In 2018, The Haunting of Hill House delighted horror fans by adapting and expanding upon Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel of the same name in imaginative new ways. Now its follow-up series is aiming to do a similar thing with a different horror legend's work. Like the first season, The Haunting of Bly Manor is based on literature, but this time around, the show draws inspiration from more than just one book. So, what is The Haunting of Bly Manor based on? Here are all the ghost stories the new season will bring to life... so to speak.
Bly Manor is based on the works of late 19th-century author Henry James, who is fittingly considered a master of ghost stories. James was born in New York City in 1843, but spent most of his adult life in England, finally becoming an official British citizen in 1915, a year before his death. His status as an American in England informed much of his work, and is also a central element of Bly Manor, as characterized by Victoria Pedretti's character Dani, who moves from the U.S. to England.
The new season is predominantly based on James' best-known novella, The Turn of the Screw, but it also adapts a couple of other ghostly stories from James' catalogue. As Bly Manor creator Mike Flanagan told Games Radar:
The Turn of the Screw is only one of a dozen stories that we're telling. All Henry James; all thematically linked ... I think of [The Turn] of the Screw as the backbone of this season — the through line that carries us from beginning to end. But we get to go off into The Jolly Corner and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes and so many other of these wonderful ghost stories that people haven't seen adapted before. It's all wrapped up in what seems to be familiar, but that familiarity goes away really early in the first episode.
Before diving into Bly Manor, let's get a sense of some of the stories the new season is referencing so you can better appreciate what's going on:
The Turn of the Screw
James' most discussed and most adapted story, The Turn of the Screw is about a governess who is hired to look after two orphaned children, named Miles and Flora. While the unnamed governess is initially charmed by the children and the large country estate, things get eerie when Miles won't reveal why he was recently expelled from boarding school and the governess begins to see figures of a strange man and woman appearing and disappearing throughout the house.
The governess learns from the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, that the children's former nanny, Miss Jessel, and another employee, Peter Quint, had a close relationship before their deaths, and suspects the figures she's seen could be their ghosts. In the end, the governess learned the truth about the ghostly presences through increasingly strange interactions with Miles and Flora.
The Jolly Corner
This short story is about Spencer Brydon, an American expat who returns to his childhood home in New York City after spending the bulk of his adult life living leisurely abroad. To his surprise, Spencer finds he has a natural ability for business and construction when he takes the lead in renovating his properties in New York. After reflecting on his business acumen, Spencer begins to wonder how his life might have been different if he stayed in America and became a businessman. That thought soon translates into a full-blown ghostly alter-ego, whom Spencer finds haunting his childhood home. Upon discovery, Spencer and his doppelgänger fight, and the story ends on an ambiguous note as to whether Spencer survived or died.
The Romance of Certain Old Clothes
This is one of James' earliest stories, and it follows the bitter rivalry between sisters Viola and Perdita. When it comes time for the sisters to choose husbands, both fall for the same man: Arthur. After Arthur chooses Perdita to be his wife, Viola grows jealous and angry. However, Viola and Arthur still remain friendly, and the two are actually spending time together when Arthur gets word Perdita has given birth to a daughter, but that the birth has taken a toll on his wife. With her final wish, Perdita makes Arthur promise to lock her gowns away in a chest for their daughter, afraid Viola may try to take them for herself otherwise.
Sure enough, Viola and Arthur marry soon after Perdita's death, and after a series of financial misfortunes, Viola begs Arthur to open Perdita's chest of gowns. Eventually, Arthur gives in and allows Viola to open the chest; however, when he comes to check on her later, he finds Viola dead in front of the chest, seemingly strangled.
All three of these stories play a part in The Haunting of Bly Manor, so look out for them when the series premieres on Netflix on Friday, Oct. 9.