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Sunday Scaries: The Haunting of Bly Manor and Love’s Lingering Presence

The last time I had the pleasure of writing for the Sunday Scaries, I talked about The Haunting of Hill House and how it explored mental health issues and depression as more harming than the actual supernatural elements present in the story. Two years after that show premiered on Netflix, Mike Flanagan released The Haunting of Bly Manor, also on the streamer.

While not a direct sequel to Hill House, but more of a second installment in an anthology, Bly Manor starred Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Amelia Eve and T’Nia Miller. The show told the story of Dani Clayton (Pederetti), an au pair hired by the wealthy Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to take care of his children in his fancy manor in England.

During her stay at the Bly Manor, Dani begins to witness strange occurrences all aorund the house and its surrounding grounds, including a lady who comes out of the lake adjacent to the property. By the end of the series, it is revealed that said lady is in fact the reanimated corpse of Viola Willoughby-Lloyd, who was the original owner of the manor centuries ago.

It turns out that Viola died from an illness hundreds of years before the main plot takes place. When she realized her husband planned to marry her younger sister after she eventually passed away, she became enraged with the fury that would make her come back to life. Her ghost exits the lake every night, looking for her daughter and killing everyone who stood in her way. Every person who is killed by Viola’s ghost becomes a permanent resident of Bly Manor.

Over the decades, Viola’s soul fades and, while she forgets almost everything about who she is, her ghost still remembers to get out of the lake, take care of nearby children, and get rid of everything or anyone who would dare to defy her. The two plots connect when Viola’s ghost finds the Wingrave children in the house. She wants to take them back into the lake with her, meaning that she would drown the kids, since she doesn’t have the ability to think anymore.

Viola is stopped when Dani comes to an agreement with her, in which she could permanently inhabit the au pair’s body if she lets the children go. After the ghost accepts, the children are saved and Dani tries to leave a normal life with her girlfriend Jamie, who was the gardener at the manor. Over time, Viola’s ghost begins to manifest in Dani’s life, when she sees the spectrum in mirrors and is awakened in the middle of the night, unknowingly threatening her partner’s life by choking her.

Realizing the ghost can’t be stopped, Dani drowns herself in the lake, becoming its new lady and inhabitant. Every night, Dani’s ghost leaves the lake and checks on Jamie, who is never fully aware of Dani’s presence, even decades after the au pair first arrived at the manor. Jamie believes her lover still thinks of her, even though she never has a chance of actually seeing her ghost.

The way in which Flanagan uses both narratives to tell the same message is hauntingly beautiful. Both the tales of Viola and Dani talk about types of love which are so intense and powerful that not even reason, logic or time can interfere with them. Viola’s love for her daughter was so trascendant that, even when time had long forgotten about her identity, she still went looking for her child. And Dani went to make sure her partner was safe every single night.

Using ghosts to talk about feelings which are hard to explain with words is why Flanagan’s Haunting anthology shows are powerful, resonant and some of the best horror stories of recent years. Because, sometimes, the terrifying monsters aren’t the ghosts and ghouls hiding in the dark, but our own inability to confront our hearts’ voices.


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Written by Diego Peralta

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