The Haunting of Hill House Season 1: Ending Explained

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The spine-chilling Haunting of Hill House only came out on Friday but like many, we here at What’s on Netflix were instantly hooked from the get-go and binged on the series. With many fans confused as to how the ending played out, we’re here to give an explanation as to what happened in the season finale. Please be wary that massive SPOILERS for the show are below.

Why was Poppy Hill Knocking the Crain’s out?

As the House tried to claim the lives of the remaining Crain’s it was ultimately the death and sacrifice of their father Hugh and the heroics of Nell that saved their lives. Out of revenge for the pain and suffering the house had brought upon his family Luke attempted to set it on fire so it could no longer harm him and his family longer. Before he could light the fire, he hallucinates and see’s his mother atop the stairs before being knocked out by Poppy Hill and taken to the room with the red door.

The Crain family arrive at Hill House to find Luke, as they get to the infamous Red Door which is now open, laying there on the ground is the catatonic body of Luke after he consumed a jar of Rat Poison while hallucinating (rat poison was the method Olivia previously tried to murder Luke and Nell).

First to arrive was Steven and Hugh and seeing his brother lying on the floor in distress causes Steven to rush in and before Hugh can warn him the door slams shut and as Steven turns to the door he knocked out by Poppy Hill. As Theo and Shirley arrive, Shirley almost immediately starts to Hallucinate and see’s the strange man that often appears when she’s alone (The man in the suit had often been seen a few times by Shirley throughout the season).

While Shirley is distracted by this, Theo is tricked into rushing to her father’s aid because as she gets to the top of the stairs he is seen on the ground unconscious, and again Poppy Hill appears to knock out Theo. As Shirley hears the noise of her sister collapsing up the stairs the moment she turns around she hallucinates into the bar (At this point we can assume that as she turned back around was when Poppy Hill also knocked out Shirley but her presence was not shown to the audience).

Poppy was knocking out the Crain’s so they could be taken to a room with the Red Door where the power of the house was strongest, inside that room is where they would be most likely to succumb to the power of the house and die thus having to stay inside the home forever. 

Poppy Hill (Catherine Parker) brainwashing the mind of Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino).

Why did Nell come to the rescue?

Earlier on in the episode, we were shown a dreaming Steven. He was still with his wife Leigh and she is pregnant, and Steven is struggling to write his next novel. As Steven struggled throughout his life to believe in ghosts his perception starts to question the reality around him which leads his wife to start insulting him and suddenly starts spouting all the fears and insecurities Steven feels about his work as a writer, his role as a husband and his struggle to believe in the paranormal (Steve has struggled throughout his entire life to convey his feelings to others without putting on an ‘act’).

As Leigh continues her rant to Steven her belly begins to swell as the baby grows inside and her body starts to decay as she hinting that he’s about witness her death by being eaten from the inside by his child (Steve could not conceive a child due to his vasectomy, hiding this information from his wife is a huge part of his guilt and why his marriage is failing). Seeing this would potentially drive him mad to witness such an awful thing. Before Steven loses his mind and ultimately killing him Nell saves him by waking him back up.

Nell’s relevance to saving Steve continued later on in the episode as each of the sibling’s dream of what their biggest fears are, Shirley, having cheated on her husband feels huge guilt and remorse for her actions (Seeing herself tear her own face apart is a symbol for her guilt and how it tears her apart).

Theo dreams of being with her lover/girlfriend and it is made clear to that she no longer wants her psychic powers and would rather not be able to feel the emotions and experience of those she touches (Many hands attempt to grab Theo highlighting her fear of touching a person and feeling nothing). Nell comes to the aid of both her sisters. Finally, Nell saves the life of her brother Luke as the ghost of his mother attempts to re-enact the tea party that would have killed him on his last night in Hill House.

Nell was not under control of the house and was not compelled to help kill her siblings. So by jumping in and out of their minds just in time she was able to save them before their minds were broken and possessed by the house. It’s hard to say why Nell had the ability to save her siblings but unlike her mother, she did not want them to die.

What is the significance of the Red Door?

As Luke awakens and points out Nell is in the room and that she was the one who saved his life she begins to speak aloud about the significance of the Red Room to her siblings. It is revealed that all of the Crain’s besides their father had all been inside the room at one time or another while they were living there. For Nell, it was her toy room, Luke’s treehouse, Theo’s dance studio, Shirley’s family room, Steven’s games room, and their mother Olivia’s reading room. (The room is the most dangerous place in the house, spending extended periods of time there will cause the person to slowly lose their mind)

The room has appeared to many that have lived in Hill House and it would prey upon them taking form in their minds that they were in fact inside a room they would feel most comfortable in. The more time inside the room a person would spend the easier it is for the house to slowly get inside their heads and twist them to inevitably kill themselves. This was why the children and the Olivia were susceptible to being haunted by the ghosts while Hugh was too busy with flipping the house he never unknowingly entered the room. Entering this room ironically acted like a doorway to the paranormal as it wasn’t until Hugh entered to save the lives of Nell and Luke that he began seeing the ghosts on his last night in the house.

The Door would not open up to Hugh (Henry Thomas) throughout the entire season.

