Who has been coming to my door these days?
I’ve been getting a larger than usual number of hits at this blog lately. Sometimes WordPress records the search words that lead people to my page. Some of the “search phrases” as of late are as follows:
- is haunting of hill house the same as the book
- the haunting versus the haunting on hill house
- how does the haunting of hill house tie in with the haunting
- the haunting of hill house same like the book
- can hold my pee and peeing alot (Don’t know how this searcher found my page about haunted houses with this!)
In short, visitors are searching for clues as to how the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House ties into either:
- Shirley Jackson’s book by the same name, OR
- The Haunting, which is the movie that is based on Jackson’s novel.
Search engines have led them to my site, which features articles and reviews of both the movie and book. But alas, visitors have found no information about the Netflix series – until now!
I appreciate the extra traffic. To show my appreciation, I will answer some possible FAQs about the Netflix series. I just started watching it: I have seen the first five episodes. In an article I wrote about the movie The Haunting, I express doubt about the whole idea of turning Shirley Jackson’s novel into a miniseries. (The link to this article is at the end of this piece) However, now that I am halfway through it, I can honestly say that I am hooked. I love it! The show is very very good!
Let me begin with what the series is not. It’s not a sequel to the book ( or movie). It is not a prequel either. It is not a crossover , it is not a spinoff; it exists in a story universe of its very own. What it does do is utilize the same character names of the book and it recreates several parts/scenes of the book/movie within an entirely different context. Admittedly, the series is a bit confusing with its constant jumps in time and non-linear storytelling. Do yourself a favor – don’t try and figure out how the Nell of the series has become or was once the Nell of the book. Same goes with Theo. The characters of the series are very different than the characters that are portrayed in the original story (though not entirely different This will be explained later). Please don’t add to any existing confusion by trying to tie the characters of the series to the book. It just won’t work. There is no prevailing story arc that flows from the original incarnation to this latest manifestation.
Before I delve into what the Netflix series is, I first need to explore “the is” of the original story, the story that came from the brilliant mind of Shirley Jackson. The movie The Haunting (1963) follows Jackson’s book pretty closely, so for the purposes of this article I will treat both the book and the film as one in the same (although in another article I write about the differences between the two mediums and their versions of the story. The link to that article is posted at the end of this piece.)
Dr. Montague (Named Dr. Markway in the film, but who cares) recruits two people to take part in a study that aims to investigate the paranormal activity that has been rumored to be rampant at Hill House. Both participants have an affinity toward the supernatural in one way or another. Theo, the brash bohemian and implied lesbian, has ESP, can read minds, etc. Eleanor Vance was once the victim of poltergeist activity – stones showered down on her house when she was a little girl. Dr. Montague hopes that Hill House will be more likely to display paranormal activity in the presence of people that are attuned to the supernatural.
The two ladies join Dr. Montague for a prolonged stay at Hill House. Also there is Luke Sanderson. He is due to inherit Hill House and he too stays with the trio at the house . He doesn’t believe the ghost stories but he is taking part in this study mostly to protect the interests of his future property .
Hill House has a history of madness and unexplained deaths. Built by one Hugh Crain, two of his wives lost their lives in the house or around the property. His daughter Abigail lived in the house from birth to death. She occupied the nursery the whole time. She died as an old lady , who called out to her caretaker in the middle of the night. The caretaker did not come to her assistance and , unaided in her ailment , Abigail passed on. The caretaker would later hang herself beside a spiral staircase.
The team of four witness several supernatural occurrences. They stand in cold spots, they observe doors that won’t stay closed, they hear loud banging noises against the walls. But it is Eleanor that receives the brunt of the haunting. Even so, she is drawn to Hill House, and Hill House is drawn to her as well. It wants to keep her inside. Forever.
That is the classic story in a nutshell. So, what’s the modern series all about? It’s about a family -The Crain’s (the same surname of the original Hill House occupants in the backstory of Shirley Jackson’s novel). They stay at Hill House for a summer. There is Hugh the father, Olivia the mother, Shirley the eldest daughter (approximately twelve-years-old) and her younger siblings: Steve (Maybe age eleven?), Theo (age ten?) and the two young twins Luke and Eleanor (approximately 5 or 6 years old ). See what they did here? They use the names of the characters from the original story. While the series gives them similar traits as the original characters, they are different people in different contexts. In the original story, Luke, Theo and Eleanor are strangers to each other until they met at Hill House. In the series they are siblings.
Most of the family members have experienced some kind of ghostly disturbance during their stay at Hill House. After a tragedy , the family flees the house. The series juxtaposes between several time periods. We see the kids as grown ups.. As adults, they suffer through various life dilemmas and troubling psychological problems. Most of their problems can be traced back to that summer spent at Hill House. See, “the haunting of Hill House” follows the kids into their adult years . It is like a hand, and though most of the family has escaped Hill House’s palmy grip, Its fingers stretch throughout the years, pointing its horror in the survivors’ direction, poking at their daily lives. Even in their adult lives , they are haunted by ghosts.
The Netflix series is creepy , dark, and very morbid. In other words , it’s great! And, it creatively reimagines some of the classic scenes, fitting them into updated contexts. Waking up in the middle of the night to feel a phantom hand holding your hand – this scene plays out in both the series and book. Finding graffiti on the wall of Hill House that reads “Welcome Home, Eleanor”, this happens in both mediums. Breaking out into a dance before some creepy Hill House statues – yep, this scene can now be considered both classic and modern. The “Hill House” of the series has many of the same features of the Hill House of the 1963 movie, including a large gate at the beginning of the driveway, and the “twisted” spiral staircase. Both Hill Houses feature rooms that are locked – for the safety of the inhabitants. The caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, are featured in both the series and the book. But again, please remember, these are recreations of the famous scenes, not repeats, not meant to tie directly into the happenings of the original story. These are what they call “easter eggs”; features that pay homage to the earlier works.
Like in the book, the Theo of the series has a talent for “knowing things”. In the original story, she reads minds and knows the cards of another card player. In the series, she touches things (and people) and suddenly she gains knowledge about the object of her touch. While her sexual preference for women is only implied in the original story, she actively seeks out female sexual partners in the series. As in the book, Hill House “calls” out to Eleanor (Nell). When they are children, Luke has an imaginary friend – Abigail (possibly a ghost?) Abigail is the daughter of Hugh Crain in the book/movie, the one who spends her whole life inside the nursery.
There are plenty of other similarities and references to the original story within the series, but I won’t go into them all.
If you are already a fan of the Netflix series but have yet to watch the movie The Haunting (or read the book The Haunting of Hill House), I encourage you to do so, then you yourself can discover the ghosts that crossover between the mediums .The movie is a classic and the book is a very intriguing read. Likewise, if you are fans of the film and the novel but are hesitant to try this modern reimagining of the story, I strongly suggest that you let go of this hesitancy and climb on board. You won’t be disappointed.
As promised, here are the links to articles and reviews that I have written about Hill House, The Haunting, and other good stuff:
1) An article comparing the book The Haunting of Hill House to the 1963 film The Haunting:
2) An Article comparing the film The Haunting/1963 to the remake – The Haunting/1999
3) An article reviewing another book written by Shirley Jackson – We Have Always Lived in the Castle