The Haunting of Bly Manor: Every Ghost In The Show Explained

WARNING: Major spoilers for The Haunting of Bly Manor ahead

Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Bly Manor features many ghost characters that, differently than the ones in The Haunting of Hill House, have fleshed-out backstories. Here’s every ghostly resident of Bly Manor, explained.

Part of Netflix’s Halloween 2020 programming, the long-awaited follow-up to Hill House isn’t a sequel; instead, the Haunting series functions like other prominent horror anthologies. Each season tells a different story, though it features many recurring cast members, similarly to how Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story does. Where Hill House adapted one story, The Haunting of Hill House by legendary writer Shirley Jackson, Bly Manor incorporates several novellas and stories by American author Henry James; of all the stories featured, The Turn of the Screw provides the general framework for Bly Manor‘s story.

Related: The Haunting Of Bly Manor’s Ending & Final Scene Explained

After Dani Clayton moves into Bly Manor as a live-in governess for two orphaned children, Miles and Flora, she quickly discovers that much about the manor isn’t as things seem. Haunted by her own grief and past, Dani seems to fit into the peculiar residence quickly, though the children’s increasingly troubling behavior—especially Miles, the older of the two—starts to get under her skin. Bly Manor is more of a Gothic romance that’s bookended by classic elements of a ghost story than its predecessor, which puts scares and family drama at the forefront. Because of Bly Manor‘s difference in approach, the ghosts of Bly Manor are remarkably human, and integral to a story that weaves romance, regret, loss, and the human elements of ghosts—who are restless spirits, once full of life—to tell its heartbreaking tale. While some of Bly Manor’s ghosts also function as main characters of the series, there are several others hidden in the background that are also worth mentioning, with unique stories of their own.

In a way, Edmund is one of the most personal ghosts in Bly Manor, especially since he’s not connected to Bly and the other ghosts at all. Appearing intermittently since episode 1, “The Great Good Place”, Edmund is often seen in mirrors, with a spooky, reflective light bouncing off his glasses. He’s specifically attached to Dani and, as viewers learn later, was once her childhood best friend turned fiancé. Though the series primarily takes place in 1987, Bly Manor episode 4, “The Way It Came” explains via flashbacks how Dani got her mirror ghost. Edmund was abruptly hit and killed by a car after the two of them had an argument. The light in his glasses, which Dani later burns to rid herself of Edmund’s ghost, is that of the last thing he saw: a car’s headlights. For Dani, he represents her guilt and internalized conflict related to her sexuality, which she later gets to explore freely through a romantic relationship with Jamie, Bly Manor’s gardener.

The soldier is the only ghost at Bly Manor that doesn’t get a fleshed out backstory related to his death in episode 8, “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes”. The soldier is seen in the background, like many of the other hidden ghosts at Bly. It’s possible that he’s an Easter egg to another of Henry James’ stories, Owen Wingrave. Though interesting, considering that friendly chef Owen is not part of the Wingrave family, the soldier very well might be. Both the soldier ghost and the  forbidden room could be potential nods to Owen Wingrave, but it’s also possible that the soldier was another of Bly Manor’s tragic—and random—deaths. Since death no longer comes for the residents of Bly due to Viola’s stubbornness, the soldier could be a fallen World War I veteran who was tended to within the manor—which was a makeshift hospital during the plague—and succumbed to his injuries.

The plague doctor ghost was revealed in episode 8 with several others who are permanent residents of Bly Manor. During his life he tended to those who had fallen ill; Bly Manor was being used as a quarantine location, with ill bodies piled essentially en masse through its expansive halls. Though he donned the appropriate equipment to attempt to keep himself safe from the illness, he wasn’t so immune to Viola’s habitual sleeping, waking, and walking — when he inadvertently crossed her path, she killed him. The plague doctor is often seen in the background with the soldier ghost and the doll-faced ghost, but doesn’t play a larger role in the overall series.

Related: Every Hidden Ghost You Missed In The Haunting Of Bly Manor

The doll-faced ghost is one of the more tragic residents of Bly Manor, as he died when he was just a child. Mistaken for Viola’s own daughter—or perhaps just her attempt to have a child again—the boy was carried to his death in Viola’s arms, which she later tries to do to Flora in the series, and then drowned. Over time his face, like all the other long-term ghosts of Bly, disappeared. His face was covered with a porcelain doll’s broken visage—gifted to him by Flora—allowing him to at least have at least some semblance of defined characteristics, albeit the overall look is spooky. He’s another of the ghosts that lingers in the background rather than being a main player in the series, but his presence is a reminder of how death isn’t at all discerning; no matter someone’s age, it eventually comes to call.

