The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix does not have a normal climax for a horror story. The majestic home of the Crain family isn’t your normal haunted house, though. Hill House has more spirits, specters, and ghoulies than any other building in television history, yet they’re not the bad guys. The home is, and this alters everything.

The Haunting of Hill House isn’t a subtle show, and if you pay attention, you’ll probably find out what’s going on – providing you can keep all the parts straight. The Haunting of Hill House is not a straightforward ghost story. It has time travel, psychic abilities, several timelines, more suicides than you can throw a stick at, and a mushy ending. It’s a lot to remember. Hill House, while intriguing, isn’t as difficult as it appears. Just be aware that there are a few spooky spoilers coming!

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The shocking twist: Olivia was correct.

Let’s start with the basics. Olivia Crain, wife of Hugh and mother to Steven, Shirley, Theo, Luke, and Nell, committed suicide during the Crain family’s final night in Hill House. Hugh stowed all of his kids in the car and returned to Hill House to check on his unwell wife when it happened. The show’s whole storyline hinges on why Olivia committed suicide and what happened that night, but The Haunting of Hill House holds out until the final few episodes to reveal the truth.

Surprise! Olivia simply wanted to be a good mother, it turned out. As it turns out, if you die at Hill House, your spirit is trapped there for all eternity, and the house is hell-bent on collecting as many souls as it can. It threatens Olivia’s children in order to catch her. Olivia is constantly bombarded with pictures of her two youngest children, twins Nell and Luke, in peril. Olivia gradually starts to believe that the world beyond Hill House is a physical and symbolic nightmare. She believes that the best way to save the twins is to murder them, keeping them safely housed in Hill House for the rest of their lives.

She’s also not entirely wrong. Nell would not have ended up in Shirley’s morgue and Luke would not have OD’d on a near-fatal dosage of heroin if Olivia had given poison-laced tea to her children. They would have perished, but they would never have been hurt again. Olivia isn’t always correct: when she throws herself down the stairs, she’s attempting to flee a nightmare. Instead, she dies.

The Shape-Shifting Secret of the Red Room

Redrum is a tease in The Shining.

The Haunting of Hill House uses a Red Room to do this. If there’s a core mystery in the program, it’s what’s waiting beyond that menacing red door, and why no one can seem to open it to see inside? The Haunting of Hill House suggests in flashbacks that the Red Room is the root of all the Crains’ problems — at the very least, it’s the source of the black rot that dooms Hugh and Olivia’s restoration — but it’s actual nature isn’t revealed until the very end.

Nell refers to the Red Room as the house’s “heart” before correcting herself: it’s more like the Hill House’s gut. The longer you stay, the more the home will “digest” you. That is why the Red Room must change its form in order to deceive its victims into staying within. Olivia thinks it’s a library. It’s a video gaming haven for Steven. It’s a treehouse for Luke, a dancing studio for Theo, and a place to watch TV and unwind for Shirley.

A not-so-imaginative pal

Abigail, Luke’s companion, is the third and final piece in The Haunting of Hill House jigsaw. Young Luke insists throughout the series’ flashbacks that his buddy Abigail, who lives in the woods near Hill House, is real. Hugh believes Abigail is a fraud, but the viewer has no reason to mistrust Luke. After all, his twin Nell is plagued by the Bent-Neck Lady, her own ghost. What makes you think Luke is going to be any different?

Abigail isn’t a ghost, though. For the time being, she is a genuine, living human girl. The Dudleys, who look after Hill House, have a daughter who is Luke’s age. The girl, however, is not permitted to visit Hill House. Mrs. Dudley doesn’t allow the youngster to leave the house too often. And, you may wonder, where do the Dudleys live? Of course, in a house close to the woods. Luke was, after all, speaking the truth.

Luke eventually asks Abigail over, and the little girl slips out of her parents’ home to join her pals for a sleepover. It’s a deadly blunder. Hugh saves Nell and Luke from Olivia’s poisoned tea, but he is too late to save Abigail, who dies shortly after. However, Abigail lives on as one of Hill House’s many ghosts, and the Dudleys persuade Hugh to leave Hill House intact so that they can see their daughter. In exchange, they’ll keep Abigail’s murder hidden, preserving Olivia’s reputation. Hugh accepts, but only on one condition: no one else will ever enter Hill House but the Dudleys.

A multi-family event

Hill House no longer speaks directly to Olivia. It seduces her with the remnants of a ’20s flapper, and the evil ghost is none other than Poppy Hill, a previous inhabitant of Hill House. According to Mrs. Dudley, young William Hill spent his childhood in an institution, where he met Poppy. They were both nuts, but it didn’t stop them from falling in love. Poppy and William married, and the pair lived in Hill House for the remainder of their lives.

William eventually barricaded himself in the basement of Hill House and died there, leaving his remains for Hugh to uncover decades later. Poppy’s daughter died of disease. Her kid was confined to a wheelchair and could only communicate by hammering on the walls. But, in classic Hill House style, their stories don’t end there. The top-hat connoisseur that haunts Luke is William’s spirit. From the first episode on, the wheelchair ghost torments the Hill children.

The narrative that hasn’t been told yet

Despite this, The Haunting of Hill House leaves a few major story strands hanging. We still have no clue what Hill House is, where it came from, or what made it so nasty after watching it for ten hours.

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However, the production team does, and they were on the verge of spilling the beans. Almost. “We were planning to shoot a complete history of Hill House,” Mike Flanagan revealed. “We were intending to begin multiple episodes of the program with this type of history…. which would show you the building of Hill House, the Hill family’s history, and who everybody was,” says the executive producer. These weren’t merely musings in the writers’ room. These pieces were scripted and scheduled for production.

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