Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the Netflix original series The Haunting of Bly Manor. Reader discretion is advised.
The second season of Mike Flanagan‘s The Haunting was undoubtedly the most anticipated television event of the year. While The Haunting of Hill House was inspired by the Shirley Jackson classic, Bly Manor remixed and re-imagined several works by Henry James, primarily his 1898 novel The Turn of the Screw.
Shortly after the tragic death of au pair Miss Jessel (Tahirah Sharif), wealthy Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires fresh-faced American Dani (Victoria Pedretti) to take care of his orphaned niece (Amelie Smith) and nephew (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). They reside at Bly Manor with chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller).
My official review is pretty simple: watch the damn show. It’s worth all the hype and then some. While Hill House may have dominated in the actual (jump) scare factor, Bly Manor offers quite the array of specters haunting the main cast, background ghosts and some not even actual ghosts at all, but manifestations of trauma. With most of the episodes nearing the one hour mark, it’s very easy to lose track or even miss key details. This includes who certain ghosts are and why they’re trapped at Bly.
So, in case you missed it or were too scared to finish the show, think of this as a beginner’s guide to the numerous ghosts of Bly Manor.
One of the many background ghosts includes a stony-faced soldier ghost (Andrew Neil McKenzie). In episode six, Henry tells Flora about an imaginary friend he had– a boy living at Bly who came in the form of a soldier. Looks like this friend wasn’t so imaginary.
The Plague Doctor
One of the more active ghosts at Bly is the plague doctor (Tim Beckmann), who roams about the manor and hangs out in the shadows in almost every episode. In episode eight it’s revealed this doctor, along with several others, was a victim of the mysterious Lady of the Lake. (Don’t worry, more on her later.)
During the 17th century, Bly Manor was turned into a quarantine house for the sick when the plague hit the nearby village. This doesn’t stop the Lake Lady’s nightly stroll through the house. When the doctor accidentally crosses her path she instantly murders him, thus binding him to Bly forever.
Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) was the suave Glaswegian valet and personal assistant to Henry Wingrave. At first, Peter is shown to be attractive, charismatic and aloof, which is a facade for his more manipulative, possessive side, which is explored throughout the season.
Peter comes from a toxic household with abusive parents. At some point, he makes it to London where he gains a position from moneybags Henry. During his employment, he forms a bond with Miles and Flora — who even refer to him as Uncle Peter — although he appears closer to Miles. Shortly after Rebecca Jessel is hired as au pair, she and Peter quickly enter a passionate relationship that’s only occasionally set back by Peter’s verbal abuse and controlling tendencies. He is also a total thief. On more than one occasion viewers see him steal jewelry, clothing and flowers from Bly Manor.
When Peter receives an unexpected visit from his Mother, she immediately tries to blackmail him for money. This interaction acts as a catalyst and only increases his desire to run away to America. So he hatches a plan. He steals a hefty sum of money from Henry and convinces Rebecca to prepare to run away with him. The night before they plan to leave, he also falls victim to the Lady of the Lake.
Now a ghost bound to the manor, Peter continues his manipulative ways by periodically possessing Miles so he can smoke his cigarettes, terrorize Dani and even commit murder.
Edmund “Eddie” O’Mara
Arguably the very first ghost viewers see is the shadowy man in flashing glasses who looms over Dani. Compared to the other ghosts this season, this fella is pretty much harmless. Creepy, but harmless. The shadowy man makes minor appearances whenever Dani looks at her reflection, hence why she covers every mirror she can.
Later it’s revealed this man is Dani’s childhood sweetheart and former fiance, Eddie O’Mara (Roby Attal). And he’s not actually a ghost bound to the grounds of Bly Manor. He’s a hallucination prompted by Dani’s overwhelming guilt. It isn’t until episode four that we get the whole, tragic story. Growing up childhood friends, Dani and Eddie were inseparable. It took several proposals, but nobody was really surprised when the two finally announced their engagement. Everyone was thrilled. Except for Dani.
After giving it a lot of thought, and realizing she’s more attracted to women, Dani decided to break things off. Following a tense dinner and an argument in the car, Eddie stumbled out into the road to cool down, where he was instantly hit by a truck and killed. It was in the moment right before the impact that the truck’s headlights reflected off the lenses of Eddie’s glasses, creating the distinctive glowing eyes Dani sees in her recurring vision of him.
After venting to Jamie in episode four, Dani’s guilt seems to dissipate slowly, resulting in us seeing less and less of Eddie.
In episode six, Flora wakes up to find a faceless little boy (Calix Fraser) in her bedroom. In episode eight it’s discovered that he was yet another victim to the Lady of the Lake. Discovered by the Lady in the bed of the master bedroom, it only just then occurs to the Lady that she can’t actually remember why she was there. She only has the vaguest notion that she’s looking for a child, so she takes him into the lake with her where he drowns.
