the characters “shine” and that Olivia, being sensitive, as she puts it, kind of having a type of emotionality that is supernatural in the way she processes it, that she would have passed that down to her daughters, and that each of them would have gotten a splinter of that from her, if she was the prism of it. Theo gets the touch and Shirley has the dream sleep and the intuition and Nell is able to look across time.
Five Crain Kids Are the Five Stages of Grief
It was a thematic element of the show that a fan first floated, and then Flanagan confirmed that Steven, Shirley, Theo, Luke and Nell indeed represent the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, respectively.
Flanagan must have kept that to himself during production, though, because even the actress who played Nell (acceptance) didn't notice it until TV Guide brought it up in an interview.
"I totally see it now," Victoria Pedretti said. "I get what people are saying, the idea that we represent the various stages of grief but it was never a discussion when we were working."
Just in case you're still confused: Steven is denial because he refused to recognize Hill House was haunted, even when writing about it; Shirley was angry at her whole family and maybe even herself throughout the series; Theo is bargaining because she was always looking for an explanation, which led her to try to use her power of touch to find out why Nell allegedly killed herself; Luke is depression for obvious reasons; and Nell was the first Crain kid to accept the house really was haunted and even accepted her own tragic fate with more ease than the rest had accepting their mother's.
The Kids Also Represented the Five Human Senses
This one is a bit of an abstract stretch, but it's a fun idea, so we're going for it.
Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The theoretical sixth, forever engraved in our minds thanks to a certain M. Night Shyamalan movie, is seeing into the spirit world. Guess the entire Crain family had that, right?
The series spells out without any doubt that Theo gravitates toward touch. Nell, of course, has been seeing the ghost of her future since she was a kid. Shirley hears the spirits knocking on her bedroom walls and later her funeral home wall as an adult, not to mention she could have been hearing stuff in her sleep, spurring the sleep talking.
Luke can smell ghosts as a child, specifically William Hill's sister in Episode 3 ("Touch"). When he walks into the dead old woman's former bedroom with Theo, he immediately asks his older sister, "What is that smell?"
"What smell?" she answers, and he asks, "You can't smell that?"
Seconds later, however, Theo touches the pillow to determine, "This was a sick bed." The scene perfectly demonstrated these two kids had a unique way of sensing the supernatural.
That leaves Steven to represent taste. We had to think hard on this one, because it's not like he bit into a sandwich in the kitchen and determined it was haunted. No, Steven was the least haunted of the entire Crain family (or as his father pointed out during their car ride back to Hill House, least aware of the haunting), and that left him hungry to experience the supernatural. So hungry, in fact, that he dedicated his adult life to searching for it. The series opens with him doing just that, going as far as to sleep in the bed of a woman claiming to have seen her dead husband on the ceiling above the mattress.
Of course, Steven explained the woman's claim away with rational thinking, and it wasn't until he got a firm taste of the supernatural alongside his father -- who gave Steven a guided tour of his mother's death -- that he finally sensed the ghosts that were there all along.
Like we said, kind of a stretch. But maybe there were more clear-cut examples supporting this theory and we missed them, so please feel free to point more out in the comment section below!
Hugh's Red Room Experience Isn't Explained -- But It's in Plain View the Entire Time
After Nell dropped the revelation to her siblings in the finale that the Red Room morphed to whatever they needed it to be -- like Luke's treehouse, Theo's dance studio, Steven's game room, Shirley's family room and their mother's reading room -- we were left wondering, "Wait a minute, she didn't mention her dad."
Well, this Reddit theory and thread full of insightful comments seems spot on.
Hugh's Red Room may have been the basement where black mold kept growing, despite his best efforts to "fix it." The house desperately wanted the family to stay so it could digest them all, and what better way to keep them there for more than the estimated eight weeks they had scheduled to flip the mansion than creating a serious mold problem that would make it impossible to sell.
Admittedly, we didn't blink twice when Hugh was spending all that time in a room that looked like a basement. But as the Redditors pointed out, Olivia told her kids in Episode 3 ("Touch") there is no basement after Theo accidentally sent Luke down the dumbwaiter into the dark underground room where he encountered a terrifying ghost. Olivia later told her daughter "the basement" was used for a bootlegging operation, seemingly confirming that is the house's actual basement.
But what about William Hill's body Hugh discovered, and even gave to the authorities? Our guess is that the basement was Hill's Red Room, as well, where he went to barricade himself in from guilt and shame, but of course ended up being trapped with both and died trying to claw his way out.
