If you binged The Haunting of Bly Manor over the weekend, you (me) probably spent a lot of time squinting at your screen trying to spot the hidden ghosts scattered throughout the show. It’s one of my favourite things about the horror drama series on Netflix.
Bly Manor, the follow-up to the masterpiece that is The Haunting of Hill House, introduces us to Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti), a young American woman hired to look after orphaned siblings Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) after the death of their au pair, Rebecca Jessel (Tahirah Sharif).
Bly Manor isn’t as scary or as terrific as Hill House – seriously terrifying – and it’s more of a beautiful, albeit tragic love story (I’m talking about Dani and Amelia Eve‘s Jamie) rather than a ghost story.
I still really liked it though, especially episode 8.
Speaking of which, I’m basing the majority of this yarn on that episode – The Romance of Certain Old Clothes – because of something series creator Mike Flanagan said ahead of the season premiere.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Flanagan said the hidden ghosts in season 1 were more accessories than anything else. It was about hiding faces and figures, that’s it. But in season 2, Flanagan wanted the hidden elements to tell their own story.
“Very much unlike the first season, they’re actually going to be explained,” he said. “By the end of the season, you’re going to know who they are and why they’re there.”
Compared to season 1, there aren’t as many individual ghosts… but they are hidden all throughout the season. You’ll see the same ghost at least five times in one episode. Sometimes more.
Most of the ghosts I’m about to go through died at the hands of the Lady in the Lake / Viola Lloyd (Kate Siegel) during her routine walk to her old room in Bly Manor. Why? Because they either literally got in her way, or reminded her of her daughter, Isabel.
Let us begin.
The plague doctor
Episode 1, 50.00.
I’m starting with the plague doctor, ‘cos he was the easiest to spot. Thank you, big beak.
Poor bloke was just looking after patients in Bly Manor – when it was a quarantine zone during the plague – when he walked straight into Viola’s path.
The plague doctor popped up a lot throughout the season, or maybe I just noticed him more because of his beak.
Episode 5, 30.40.
I hated the child when we first met him, and then I learnt his backstory and felt like a huge dick. The little boy had been sitting on Viola’s old bed when she took him back to the lake, effectively killing him.
After centuries of haunting Bly Manor, his face eventually faded away… just like Viola’s.
The child liked to play with Flora’s dollhouse a lot.
Episode 3, around the 20 minute mark.
In episode 6, uncle (well…) Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) told Flora that he used to have a friend at Bly Manor.
“He was a soldier and I was very afraid of him, until I gave him a story,” he said.
I’m just going to assume Viola killed the soldier too.
Episode 6, around the one hour and 3 minute mark. Can’t miss it.
The vicar tried to exorcise Viola from Bly Manor… and died trying. He’s pretty easy to spot, just look for for his ruffled collar.
In the picture above, the soldier’s on the other side of the staircase.
The woman in the attic
Episode 2, 40.20.
I have absolutely no sympathy for Perdita Willoughby (Catherine Parker). I would if she didn’t bloody murder her ill sister, Viola, in bed, thereby triggering this entire clusterfuck of a haunting.
Perdita was strangled by her sister’s ghost after she dared to unlock a chest full of jewels and dresses left to Viola’s daughter.
She haunted the attic of Bly Manor, faceless and alone.
Episode 2, 37.25.
We knew the bare minimum about Ms Jessel’s death before arriving at Bly Manor.
Dani’s predecessor died by suicide, after Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) possessed her body and walked her into the lake. She returned to her body just as she started to drown. It was not a nice scene to watch.
I mean, Mrs Grose (T’Nia Miller) is a hidden ghost in the sense that we had no idea she was a ghost until episode 5. Although, it was hinted through her lack of drinking and eating.
Mrs Grose was pushed down a well by a possessed Miles AKA Peter.
I really liked Mrs Grose, even though episode 5 hurt my brain.
I suppose Peter sort of counts as a hidden ghost since he literally hid in Miles’ body – whatever, he sucks.
Love, love, love Cohen-Jackson though.
We’re going full circle, pals.
In episode 1, around the 28 minute mark, we had a full introduction to Flora’s dollhouse, modelled after Bly Manor. Little did we know that Flora actually showed us all the ghosts who lived in Bly Manor.
Spotted were doll versions of all the supernatural beings, including Mrs Grose (who we thought was still alive at the time), and Miles and Flora.
I suppose being possessed counts as the supernatural, hey?
The Flora and Miles dolls are both asleep in bed, while doll versions of Ms Jessel and Peter stand near them. I think that’s supposed to symbolise the children being “tucked away” in their memories while Ms Jessel and Peter run amok in their bodies.
Miles and Peter.
Perdita chilling in the attic.
The soldier and Hannah.
All the ghosts were eventually released from Viola’s hold when Dani invited her into her body, using those words: “It’s you, it’s me, it’s us.”
Viola’s grip on Bly Manor was broken and all the spirits trapped in her gravity were released.
While there are no narrative connections between Haunting seasons 1 and 2, I did notice a few references. For example, “come home”, like when Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) told Nellie (Pedretti) multiple times to come home to Hill House… dead or alive.
In episode 2 of Bly Manor, Flora sends Miles a letter at boarding school with the same two words.
Coincidence? I think not.
The Haunting of Bly Manor / Netflix
I also just felt a thrill whenever actors from season 1 popped up, especially Gugino as an older Jamie and Siegel as the Lady of the Lake.
Siegel could watch paint dry and I’d still rate it.
The Haunting of Bly Manor / Netflix
The Haunting of Bly Manor is streaming now on Netflix.