What is the Red Door? And 8 other questions about The Haunting of Hill House finale
Please note: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House.
Netlflix’s latest gripping horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, has just dropped and over the weekend many of you have bingeing on its terrifying and dramatic delights.
The moral of the story? Don’t try and flip a house. But the season finale has left fans with many questions about the house and what went on in it. And will there be another season?
The cast have already teased that eagle-eyed fans may spot some hints to a possible second outing in the finale whilst Doctor Who fans and ET lovers have also had much to enjoy.
Here are the answers to nine burning questions about the ending of The Haunting of Hill House…
1. What *actually* happened on the Crain’s last night in Hill House back in ’92?
In a nutshell, Olivia left the house to go and stay with her sister for a while. But, she didn’t go there at all. Mummy Crain went to a nearby motel (which her daughter Nell would visit some 26 years later on the night before she killed herself) and then returned to Hill House later that night.
She took the twins, Luke and Nell, and their new buddy Abigail for a tea party in the Red Room – where she planned to kill them all, and herself, with rat poison. Thankfully, her plan didn’t totally succeed, with only Abigail drinking it.
Steve took his children out of the house and fled but, before he returned, Olivia was spurred on by the ghost of Poppy Hill and jumped to her death from the top of spiral staircase. He came back to find his wife dead on the floor.
Caretakers the Dudleys appear looking for their daughter Abigail. Being more understanding than you’d think, Horace and Clara are pretty chilled about the death of their child. They agree not to tell the police as long as the house is kept as it is.
2. Is Abigail dead?
Very much so. Soz.
Some viewers might have been confused upon her death in the Red Room when she appears outside very much alive after drinking the poison.
This is the power of the house – this is Abigail’s ghost, and the reason why the Dudleys didn’t want the house to be destroyed. Horace and Clara were able to visit Abigail for years to come.
You might also be wondering, “Won’t the authorities be wondering where she is?” Well, as revealed in an earlier ep, Abigail was home schooled and barely left her home – a cottage on the edge of the property.
A flash-forward at the end of the finale shows an elderly Horace carrying his dying wife to Hill House where her (younger) ghost is reunited with Abigail and their other child, who was stillborn.
3. What IS inside the Red Room?
There’s not a cotton-candy machine or a pony as some would like but, in fact, just a lot of black mould.
As we learned in the denouement, the room was different things to different people: to Steve it was a games room; a family room for Shirley; a dance studio for Theo; a tree house for Luke; a toy room for Nell; and a reading room for Olivia.
The Crain kids all ended up in the Red Room together as adults in the finale, each hallucinating about events that didn’t happen. And each brought out of their nightmares by Nell, who tells them, “Mom says that a house is like a body. This room is like the heart of the house. No, not a heart, a stomach.”
The house wanted to “eat” them which does explain why the older Hugh Crain tells his son Steve that their home still views them as an “unfinished meal”.
But why did it appear as different rooms to different people? Back to Nell: “It put on different faces so that we’d be still and quiet. While it digested.”
4. Who was the 1920’s flapper lady?
That was Polly Hill who, according to Mrs. Dudley, was “clinically insane”. She appeared to Olivia Crain on a couple of occasions and gave her some interesting tips on parenting – to save your kids from the horrors of life, kill ’em.
Polly told Liv about a dreams where her own children were dead but, of course, they were actually dead in reality (we see her ghost son, who was also keen on banging walls, in a wheelchair in an earlier ep).
Her husband, Willie, was also insane and the two met in an asylum. In Theo’s hallucination in the finale, her girlfriend Trish tells the story of a man who went mad due to fear and guilt. He built a wall to keep these feelings out but he was left within it, afraid and guilty with no voice and scratching at the brickwork which “sounded like rats”. When he “woke” (ie. when he died), he was described as “tall, so tall”.
This is William Hill (which, if you’re watching in the UK, we’d “bet” you’d find slightly amusing). In an earlier episode Hugh Crain broke down a brick wall in the basement, thinking rats were behind it, to discover the skeleton. The police inform Hugh that this is William who’d been missing since 1948.
