One of the biggest breakouts on TV is the Netflix original series, The Haunting of Hill House. The show, a mix of horror and drama, and focuses on one family, the Crains, as they live through two different time periods: there's the before, when the five Crian kids were little, and the current timeline, 26 years later when the kids are adults. But, it turns out, there was almost a third timeline in Haunting of Hill House that would have focused on the history of the house, and might have revealed more about the ghosts that haunt it.
In the series, the Crains move into an old house in the middle of the woods in Massachusetts in order to renovate and flip it. Instead, they're haunted by it, and the show picks back up with the Crain kids 26 years later as adults still dealing with the repercussions of the summer in Hill House. Minor spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House ahead. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer and director Mike Flanagan revealed that the writers had originally wanted to explore more of the history of Hill House.
"Every other episode would open with about a five-minute history thing narrated by Steven, from his book, and we did take from [author Shirley] Jackson that the first victim of the house died before anyone had ever really stepped foot in it," Flanagan said, referring to the original book's first victim, which differed from the series (the first victim of the house in the show was changed to Jacob Hill). "We had built a really complex history of the Hill family that we ultimately didn’t shoot." For those of fans out there who are disappointed with the loss of this missing storyline, you're not alone. Flanagan continued, "We didn’t have the time or the money to shoot it, which really broke my heart at the time, but we figured if we had to focus on anything, we had to focus on the Crain family."
In an interview with IGN, members of the cast also opened up about the history surrounding this haunted house. Elizabeth Reaser, who plays the adult version of oldest daughter Shirley, said that every ghost you see on screen has a story. "All those ghosts are specific people, they are specific characters," she said. "Some of them, originally, we were gonna see some of that in flashbacks and that ended up not making it into the show." In the same interview, Michael Huisman (adult Steve) elaborated more on why there were set backstories for all these ghosts: "Mike [Flanagan] really liked the idea of just creating this image that there are many more ghosts and many more stories hanging around in the house."
Despite all the hidden ghosts and the not-so-hidden ones seen throughout the series, not many are given a backstory, as often happens in horror films. Viewers do, however, get a big of backstory with regards to Poppy (Catherine Parker) and the bowler hat guy who haunts Luke (aka William Hill, Poppy's husband). Poppy is a 1920s flapper gal with a dramatic way of talking, explaining certain aspects of the house to Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino). It's revealed that she and William Hill met at a mental institution, and viewers see her become another conduit for the house when she pushes Olivia to insanity and her eventual death.
And while this storyline explained some of that history lesson that was scrapped, fans would have undoubtedly loved to have seen more. "Poppy, as we got rid of that history section and were leaning into that ghost we would bring into frame, she kind of embodied the insanity of Hill House," Flanagan said. "She brought to it... the kind of twisted maternal instinct of it."
There are other little nuggets of knowledge and hints here and there about the past lives the house has taken, like the body Hugh Crain finds bricked inside the walls in the basement, or Theo's discovery that one of the beds was used as a sick bed. And while the history of the house is something viewers might wonder about still, the current version of the show would be super different if a third timeline was introduced. As is, The Haunting of Hill House is delightfully mysterious, and leaves room for more stories to be told in a yet-to-be-confirmed season 2.