What was Hugh’s Secret?

Hugh reconciles with the ghost of his dead wife. It is revealed that the Olivia that followed him around since her death was, in fact, a hallucination and coping method for her death. Olivia even in death is still affected by the house as it has convinced her that her children must die in the house for them to stay together forever (Poppy Hill’s ghost planted the seeds of fear that Olivia would lose her children and helped push her mind over the edge). Olivia is angry with Hugh for hiding the truth from the Crain’s and keeping her children away from her for all those years. Fearful of being alone Olivia is scared of losing her family again but Hugh is able to convince her to change her mind and promises to ‘Fix’ the current situation.

Hugh lets his family out of the room and the Crain sisters get Luke into the car and drive him to the hospital while Steven and Hugh stay behind. Finally, one of the massive secrets of Hill House is revealed as Stevens bears witness to the moment Hugh finds Olivia after her apparent suicide and the Dudley’s had come to the house after dark in search of their daughter. It is a massive revelation that Luke was not, in fact, crazy and his imaginary friend ‘Abigail’ was, in fact, the daughter of the Dudley’s and very real.

As the Dudley’s begin to mourn the death of their daughter the older Hugh explains to Steven that the Dudley’s lost both of their children to Hill House and while the Dudley’s are mourning the death of their daughter almost immediately Abigail’s ghost appears to them all. Abigail confirms it was Olivia that killed her and as the younger Hugh looks over the rails to see not only the body of his dead wife but her Ghost as well. Confused and thinking it’s a dream, Olivia’s ghost wanders off.

Angry by the events occurred that night Hugh starts ranting that he will burn down the house and its ground and that he would also salt the earth so nothing can grow in its stead (By destroying the house and salting the earth would most likely cleanse the area of the ghosts that haunt it). The Dudley’s fearful that they will never be able to see their daughter ever again if the house is destroyed ask Hugh that in return for their silence to not reveal that Olivia murdered their daughter, Hugh will keep the house intact instead of destroying it.

The significance of this revelation shows us why Hugh never destroyed the house after he and the children left the home, it was his promise to the Dudley’s that stopped him from tearing the house apart for good. The Dudley’s would stay on at the house to ensure no one else would enter it, thus starving the property from consuming any more victims. The Dudley’s also made a point that the contents of the house (mainly paranormal) did not all belong to him and his family but the spirits that reside there and to destroy the house would be a crime in itself.

Steven (Michael Huisman) and Hugh (Timothy Hutton).

Why did Hugh Crain commit suicide?

Finally, it is revealed that the Hugh, Steve is speaking with is, in fact, his ghost as Hugh has already committed suicide by overdosing on his heart tablets. In his heartfelt goodbye to Steven, he finally reunites in death with Olivia and Nell as the Red Door closes for the final time. (This moment is quite symbolic, acting as a sort of symbolism that the house has consumed 3 of the Crain’s but in exchange for the life of Hugh the others were free to leave)

As Steve walks through the houses’ foyer for the last time he walks on by the many ghosts of the house that haunt the property, over the 100 years the house has stood on the hill it was taken many victims as we see close to 2 dozen ghosts in the foyer. Walking on and not looking back on the ghosts that are watching him leave, Steven leaves the house for good.

Hugh committed suicide in his attempt to ‘fix’ the situation. Along with convincing Olivia, the best course of action was to save the children and not kill them he would promise to take his own life so that he would then have the ability to open the door and secondly he would be reunited with his wife and she would no longer be lonely with both her husband and daughter there to keep stay with her forever.

A new beginning for the Crain’s and an End for the Dudley’s?

While the memories and their experience of surviving Hill House will stay with them forever, they will no longer let the ghosts of their past haunt them. Steven finally opens up to his wife, Shirley gets the courage to tell Kevin she cheated on him, Theo moves out of Shirley’s guest house with her girlfriend and throws her gloves in the trash and Luke is seen celebrating with the family his 2 year anniversary of being clean from Heroin.

The Dudley’s are able to make it to the home in time before they both pass away, as Clara dies she is reunited with both of her daughters forever in Hill House and as Steven’s speech of fear and love draws to a close the lights of Hill House slowly fade to black knowing that the ghosts that walk the harrowed halls of hill house do so together and even in death they are not alone.

The Crain’s are no longer shackled by their past and they are now free of Hill House. While the family may still be in possession of the home rather than be in fear of it they have chosen to make the most of their lives and live it the best they can. The ending leaves a lot of hope and closes the individual subplots for the Crain children. However for the Dudley’s who loved nothing more in the world than their daughters knew that anyone who died in the house would live on as a ghost forever, so Mr. Dudley taking Clara to the house as she was dying was so she could reconcile with her daughters Abigail and Olivia even though we do not see the passing of Mr. Dudley it is easy to assume he would of passed on soon after.

Did you enjoy The Haunting of Hill House? What was your take on the ending? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jacob joined What's on Netflix in 2018 as a fulltime writer having worked in numerous other industries until that point. Jacob covers all things Netflix whether that's TV or movies but specializes in covering new anime and K-dramas. Resides in Norwich in the United Kingdom.