Polly’s sister was Hazel Hill, who owned Hill House. She appears to Olivia and informs her that Poppy is a “liar”. The cup of stars, loved by Nell, belonged to Hazel’s daughter Jacqueline.
5. Why didn’t Luke burn down the house, and did he die too?
He actually did die (after seemingly injecting himself with rat poison) but, depending on how you look at it, Luke was either:
a) resuscitated by Steve, Shirley and Theo; or
b) in his dead state, was told to leave the Red Room by his twin (there with his mother and Abigail), and willed himself back to life.
As for the fire, Luke emptied cans of gasoline into Hill House but gasoline doesn’t actually burn, fact fans – it’s the vapors from gasoline that ignite and burn. This will happen in the presence of oxygen, which suggests that the house didn’t have any. Science fans will note, humans need oxygen to breath. (NB: Ghosts probably don’t.)
Maybe it was a vacuum? Who knows, certainly not the most craziest thing about that place.
6. What’s the deal with ‘Clock Guy’?
Basically, just one of the many, many ghosts wandering around Hill House.
Noticed by Steve in his youth, and mentioned in his book that caused so much trouble, there was a man in old overalls with a handlebar moustache attending to a clock.
Adult Steve’s mind is slightly blown when his dad tells him that he didn’t hire anyone to fix the clock, adding, “No one touched that clock.”
We guess he really loved his job; so much so, he kept at it when he was dead.
7. How did the dad die?
It may have looked like he was overcome by the black mould from the Red Room but there was something more earthy and realistic waiting for him.
After he packed Shirley and Theo off with Luke to the hospital, Hugh took Steven back into the house to explain what happened on that fateful night (see No.1). After the revelation is explained, Steven looks down to see his father dead, hand outstretched with his bottle of pills strewn aside.
The pills were for his heart, so it’s most like a heart attack.
Don’t worry though, he seemed quite happy to be dead and reunited with his wife Olivia and daughter Nell.
8. Shirley’s guy with a glass: dead or not dead?
During the season, Shirley will occasionally see a smartly-dressed man, around her age, toasting her with a class of booze. Normally, in Haunting of Hill House, this would indicate the person is a ghost but it’s slightly different with this guy. Well, completely different.
As it turns out, she met him in a bar at a mortician’s convention and indulged in some adultery with him. He’s merely an expression of her guilt; we learn in the finale that that’s what the apparitions are: “ghosts are secrets”.
In the closing moments of the series, Shirley tells her husband about the infidelity in a bid to move on and put the ghost to bed, as it were.
9. So, just what the hell was going on with Hill House?
There’s no solid or real answer or explanation to all the goings-on over the years at Hill House.
It’s said that the house was built “without concession to humanity” and was “never meant to be lived in” and wasn’t fit for love or hope. And, at various points during the series, we hear about the house wanting to “eat” its inhabitants and the ending leaves the Dudleys wanting to “starve” it.
Of course, in reality, we know houses don’t eat people (right???).
The more mundane answer probably lies within the house’s guests themselves. Olivia was obviously under pressure and suffering severe mental health issues which lead to her tragic breakdown. Previous House Hill residents also reportedly suffered similar issues, including Mrs Dudley, Hazel Hill (“She said a lot of things toward the end that didn’t make sense”) and Poppy Hill.
But why should so many suffer within the one building?
Perhaps the key lies to what Hugh Crain found in the basement – black mould. You’ll also remember that Red Room was also engulfed with it. In severe cases, this type of mould can lead to anxiety and confusion or memory loss with long-term exposure. Could it be the house actually poisoned those who lived within it? As stated above, it wanted to keep them within the Red Room to digest, the longer you suffer the effects of the mould, the worse you get.
Admittedly, that sounds a bit nuts but no more nuts than a house with an unexplained grudge.
Maybe season two will delve deeper…?
The Haunting of Hill House is available on now on Netflix.
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