HomeEntertainmentThe Haunting of Hill House Ending Explained: Mystery of Red Room explained

The Haunting of Hill House Ending Explained: Mystery of Red Room explained

It’s difficult to explain The Haunting of Hill House’s ending because Hill House—the foreboding, ghost-filled mansion at the center of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series—never ends.

That is one of the show’s points, the enduring nature of this multi-room monster isolated in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts. “It had stood for 80 years and might stand for another 80,” Shirley Jackson wrote in the spine-chilling introduction to the original novel.

However, Flanagan’s dark, sprawling story is more concerned with the people who made it out (mostly) alive.

Specifically, the Crain siblings, a much more deranged version of Arrested Development’s Bluths with horrific trauma in place of witty banter: horror creator Steven (Michiel Huisman), mortician Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), semi-psychic psychologist Theodora (Kate Siegel), addict Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and his twin sister Nell (Victoria Pedretti), who commits suicide inside the walls of Hill House

Below, I’ll attempt to make sense of the Crain family’s horror, death, and mystery, including what the hell is going on with Hill House itself, what actually occurred to Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino), and why Hugh Crain (Timothy Hutton) covered it up, what was inside the house’s mysterious Red Room, and who the true identities of The Bent-Neck Lady and Luke’s imaginary friend, Abigail, were.

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Haunting of Hill House

One of the most compelling — and horrifying — features of The Haunting of Hill House is the absence of a concrete explanation for how the evil that inhabits this home came to be.

It is the prototypical haunted house simply because it is. Anyone who walks through the front door is susceptible to a terrifying paranormal mind-trip—hallucinations, delusions, lost hours, and momentary leaps through both space and time—and if you die there, you become inextricably linked to the house, as evidenced by the numerous wonderfully terrifying souls who appear, often literally, throughout the series.

It captured the majority of the Hill family, most ominously William Hill, who bricked himself behind a basement wall in 1948.

That appears to be the house’s ultimate goal: to imprison as many errant souls as possible within itself, feeding off whatever pain they contained in their final moments.

They’re akin to gasoline for a broken machine. The home urges you to participate voluntarily by convincing the living that reality is a dream and that the only way to reclaim awake life is through death.

In many ways, the mansion resembles other legendary horror monsters; it’s a zombie devouring brains, a vampire sucking blood, and a shark biting innards. As with the most terrifying beasts, the house is simply hungry.

In the end, Nell Crain defines her permanent residency best: “I’m like a small thing swallowed whole by a monster, and the monster feels my tiny little motions inside.”

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Olivia Crain 

The whole Crain family was affected by Hill House, but none more than matriarch Olivia Crain, who was particularly vulnerable due to her suppressed psychic abilities. (She ascribed them to migraines.)

In a nutshell, the house convinced Olivia that her family should perish. However, the show poignantly establishes this as an extension of Olivia’s genuine maternal love.

By the time Olivia has gone completely insane, the house has convinced her that murdering her entire family is the only way to wake them up from this horrible twisted dream they are all experiencing simultaneously.

The series weaves the concept that the Cranes are pursuing their dream home, their forever home, which is perverted by the revelation that dying within Hill House truly makes it your everlasting home.

The night that The Haunting of Hill House continuously returns to through flashbacks, hints, and red herrings is the night Olivia poured rat poison into teacups and attempted to take her children with her to whatever loopy alternate reality she was already inhabiting.

Hugh intervenes, sneaking his children to safety and kicking off the modern-day plot of Hill House, while Olivia commits suicide in the house, expecting to finally awaken.

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Abigail and The Dudleys

Olivia poisoned one child on her way out the (red) door, Abigail, who is revealed to be very real by the season’s finale. The show portrays the enigmatic Abigail as Luke’s imaginary companion (or ghost), yet another figment of Hill House’s imagination.

However, the true answer is far more tragic; Abigail is the daughter of the Dudleys, Hill Home’s maintenance staff—”Dad says you and Mr. Dudley come with the house,” a young Steven informs Clara Dudley (Annabeth Gish)—who reside on the outskirts of town across the woods.

The Dudleys are familiar with Hill House’s bizarre incidents. Mr. Dudley’s (Robert Longstreet) mother began acting “scattered” while working around the house, venturing into the woods at night and giggling like a schoolgirl.

And then the Dudleys’ first child died during childbirth (which explains why they kept Abigail under lock and key), followed by an echoing howl throughout Hill House. “After nightfall, we stopped coming here,” Mr. Dudley informs Hugh. “After dinner is served, we depart and return in the morning to clean up.”

Following the murders of Olivia and Abigail, the Dudleys demand that Hugh Crain leaves the Hill Building standing—Hugh desired to burn it to the ground, which is understandable—because the Dudleys can communicate with the ghost of their deceased daughter while the house remains intact. It’s simultaneously extremely dismal and quite lovely.

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The End of The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House’s conclusion also serves as a beginning for the Crain family, both those who survive and those who become permanent members of the house’s black parade.

The series concludes with a horrific night inside Hill House that depicts the Crain siblings’ worst nights or worst sides; the business trip during which Shirley cheated on her husband, Luke’s ups and downs with addiction, Steven’s inability to see the people who care about him directly in front of his house, and so on. The show even emphasizes this point by having Steven read the metaphor at the conclusion: “Guilt manifests like ghosts. Ghosts are concealed. Ghosts are the manifestations of regrets and failures.”

In either case, confronting their own failures binds the Crains, who flee Hill House once more and resolve to finally stop being so dang furious with one another.

Except for Hugh Crain; the family’s father, who didn’t have much of a life post-Hill House to begin with, strikes a bargain with Olivia’s spirit, who is attempting to trap the siblings in the Red Room, murder them, and imprison them in the house in perpetuity. Hugh swallows the remainder of his tablets and passes away peacefully on the spiral staircase, spending the afterlife exploring a Massachusetts mansion with his wife and youngest daughter.

With Hugh gone, Steven assumes care for the house, which essentially includes ensuring that it is never touched. While Hill House is teeming with ghouls, a good portion of those ghouls are in love with one another. As long as Hill House, which is not sane, remains to stand, the ghosts can be together in perpetuity.

This is demonstrated in one final moving coda. Mr. Dudley carries his wife through the woods to Hill House in order for her to meet her two daughters again; the one who died too soon and the one she never got to adore. Haunting of Hill House on Netflix concludes with a far more upbeat adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s chill-inducing opening paragraph.

“Within, the walls remain upright, the bricks meet perfectly, the flooring is strong, and the doors are closed intelligently. Silence pressed firmly against Hill House’s wood and stone “According to Steven’s voice-over. “And those who walk there do so in unison.”

Maria Gaspar
Maria Gaspar
Maria is an Ireland-based freelance writer. She has over seven years of expertise managing corporate blogs, social media, and public relations efforts. She has a degree in English Literature from the University of England and has studied journalism with the National Council of Teachers of Journalism.
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