The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second season of The Haunting of Hill House (2018), and it’s one of the biggest horror releases of 2020. As with its predecessor, the new season in the anthology series was created and directed by Mike Flanagan, and stars a number of performers of the cast of The Haunting of Hill House. However, the storyline and characters are completely different this time around.
The Haunting of Hill House is loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 Gothic horror novel of the same name. The show follows the Crain family and their paranormal experiences at Hill House, and how those encounters haunt them in different, often tragic ways throughout the years.
The plot of the original 10-episode series is very different from Jackson’s book, which doesn’t center on a family, but four unrelated people attempting to face the horrors of Hill House head-on, with varying levels of success. The series’ 2020 return, The Haunting of Bly Manor, ventures out even further. Based on the literary works of Henry James, in particular James's mind-bending classic, The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Bly Manor follows the story of an American nanny who's hired to watch over a pair of children at a thoroughly haunted English manor.
The possibilities for dizzying terror are endless. Once you've finished binge-watching every episode of The Haunting of Bly Manor, join us as we wander the similarly haunted halls of ghostly horror found within the pages of the 14 books below.
The Turn of the Screw
Used as the source material for The Haunting of Bly Manor, along with a few other of James’ lesser known short stories, The Turn of the Screw is best celebrated for its head-scratching ending. Discussed and debated by readers to this day, this 1898 classic centers around a young governess who is hired to care for two orphans, Flora and Miles.
When Miles is sent home from boarding school under mysterious circumstances, and dark secrets from the past begin to unfold within the seemingly haunted walls of the manor, the governess begins to question what’s real, and who can (or can’t) be trusted. Just as the governess is being pulled one way and another, readers of The Turn of the Screw are also taken for a ride by one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator ever to be found in a work of literature.
The Loveliest Dead
A haunted house is not an ideal place in which to grieve the passing of a loved one, and Jenna and David Kellar learn this the hard way. When their youngest son passes away unexpectedly, they head for the California coast to grieve privately in a house willed to them by Jenna’s estranged father. There, the couple, along with Jenna’s elderly mom and their surviving son, Miles, barely have time to unpack before they discover that their broken spirits are not the only ones rattling around under that roof.
Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, this Gothic horror thriller is a great choice for fans of The Haunting of Hill House series, as well as the film Green Room. Julian Blake, the lead singer of a British acid-folk band, goes missing while recording an album in a spooky country house called Wylding Hall. In the aftermath of his disappearance, a documentary filmmaker meets with his surviving bandmates, friends, and family to try and figure out what really happened to Julian. What they discover is far from what you’d expect.
Similar to Hill House and Bly Manor, Van Fleet house, the setting for Nella Waits, is filled with mysterious energy. Could be ghosts. Could be the charged energy of the people living inside. Either way, something otherworldly lurks within. Van Fleet house is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Nella Van Fleet, who died while giving birth to her son, Jay. When Jay returns home to attend to family affairs and collect his inheritance, he connects with Lynnette, a woman with a dark past who's dealing with ghosts of a different kind. When past and present connect, the ghost of Jay’s mother watches over her son, but she isn’t happy with what she sees.
Usher’s Passing is an explosive spin-off of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” that advances aspects of the tale into modern times. After setting out years ago to become his own man, Rix Usher, a descendant of the notorious Usher family chronicled in Poe's ghoulish tale, returns to his ancestral home in the hills of North Carolina. Rix's father is at death's door; Rix has come home to take care of his ailing father and assume the role of the Usher family patriarch. But Rix's return forces him to confront his family's twisted legacy, and the nightmarish creatures that lurk in the gloomy corridors of the Usher family home.
Seymour Willis is getting up there in age. So when he tells the person manning the desk of the San Francisco Department of Sanitation that his house is possessed, he’s met with raised eyebrows. City officials suspect that he merely has rats in the walls, but they soon realize that his home has been overtaken by an ancient demon, an unprecedented discovery that threatens to push San Francisco, and the world at large, to the brink of evil destruction and unparalleled terror.
