The Netflix horror adaptation of Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House is basically This Is Us for the supernaturally cursed. Sure, there are a few jump scares and barely hidden Hill House ghosts, but at the show's heart, the most devastating scenes center on a father's inability to protect his children from the truth about their traumatic childhood.
Series director Mike Flanagan left no detail untouched - from the meticulously crafted set to the tiny Easter eggs threaded throughout. His depiction of family trauma is so unbelievably disturbing, it's no wonder the cast deeply felt its effects. The behind-the-scenes details of Hill House's set may surprise you, whether or not you lost it during the final episode.
Being frightened to the point of sleeplessness was simply the cost of doing business for Hill House's biggest stars. The nightmare-inducing series caused some people to sleep with the lights on - the cast included. Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who plays Luke Crain as an adult, claimed he couldn't sleep while filming because he started seeing - or feeling - ghostly things.
"In prep, I started to think that someone sat at the end of my bed in the night and stupid sh*t like that," Jackson-Cohen told Metro. There's no word on whether he saw the Bent-Neck Lady, but it sounds terrifying either way.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen wasn't the only one losing sleep over the grim themes in The Haunting of Hill House. Elizabeth Reaser, who portrays eldest Crain daughter Shirley, admitted she was also restless after "drumming that stuff up for so long." She said she started to feel "crazed" during the nine-month shoot.
"I had no ghostly interactions, but I feel like there's something that happens to your unconscious when you're pretending like this for nine months. It's more not being able to sleep, feeling crazed," she told Metro, adding, "It's like your body doesn't know that you're pretending."
Though the Hill House mansion's interior is a two-story set, the exterior shots are of a real-life, Tudor-style English mansion. The 11,000-square-foot Bisham Manor sits just outside of Atlanta, GA, and some claim the property is haunted. According to owners Neil and Trish Leichty, "four or five ghosts" reside at Bisham Manor, which the pair purchased in 2013. They say the proof is in the inexplicable things they regularly experience.
Though they don't smoke, the Leichtys told The Blast about a strong tobacco scent permeating their house. They also claimed to often hear loud music playing in the basement, despite there being no musical equipment in the space. In addition, they've reportedly had their wallets and cellphones go missing only to reappear later - though, to be fair, this probably happens to many forgetful people.
Regardless, the Leichtys believe the ghosts are from the early 1920s and died in a defunct home on the property. All the ghostly encounters allegedly happen near the home's one original room.
Hill House brims with loaded family relationships and complicated emotional moments. It's almost enough to make the family in Hereditary look like harbingers of good luck. Hill House's biggest plot twist was profound enough to reduce director Mike Flanagan to tears. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
During Season 1, episode 5, Nell realizes the Bent-Neck Lady - the ghost who has haunted her since she was a child - is the supernatural manifestation of her dying adult self. She was looking into her terrifying future the whole time. Series director Mike Flanagan told The Wrap he started crying when he initially thought of the idea:
In a lot of ways, that episode was why I wanted to make this show... It completely changes everything before it. We make a lot of assumptions about the show and about the ghosts and come from a place of jaded familiarity with the haunted house genre, so this turns that on its head... but more than anything, it's about what it does to a character that we cannot help but to deeply empathize with.