Who Put Those Buttons on Nell's Eyes in the Funeral Home?
We saw some other publications asking this, and didn't see a clear answer. Our hunch? It was Nell.
She was constantly ignored by her family while she was living, and she desperately wanted to get their attention after she died. The buttons over the eyes were step one, and she eventually got so frustrated by their bickering, she knocked her own casket over to make a statement: I'm right here, why won't anyone listen to me?!
There are two significant moments from her childhood in Hill House to remember here. In Episode 6 ("Two Storms"), the house hid Nell from her family in plain sight, which must have caused some severe trauma, leaving her feeling alone and disconnected from her family for the rest of her life.
"I was right here, and I was screaming and shouting and none of you could see me. Why couldn't you see me?" young Nell asked her confused family. "I waved and jumped and screamed and you didn't even look. None of you even looked."
When the heartbreaking episode cuts back to the present, Luke is walking away from Nell's casket, remembering telling her as a child to never disappear like that again. But of course young Nell tells her twin, "I was right here, I didn't go anywhere."
As the camera pans back to the casket, Nell's ghost is standing right there, looking horrifically sad as her siblings walk away -- again, unable to see her in the room with them.
"I was right here the whole time," young Nell's words linger, making us realize at that moment the special kind of Hell she is trapped in. And maybe has been trapped in her whole life since Hill House's cruel practical joke during her childhood.
It also could have been another instance of young Nell seeing her future through the eyes of the Bent-Neck Lady. Maybe young Nell wasn't waving and jumping and screaming at her family in Hill House during the storm, but was actually watching herself try to get the attention of her adult siblings in the funeral home.
Also, notice a storm was raging outside in both the past and present, another sign that time in this series is circular -- an idea that series plays with throughout.
But back to those buttons: In Episode 4 ("The Twin Thing"), Nell was given a box of them as a child in Hill House and her twin brother Luke told her to set seven up around her for protection. Each button represented a Crain family member. The two buttons over the eyes of Nell's bodies, in our opinion, symbolized that the house had taken two of their lives, Nell and Olivia. We think Nell was trying to warn them of the danger that awaited them at that house, which she surely knew was trying to lure them back as it did her.
She was tricked into becoming her worst fear: the Bent-Neck Lady. Perhaps she didn't want her siblings suffering the same fate, which would explain her SCREAMING at Theo and Shirley off the road on their way back to Hill House.
Who Was Knocking at Shirley's Funeral Home?
While we just established we firmly believe Nell was trying really hard to reach out to her family while they were gathering in the funeral home to view her body, we don't think the loud booms that Shirley and Theo witnessed were Nell.
We think that was Hill House trying to lure them back to finish them off.
Much like Nell was haunted by the Bent-Neck Lady -- a ghost she saw as a child -- one of the most traumatic supernatural occurrences Theo and Shirley witnessed together was the loud knocking in their bedrooms at night, as seen in Episode 2 ("Open Casket"). Their father blamed it on old hot water pipes, and we're pretty sure it was the ghost of Poppy Hill's disabled son she killed, but in the present, it could have been Hill House itself preying on their fears to spur them to follow Luke back inside.
If so, it worked.
What Was Up with Those Barking Dogs?
Hugh Crain mentions to Mr. Dudley that his kids have been hearing dogs barking on the property, but the caretaker is instantly confused, telling his boss that there are no dogs on the property and he's never heard any.
The supernatural canines, however, never get a full explanation and don't come back to haunt the Crain siblings as adults, either. So what were they?
Our guess is they were simply appropriated from existing horror folklore, much like the Crain family regularly waking up early in the morning when the clock struck 3:03. Flanagan told Entertainment Weekly, "It's the witching hour. It's one of those times that pops up in different iterations in horror fiction, and we liked it for that."
We haven't seen anyone ask Flanagan about those dogs yet, so we're theorizing it's a nod to English folklore. Black dogs were once believed to be a supernatural entity regarded as an omen of death. They were described to be much larger than a normal domesticated dog and have glowing eyes.
Though the audience never gets a chance to see one of these demonic beasts in action, the kids do in Episode 6 ("Two Storms").
"There was something in the house," Shirley explains to her parents when they ask why they're all scremaing. "I heard it breathing, I don't know what it was,but it was so close to us."
"Even I saw it. I think it was a big dog," skeptic Steven admits. "It was like this big wolf."
"It had red glowing eyes," Theo adds.
If anyone noticed any other nods to these ghost dogs, let us know in the comment section!
What Did Shirley's Dead Kittens Represent?
