'The Haunting of Hill House' Season 2 Based on Sexually Ambiguous Book, Terrifying True Story

The Haunting of Hill House Season 2 will be called The Haunting of Bly Manor. Rather than following the Crain characters of the first season, the second season of the Netflix horror series will adapt Henry James' 1898 horror novella The Turn of the Screw. This new source material for the second season of The Haunting series points to radically different themes.

A first teaser trailer for The Haunting of Hill House Season 2 contains no footage from the upcoming series, instead hinting at the new season's direction with the eerily whispered line, "The terrace and the whole place, the lawn and the garden beyond it, all I could see of the park, were empty with a great emptiness"—a line from The Turn of the Screw.

Shortly after the teaser trailer's release, the true title was revealed, The Haunting of Bly Manor, confirming the connection to James' novella.

In The Turn of the Screw, an unnamed governess takes care of a young boy and girl—Miles and Flora—at the behest of their uncle, who wants no part in their raising and sends them to a country estate. She begins to see the ghosts of a man and woman around the grounds, later discovering they fit the description of the previous governess and a groundskeeper. The governess begins to suspect the ghostly duo have some kind of hold over the children, but the kids deny being able to see the ghosts at all, calling into question the governess' own grip on reality.

Since its publication, literary scholars have attributed multiple meanings to The Turn of the Screw, many premised in the essential ambiguity of the ghost's relationship with the children and each other. It is implied that the ghosts had an improper sexual relationship in life, but beyond the governess' scandalized reaction, the reader can't be sure exactly what is being alleged. The governess herself often fantasizes about the distant uncle, leading many to read The Turn of the Screw as a story of sexual repression, with the governess projecting on to the ghosts the sexual fantasies and "perversions" haunting her own mind. The ghosts have also been interpreted as child molesters in life, haunting the young victims still in their thrall.

In a 1908 edition of The Turn of the Screw, James cites a "half-remembered anecdote" told to him by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, as inspiration for the tale, meaning The Haunting of Hill House Season 2 also has a possible true story antecedent.

Roger Clarke, author of A Natural History of Ghosts, uncovered the likely source of the Archbishop's ghost story: the historic country house Hinton Ampner in southern England. According to the story, a woman named Mary Ricketts saw apparitions of a man and woman on the grounds of the estate. She saw the ghosts peer through windows and bend over her childrens' beds, eventually prompting her to flee the house in 1771. The estate was eventually demolished after a replacement was constructed elsewhere on the property, supposedly because the frequency of ghost sightings made it impossible for anyone to live there.

The first season of The Haunting of Hill House dealt primarily with themes of loss and regret, with the haunted house serving as a magnet for lost souls. Will the second season deal with sexual repression or the violation of the pact between children and their caretaker?

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Deborah Kerr in 1961's "The Innocents." 20th Century Fox

Just as the first season of The Haunting of Hill House was preceded by a film adaptation—1963's The Haunting—the second season's source material has also been the basis for a horror movie classic: 1961's The Innocents, co-written by American writer Truman Capote.

The Haunting of Hill House creator, director Mike Flanagan (Gerald's Game, Oculus), will return as showrunner for the second season, as part of a broader deal with Netflix.

The Haunting of Bly Manor will come to Netflix in 2020.