The Silence of Ghosts
If you love the eerie isolation of The Haunting of Hill House, this "abominably ominous ... bloody good ghost story" (Tor.com) is sure to send a chill up your spine. Injured World War II soldier Dominic Lancaster retreats to Hallinghag House, his family’s crumbling English estate, in search of some much-needed rest and recuperation. Joining Dominic on his retreat is his deaf 10-year-old sister Octavia and a private nurse by the name of Rose. At first, all is well for the recuperating soldier. But then Dominic's sister begins hearing disembodied cries and whispers emanating from the attic. And when a brutal winter storm sweeps through the region, Hallinghag House becomes a sinister trap.
The Search for Joseph Tully
A primary component to The Haunting of Hill House's narrative is the Crain family's fixation on the past and the magnetic pull of their family estate. William H. Hallahan explores similar doomed territory in The Search for Joseph Tully, a cult horror tale hailed by Dean Koontz as "a relentless, terrifying thriller." Renovation-by-wrecking-ball sweeps through a historic neighborhood of Brooklyn. Amid the rubble stands Brevoort House, a lone relic that has been all but abandoned by its former tenants. One lodger remains: Peter Richardson. He's bound to the house that he knows is a burden and yet cannot let go. Much like the Crain family, Peter's about to realize that buildings cannot return loyalty. Indeed, something evil emanates from the old architectural bones of Brevoort House, and speaks of Peter's impending death.
The House on the Borderland
Given a stamp of approval by H.P. Lovecraft, who calls The House on the Borderland “a classic of the first water,” this haunted thriller is set in rural Ireland. Inside a run-down lakeside home, two adventure seekers chance upon the discarded diary of a man referred to only as “the Recluse.” Within the pages of the diary, the Recluse describes his time spent in the house and the strange encounters he’s had there. When the diary details the man’s run-in with a creature he describes as being “half human, half swine,” reality as we know it is stretched to its very limits.
The Spirit Wood
Married couple Peter and Meg Constantine flee their stress and financial burdens by moving to a remote estate inherited from Peter’s family. Everything seems to be going perfectly for them, and Peter is enjoying his relaxing days spent wandering the picturesque trails in the woods surrounding their new home. Just as quickly as it came to them, their tranquility is shattered when Peter, answering the call of a seductive specter from within the woods, succumbs to evil temptation that pulls him further and further into the unknown.
Property of a Lady
Charect House seems to call to Michael Flint in a way he’s never experienced before. Tasked with housesitting by a friend who inherited the estate, he quickly becomes fascinated with rumblings of its dark reputation. The fact that he’s the only one to stay in the home for over a century doesn’t slow him down one bit when it comes to seeking out everything the house has to hide. Even though what’s revealed threatens to change his life forever.
The Winter People
Jennifer McMahon's celebrated "mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful" (Booklist). The mysteries of the past hang over the small town of West Hall, Vermont. In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea was found dead in the field behind her house, and no one could understand why. Flash forward to the present, 19-year-old Ruthie lives with her mother and little sister in Sara’s old farmhouse. Though these are modern times, Ruthie's mother insists the family live off the grid, going without the luxuries and trappings of the present. Then Ruthie’s mother vanishes one morning, and Ruthie must take care of her sister while searching for her mother. As Ruthie scours the old house for clues, she discovers Sara Harrison Shea's old diary, found hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. The discovery pulls Ruthie into a beguiling mystery that spans decades.
The Haunting of Hill House
While we wait for the premiere of The Haunting of Bly Manor, now is the perfect time to visit (or re-visit) the source material for season one. Shirley Jackson’s pitch-black Gothic horror classic, The Haunting of Hill House, was published in 1959, and tells the story of four people: Dr. Montague, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke, the heir of Hill House. The seekers shut themselves inside the purportedly haunted Hill House to investigate the home, while the home, in a sense, investigates them in return. Mike Flanagan’s 10-part Netflix series diverged from the book’s story quite a bit, so if you’re a huge fan of the show, it’s fun to compare and contrast.
The Little Stranger
Dr. Faraday didn’t come from money. The son of a maid, he worked hard to make a name for himself as a respected doctor, albeit one serving a small country town. When he’s asked to care for a patient at the dilapidated, but once lavish Hundreds Halls, the dark secrets of the Ayres family suck him into their twisted, haunted chaos, and he’s forever changed.
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Featured still from "The Haunting of Hill House" via Netflix