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Explanation for The Haunting of Hill House

Step by Step Explanation for The Haunting of Hill House.


Now that Halloween is over, you should all have watched the television series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, a psychological trauma that captivates people’s minds.

You’ve probably already seen multiple magazine articles explaining the ending of the television series; how a ten episode Netflix original series unraveled a dynamic psychological experience that each family member shared. If you haven’t seen it yet; The Netflix series is an adaptation of the book written by Shirley Jackson, which was described by critiques on the internet to be one of the scariest novels to read. Each episode held a deep meaning that connects to our actual everyday life.

A family of seven; Hugh Crain (the father), Olivia Crain (the mother), Steven Crain (the eldest son in the house), Shirley Crain (eldest sister), Theodora Crain (middle child), Luke and Nelly Crain (The youngest twins) experience horrors within their own house. However, as we start to go deeper into the show we start to realize that the house is actually not the root of all evil. Something bigger than that is.


#1: I am the Bent-Neck Lady

Nelly’s death was one of the most powerful scenes in the movie; cinematically speaking, it was a breathtaking idea. Nelly, the youngest of all five, has been seeing ghosts since she was a child: especially the bent-neck lady. Her parents tried to soothe her but had no luck. As she grows up, she sees less of the bent-neck lady when she marries her husband, a sleep technician. However, when her husband dies of an aneurysm, the bent-neck lady returns back to torment her. Nelly finally decides to go back to her childhood house, only to see her mother, father, siblings, and her husband waiting there for her. We see Nelly dancing with her husband around the spacious house, and it flashes between dancing with him and dancing by herself. It ends with Olivia giving Nelly the necklace that was supposed to protect her from the nightmares she was having, where it is revealed that the necklace is actually a noose. Nelly is thought to have committed suicide on the balcony in that house. As Nelly’s last moments are shown, we see her neck bent and her face saying ‘no’. It comes to our realizations that Nelly’s childhood nightmare of the bent-neck lady was actually her.

This death is significant not only because it was a great plot twist, but because it touches on real adult fears: sleep paralysis and fear of death. She couldn’t move when having the nightmares, which is an indication that she was having sleep paralysis, a horrific thing that people actually go through. In addition, the way she saw her future-self insinuated how much she feared the unknown. It can be dark, and we can grant it a way to destroy us.


#2 Rat poisoning addiction

Luke, Nelly’s twin, has seen a lot of things as a child as well, which leads him towards a drug addiction. Due to Luke seeing ghosts as a young child, he becomes a drug addict as an adult, and he steals from his family to get drug even though he is attending rehab. As soon as he learns that Nelly has committed suicide, he decides that he must go to the house to burn it down. When he tries, the fire goes out, his mother appears, and someone brings him to the red room. There he struggles to stay alive as his siblings and father try to save his life from the needle sticking in his arm full of rat poison. The siblings and father know that the mother, Olivia, did it to him to try to bring him to the other side with her and Nelly. However, Nelly saves him from falling too deep.

We start to realize that this plotline isn’t about the scary ghosts, his dead mother and sister, or the messed up things he has seen. It’s more about how Luke’s addiction has driven him to this, and without his family, he could have died. The meaning behind this is that people with drug addictions struggle, but they can recover if they have someone who can save them and give them hope to continue on. In this case, Nelly was his hope; she supported him and never gave up on him, even though he stole from her as well.


#3 Defense mechanism or ignorant?

Steven did not report seeing anything out of the ordinary. Instead, he wrote a book about his childhood home. He thought his family was mentally ill and that his mother died because of an illness causing her suicide. As the episodes roll on and we start to understand more about everyone’s past, it is revealed in one of the last episodes that Steven has actually experienced seeing ghosts as well. His father explains to him that the family is not crazy. He has read Steven’s novel and that certain things he had seen and written about were not actually real. This shocked Steven and us. Steven has seen the ghosts just like we did!

Steven’s character is the epitome of denial. He saw things that did not exist. He saw his sibling’s distress, yet he believed that he was normal and his family was mentally ill. He went as far as getting a vasectomy just so that the ‘mental ill’ genes don’t pass on. This character not only exemplifies dynamic personality, but it also highlights people who actually do experience trauma and the way they go into denial to cope with the situation.


#4 Smiley Man.

Theodora had a touch in which she sensed things, which had caused her a lot of problems in her childhood because she saw her mother’s evilness. As she grew up, she used her touch to help children by becoming a psychologist. In episode three, a little girl was brought to Theo claiming she seen a ghost, named Smiley Man. The foster family was concerned because there was no Smiley Man. The child was so closed off that when Theo touched her, she felt nothing. Theo decides to visit the little girl’s home, and she goes down to the basement where the Smiley Man was said to be. She starts touching things but she feels nothing until she touches the couch and lays down. Theo felt something so strong that she started rocking, and trying to muffle her cries through her hand. After that incident, she goes up, and she says that it was just a regular basement. That is until she shakes the father’s hand and instantly feels that he is the Smiley Man: he molested the little girl.

This episode is important because it makes a person realize that sometimes the demons in our head aren’t a matter of fiction. It is another defense mechanism that people experience to try to cope with things.


#5 Mommy, mommy.

The last but not least significant scene was the way Olivia saw her children’s future. She starts to see her children horrible future of drug abuse and depression in her nightmares. She is then convinced that if she prevents them from growing up, that she will protect them. She tries to poison the twins while having a tea party but succeeding only in killing Abigail (Luke’s friend)

This character is hard to unravel because of the way she is represented: a crazy mother who loved her children so much. However, she is the representation of every mother’s fear. She feared that her kids will struggle when they grow up, and she wanted to spare them those struggles. This makes us understand mothers in a different way because we see their love is so strong that it can drive them to desperate acts.


Finally… The house wasn’t haunted, their mind was.


The house wasn’t the cause of their hauntings, but their mind was. The house manifested on their desires, guilt, sadness, past experiences, and more. The red room in the house transformed into their own personal room; it was a toy room for Steven, for Luke, it was a tree house, it was a reading room for Olivia, and etc. These rooms were each person’s comfort zone, where they could be themselves the most. Yet, the red room was what lead to their death. Therefore, the room that they identified as their safe haven was now their worst nightmare.


The ghosts consumed their thoughts and made them toxic, to the point where two committed suicide. These ghosts were their fears and traumatic past; the reason they were pushed to the edge. A room is just a room unless the mind gives it the power to destroy us; by holding all the experiences in one place.


Noor Jajo

UWindsor '22

Noor is in her second year of university with double majors in psychology and criminology, and double minors in Chemistry and Biology at the University of Windsor. In her spare time she likes to procrastinate by binge watching Netflix shows. Reading, music, and figuring out people is all Noor loves. She wants to pursue a career as a psychiatrist that works in hospitals and jails.
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