It's been nearly a month since The Haunting of Hill House hit Netflix, but fans are still deep in discussion as they attempt to parse through the complex tale of grief and ghosts. The 10-episode series left viewers with a lot of burning questions and few neatly wrapped up answers. While some may argue that the answers to the questions don't matter nearly as much as the emotional impact of the series, we there's never been a puzzle we haven't wanted to solve. Fortunately, between revealing interviews with the cast and creator Mike Flanagan, and the impressive crowd-sourcing power of Reddit, pretty much every question you can imagine has already been answered.
Since no one has time to search through the entire internet where all these answers are scattered around (like new snow or confetti, some might say), we rounded up answers to eight of the biggest burning questions below.
1. Was Hill House always evil or did the Hills make it evil? This is probably the hardest question to answer because Hill House defies all neat and logical explanation. As creator Mike Flanagan previously told us, the house "can't be held to a rational logic" and trying "to apply a sense of order and reason to [how the house affects people] is impossible." Flanagan also clarified that while the house is inherently insane, it does act as a prism "that refracts elements of people's personalities." Meaning, if someone who isn't fully sane — like Poppy (Katie Parker) — moves into Hill House, the house can pick up on these things and magnify them. So basically, trying to figure out the cause and effect between what occurred because Hill House is insane and what occurred because insane people lived in Hill House is pretty much a futile mission and you should turn back now.
2. Who were all the other ghosts? There were a lot of ghosts running around Hill House, but we only ever really got to know Poppy Hill, the unhinged flapper who pushed Olivia (Carla Gugino) over the edge. However, Flanagan had written and originally planned to shoot a complete history of the house that would have introduced us to several of the other figures haunting Hill House's halls. In lieu of that, though, one of the show's writers has allegedly been posting stories about the Hill ghosts on Reddit. If we take those stories as canon, then we now know that Hazel Hill was the bootlegger who operated out of the basement; the burned ghost in the basement was Hazel's son Edward; Hazel killed Poppy's daughter Jacqueline by drowning her in the cement of the house's foundation; Poppy's son in the wheelchair is named Eugene; the tall man in the bowler hat is Poppy's husband William; and that the wife of Jacob Hill, who built the house, died during construction, which may have caused some of the bad energy infecting the house.
3. Why does Theo have powers? Theo's (Kate Siegel) ability — to pick up on information and emotion through touch — has nothing to do with her time at Hill House. She inherited the ability from Olivia, who seems to have inherited her powers from her own mother. It seems as though the Crain women are able to pass down supernatural abilities through the generations, but with each woman getting a different splinter of power. Olivia says her mother was "sensitive," like Theo, and Olivia's own powers were made clear when she shared the story of the time she made it rain stones as a child. According to Flanagan, Nell (Victoria Pedretti) inherited the ability to look across time from Olivia, while Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) got the dream sleep, which explains her premonition about "dancing in the red room" while she slept as a child.
4. Why are some people driven mad by Hill House but not everyone? It's clear that had Olivia never moved into Hill House, she never would have attempted to murder her own children. But then that raises questions about why Olivia succumbed so much to Hill House's corrupting influence while Nell remained relatively untouched. As Flanagan explained, just like how people process grief differently, people react to Hill House differently. "Some people are just more vulnerable. Or more special. There are more ways in, and darkness can infiltrate and take root in their lives in different ways. But there are no characters in our show who are immune," he said. "The symptoms might be harder to see overtly in some, but I'd argue that the house works on the family in equal measure." So even though it looks like Olivia was the only one driven truly mad by Hill House, the house actually had an equal effect on all the family members, even if some of the effects are more difficult to spot.
5. How does the house haunt them outside the actual house? In most haunted house stories, you're safe once you leave the actual premises of the haunted house. Not Hill House, though. Although the limits of the house's reach aren't made explicit, the house and its ghostly residents — particularly Nell and Olivia — are able to haunt the Crains long after they left Hill House. One way to reason this is to think about the house-as-body metaphor. When the Crains built the walls within themselves, they not only trapped their own guilts and fears but part of the house too, enabling the house to follow them across the country and through time. Or maybe it's simply that Hill House is insane, so why would we expect it to follow the rational rules of how we expect a haunted house to work?
6. Why didn't Hugh have a Red Room? When the Crains lived in Hill House, each of them had their own personal Red Room — that is, each of them except Hugh (Henry Thomas). But when you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. The goal of the Red Room was to keep the Crains placated and in the house so that it could feed off them, and it did so by turning itself into what they desired. Since Hugh loved nothing more than to fix things, the Red Room provided him with a problem he could try and fix but never quite solve: the water damage allegedly coming from inside the Red Room. This not only satisfied Hugh's need to be the family problem-solver, but it also kept Hugh distracted, running around the house trying to fix up Hill House while his family was being preyed upon by the exact thing he was trying to repair.
7. Does a ghost not even need to be dead? If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around the notion that ghosts don't necessarily need to be the spirits of deceased people then you're going to have to open your mind a bit. When Steven (Michiel Huisman) said that ghosts are guilt and ghosts are secrets, it was a nice metaphor, sure, but the show also takes this idea quite literally. While Nell is being haunted by the Bent-Neck Lady and Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is being followed by William Hill, Shirley finds herself haunted by the man she cheated on her husband with. This character, played by One Tree Hill's James Lafferty, isn't dead, but his one-night stand with Shirley continues to haunt her, and therefore he is a ghost.
8. Who grabbed Abigail's hand after she died? If you're still sitting around wondering if Abigail was dead the whole time, you're asking the wrong question. The real mystery here is who came to Abigail's aid right after she died. The beautiful ghost definitely wasn't of this time, but she wasn't a spirit we had seen before. Likely, the woman's identity would have been revealed during Flanagan's planned history of Hill House, but for now fans are left speculating. Some theorize that since time isn't linear, maybe this is an even younger version of Mrs. Dudley (Annabeth Gish). However, we're going to take things one step further and imagine that it's actually the ghost of Mrs. Dudley's mother-in-law. We know that she worked at Hill House, so maybe she died there too! This would explain why she'd be so ready to comfort Abigail after her murder at Olivia's hand.
The Haunting of Hill House is available to stream on Netflix.