In case you haven't noticed by now, nothing in this show is there by accident or without purpose. Every little piece of dialogue and moment we see in the past matters in the present.
So what about those dead kittens? It was fairly obvious to determine that Shirley's occupation of owning and operating a funeral home was a direct result of not being able to save the living -- those kittens and her own mother -- and she clearly inherited her father's obsession with fixing things, except she chose to fix life after death. But we just got hit with a wave of significance while watching those kitten scenes again from Episode 2 ("Open Casket").
When young Shirley is teaching her siblings how to feed the kittens she finds, Luke observed, "There's five of them like there's five of us."
Then Nell looks into the box and said, "That one's me."
We don't see which one she pointed to, but the next morning Shirley awakens to find one kitten dead. She proceeded to host her first funeral, where something really creepy happened: the kitten started to move. Shirley thought it was alive, but instead a little bug crawled out of the dead animal's mouth.
Flash forward to Shirley trying to "fix" Nell's dead body for a proper funeral, and a larger version of the same kind of bug crawls out of Nell's mouth. We're pretty sure in this instance, however, it's Shirley's mind playing tricks on her. Much like the ghost of her affair haunting her, this could have been another manifestation of guilt, since she couldn't "fix" her sister in life.
What Was Wrong with Luke When Steven Picked Him Up in Los Angeles?
Twins feeling each other's pain is a real-life phenomenon that "The Haunting of Hill House" took full advantage of. This was fairly obvious to us, but since the show didn't explicitly explain it, we figured there may be some viewers wanting an answer to this question.
Luke sure looked like he was experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms when Steven found him in Los Angeles to give him the news about Nell's death, and his older brother just assumed his condition was a sign that he was using again. The viewer, however, knew better. Luke was clean -- so then why was he cold, stiff, pale and shaking?
He was feeling his sister's death. His body became cold because his twin's heart stopped beating and after life leaves a body, something called rigor mortis sets in, explaining his stiff limbs.
Hugh and Olivia Were the Real Monsters All Along
This one is for everyone watching this series and screaming at their screens, "GET THOSE KIDS OUT OF THAT HOUSE, YOU IDIOTS!"
Sure, the parents in this series seemed really loving and caring on the surface, but we they really? It's horror trope at this point for parents to ignore children crying ghost, and it was one of the most frustrating parts of the this series. Yes, we realize if the parents took their kids' fears seriously, we wouldn't have much of a show left to watch, but we're going to lay into them, anyway.
Hill House is portrayed as the real monster here, but we have to call out Hugh and Olivia for behaving like monsters, too. Let's run down the list of offenses: Constantly discrediting every one of their kids' valid concerns; making their kids feel like idiots every time they saw something undeniably evil lurking in the house; ignoring or denying their own creepy experiences instead of thinking "Gee, maybe the kids are onto something"; special shameful shoutout to Olivia ignoring her kids supernatural experiences when she knew the house was filled with ghosts because of her sixth sense; ignoring Luke being attacked by something that ripped his shirt in the basement; letting their kids run free on the property when they believe rabid dogs could be on the loose outside; Hugh being cool with his kids living in a house layered in toxic (and potentially deadly) black mold; Hugh allowing his children to be around his wife after he caught her trying to kill him while he slept; and putting financial gain over their kids well being.
And the list could go on, right? The neglect here, especially the exposure to black mold and a mother on the brink of a mental breakdown, is enough for child services to step in and Hugh should have known better. Olivia shouldn't have dismissed her kids fears about the house when she herself was seeing the ghosts, most notably, the one encouraging her to kill the Crain kids.
Hill House doesn't just go for quick kills, it feeds off the inhabitants fears, hopes, dreams and insecurities as it slowly digests them, and it was feeding off of the parents' mutual dream of one last job for a big score that would lead for their "forever home." The house knew the parents were all in on this investment, and used that to its advantage. The parents were blinded by desire, which is the root of all of the trauma the Crain kids endured.
Considering the entire series was basically psychological character study of how trauma echoes through time, Flanagan and his writers may have had this in mind as a takeaway for viewers. These parents did their kids no favors by bringing their kids along to flip a creepy-ass old mansion, and were too greedy to get out before it was too late.
Learn from the Crain's mistakes, dear readers. If your kids start telling you things are going bump in the night, believe them. Adult Theo's young patient being molested by her foster father proved that even if a child's trauma sounds like a ghost story, it could very well be rooted in very real abuse.
TooFab will update this post as more questions, answers and theories haunt our minds.