Little is known about the early history of Bly Manor’s former governess. With the major exception that she was incredibly intelligent and hardworking. Rebecca Jessel studied at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, took at least one course in Russian poetry and studied Public Law at the London School of Economics. With her goal to become a barrister, it’s no surprise she decided to take a job under Henry, whose business connections might have helped her advance in her future career.
Rebecca seems to be the perfect fit for Miles and Flora. But she’s soon consumed by her feelings for Peter. Blinded by her love, Rebecca simply fails to see that Peter is bad news. And when Peter appears to have gone missing, to the outsider looking in it appears she’s taken her own life out of heartbreak. In reality, Rebecca is killed by Peter when he possesses her body, leaves her to drown in the lake and tricks her into becoming an accomplice in his plan to take permanent possession of Miles and Flora’s bodies.
Henry Wingrave’s Alter Ego
Henry Wingrave spent most of The Haunting of Bly Manor cooped up in his office, drinking. But just because he wasn’t at Bly doesn’t mean he wasn’t tormented. Henry is ruthlessly haunted by his very own super creepy, grinning doppelgänger. This double is another example of a hallucination created out of Henry’s overwhelming grief, guilt and poor choices. And the booze probably didn’t help much.
After Dominic Wingrave (Matthew Holness) discovered Henry and Charlotte (Alex Essoe) were having an affair, Henry was banished from Bly. In an attempt to patch things up in their marriage, Dominic and Charlotte took a trip to India to try and recreate their honeymoon. It was on this trip that they died in a mysterious accident. Understandably, Henry blames himself, so he tries to mask his pain by burying himself in work, drinking and ignoring his niece and nephew. Thus the doppelgänger was created and wasted no time forcing Henry to relive the most traumatic moments from his past.
It isn’t until the final episode, where Henry finally defies his double and visits Bly after getting “a bad feeling,” that the doppelgänger finally disappears. Good riddance.
Easily the biggest twist this season was discovering that Bly Manor’s beloved housekeeper was another ghost walking among the living. The realization doesn’t hit viewers until midway through the season, and even longer for Hannah herself. When Hannah spots the ghost of Peter Quint on the grounds, he promptly possesses Miles and uses his body to push Hannah down a well. She dies instantly, but refuses to accept it. The denial is so strong that she’s not only able to interact with the living, she can change her clothes and still perform her housekeeping duties the same way she always did.
But Owen can tell something is off with Hannah. She’s easily distracted. She hasn’t been eating. She’s forgetting things. And she keeps “drifting” into memories that totally consume her. As we soon learn, Hannah isn’t alone in this. Fading away is apparently a common theme with the ghosts of Bly.
The Lady of the Lake/ Viola Lloyd nee Willoughby
Kate Siegel‘s big character reveal for The Haunting of Bly Manor finally came in episode eight. Turns out Siegal’s character, Viola Lloyd, also doubled as the brutal Lady of the Lake, the faceless specter who walks the hallways of Bly in a long white gown at night. Every now and then she kills by grabbing her victims by the throat and dragging them into the icy lake. In life, Viola was a headstrong and clever woman who had a fondness for the finer things in life. Including Bly Manor. So when her father died she quickly devised a plan to keep the manor in the family: get married to her cousin.
A few years after marrying Arthur (Martin McCreadie), Viola gave birth to a daughter. Soon after, she was diagnosed with a terminal lung condition (referred to simply as “The Lung”). Viola’s considerable will kept her alive well past the doctor’s predictions, as it appeared she was “held alive by stubbornness alone.” However, this ironclad will wasn’t enough. Over the years Viola became bitter, jealous and enraged by even the most minor things. All this abuse became too much for her younger sister, Perdita (Katie Parker), who smothered Viola in her bed.
Shortly before her death, she put her most prized jewels and dresses in a trunk and made Arthur promise to give them to their daughter one day. Even in death, Viola’s stubbornness prevails. This stubbornness quickly morphed into flat out denial. When she finally comes to terms with the fact that she is dead and that her husband and daughter abandoned Bly Manor, she doesn’t take it well. Like at all. The betrayal and loneliness drive Viola totally mad, turning her into a malevolent force described as being like a “gravity.”
This gravity forces anyone who dies on the grounds of Bly Manor — whether it’s murder or disease — to be trapped there.
The Lady in the Attic/ Perdita Lloyd nee Willoughby
And for the fate of Perdita? With everyone assuming her sister’s death was merely the result of her illness, Perdita went on to marry Arthur and become the new lady of Bly. The marriage soured quickly, as the couple’s finances are beginning to dry up. Perdita saw a solution in the trunk of Viola’s jewels and dresses, but Arthur wouldn’t consider it, instead wanting to keep his promise to his first wife.
Perdita decided to take matters into her own hands by sneaking into the attic where the trunk is located. Viola’s ghost immediately jumped out of the trunk and strangled her sister to death. Soon after Arthur found the body, he left Bly with his daughter and, suspecting the trunk was cursed, ended up chucking it into the lake.
Did we miss any ghosts in The Haunting of Bly Manor? Let us know in the comments below and on social media!
This article was originally published on 10/16/20