The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

'The Haunting of Bly Manor' Was Inspired by These Henry James Ghost Stories

By: Domonique Cox-Salberg

Regarding horror stories, part of their ability to be unsettling and memorable lies between what aspects of the material are based on facts, imagination, or both. Through these characters, watching Bly Manor, we get to experience the real horrors of betrayal, unrequited love, hurting the ones we love most and regret. Then tag on dramatization, a haunted house, and inspiration from revered author Henry James, and voila, works like The Haunting of Bly Manor are created.

Quick jump to the following sections:

Hannah, Miles, Flora, Dani, and Owen from Bly Manor.

A follow up to Mike Flanagan’s impressive horror ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ based on the famous Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House, ‘Bly Manor’ takes cues from several long and short works by Henry James into a single narrative. However, not a direct adaptation, Flanagan’s approach is more like a love letter to James’ matchless brand of horror. He is quoted in an interview with GamesRadar+: “The Turn of the Screw is only one of a dozen stories that we’re telling. All Henry James; all thematically linked.” Flanagan mentioned stories like The Jolly Corner and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, among many more. Still, one story shaped Bly Manor more than any other, even if they seem different at first—The Turn of The Screw.

The Turn of The Screw

Miles and Flora from the show exhibiting similar behavior to the children in the novel.

In summary, a governess is hired to take care of two children, Flora and Miles, at an isolated country manor called Bly Manor (an utterly fictitious place). After some time, the governess starts to see a strange man on the grounds—a former Bly employee called Peter Quint, who, turns out, is dead. She also sees a woman dressed in black on the grounds, assuming she was the prior governess, who is too dead.

The governess played by Victoria Pedretti in the Netflix series.

The kids become just as strange as the spottings of believed Bly Manor employees. Flora talks to the ghost of the dead governess. Therefore, this motivates the now terrified governess to get in touch with the man employing her. In which Quint appears at the window suddenly, then Miles dies instantly in the governess’ arms. James leaves several questions about Bly manor and its inhabitants: Is the governess unhinged? Are the kids possessed? Is the house indeed haunted? Literary critics and fans of the story debate the meaning of the text to this day.

The Jolly Corner

Peter Quint from the series seems to be loosely inspired by The Jolly Corner’s Spencer. He presented himself and wanted to be someone like the book’s version—wealthy and free (someone he never was or became).

Instead, an homage to what might have been, The Jolly Corner assumes nothing cheerful. And as one of James’ most notable ghost stories is describes the adventures of Spencer Brydon as he prowls the now-empty New York house where he grew up. Starting the story off with Spencer back at his childhood home after decades of being gone, he remembers he owns the house adjacent as well. It becomes clear he has a real gift for property management, which makes him begin to wonder what would have become of his life if he never left New York.

Shortly after settling in, Spencer realizes that the ghost of the man he might have been, a successful businessman, is haunting the house and making the rounds every night. Eventually, confronting the ghost, Spencer is overpowered by him since the ghost’s personality, and life is so much stronger than Spencer’s. The story ends as Spencer is still overtaken by the ghosts leaving us to wonder if he dies or is just rendered unconscious.

The Romance of Certain Old Clothes

The sisters Viola and Perdita from the series.

Two gorgeous sisters, Viola and Perdita, fall in love with the same man, Arthur, who chooses to marry Perdita. Beginning their new married life together, Perdita and Arthur move away from Viola. But when Perdita is in labor with their firstborn, Viola and Arthur run into each other at a wedding. Once Arthur returns, he finds Perdita dying and aware that her husband was with Viola while giving birth to their child. Perdita saves her most expensive gowns in a chest for her newborn daughter requesting that her husband keep them safe.

Then, Perdita dies, and Viola and Arthur get married. After some time, Viola becomes compelled to open the chest, even after Arthur tries to stop her. It results in Viola going silent and Arthur finding her dead by the chest—riddled with wounds caused by Perdita’s ghost.

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