Viola Lloyd, the Lady of the Lake—and the Lady of Bly Manor—is the root of all evil at Bly. In life, she was the natural-born heiress to the manor after her father’s death but, determined to keep the house in her family, she married. While marriage never seemed to be something Viola aspired to achieve, it was the way a woman could keep and hold property—at least, by proxy—at the time. Viola was marked by her immense stubbornness, and after falling sick with “the lung“, which is another term for tuberculosis, she resisted death. She lived a great many years past her initial life expectancy, but was eventually killed by her sister, Perdita. However, since Viola resisted the call of death for so long, it stopped coming to Bly Manor to collect others who died on the premises; that, plus her ritualized wandering throughout the manor, to the depths of the lake and back through the house, created a gravity well that keeps every spirit in purgatory until Dani broke the curse.

Perdita and her sister, Viola, were close in life, but Viola’s sickness, misplaced anger, and stubbornness eventually tore them apart. As the years went on and Viola became more cruel and bitter, Perdita got closer to Viola’s husband, and the two eventually started to care for each other romantically. They married after Viola’s death, which was hurried along by Perdita, who smothered her. Perdita reached her own end when she opened the chest of fine clothing that Viola had tucked away for her daughter to inherit one day. The trunk served as a gateway to the spirit world, of sorts, a line which Viola intended to cross when her daughter opened the trunk, so they could be reunited. However, that day never came and—angered when it was Perdita who opened the trunk—Viola’s vengeful ghost murdered her.

Peter Quint was initially not considered to be a ghost at all — in fact, most of those who knew him in life and remained behind at Bly didn’t think he was dead at all, just missing. His presence was a sinister one over the manor even prior to his death; he was a toxic partner, a liar, and a thief. Eventually, his spirit continually possessed Miles, compelling him to murder the housekeeper, Hannah Grose, in cold blood. His only soft spots were present during his romance with previous au pair Rebecca Jessel, but even that relationship was toxic. It showed the fine line between love and possession, and the relationship between Peter and Rebecca acted as an opposing force to the freeing, respectful, and enduring love that Dani and Jamie grew to cultivate.

Related: The Haunting Of Bly Manor Cast and Character Guide

Peter’s death was sudden; he was walking down the hallway when Viola crossed his path and she choked him, dragging him on her mindless path throughout the manor until he died. This is why Flora and Miles are insistent that Dani stay in her room at night; they don’t want her to accidentally encounter Viola and die, as others have done. They even locked her in a closet to keep her safe, as they witnessed Peter’s untimely demise personally.

Rebecca Jessel’s death was initially said to be a suicide; later events in The Haunting of Bly Manor show that this wasn’t what happened. Though Rebecca did drown in the lake—and was discovered by Flora—her death was prompted by a misguided attempt to be reunited with her deceased lover, Peter Quint. Peter discovered a way to possess the living as a ghost, and convinced Rebecca to let him share her body so they could always be together and always feel one another. However, after Peter possessed her, he walked her body into the lake, where she drowned. Later, the two of them devised a plan to possess Flora and Miles—Peter, at that stage, was already comfortable possessing the boy—so they could live out their lives together through another route.

However, Rebecca’s guilt about what he was doing to the children, along with her rightful mistrust of him after how he made the choice to end her life, compelled her to put a wrench in the works. Tragically, she seemed doomed to be yet another of the restless spirits at the manor, and live out eternity until she, like all the others, forgot herself. However, Rebecca—and the others—eventually were freed after Viola’s curse was broken.

Hannah Grose’s status as a ghost was a mid-season reveal, though it was punctuated with numerous clues that she was a ghost the whole time before the twist. Tragically, Hannah perished right before Dani arrived at Bly Manor when she was pushed into a well by Miles, who was possessed by Peter at the time. Throughout the series, she saw cracks that nobody else could see, which directly related to how she cracked open her skull at the bottom of the well, where she fell to her death. Hannah is a kind, caring housekeeper who helps take care of the children and seems fulfilled by her job. She’s often seen lighting candles “for the dead” in the chapel that’s on the premises; one of these candles, unfortunately, is for herself, though she doesn’t know that at the time.

Related: The Haunting Of Bly Manor: Every Easter Egg & Hill House Reference

A prime example of the many themes of regret that punctuate The Haunting of Bly Manor, Hannah’s relationship with Owen never seemed to get off the ground the way either of them wanted it to, and Hannah’s instinct to cling to life even after she’s dead is one of the more tragic plots in the show.

The ending of The Haunting of Bly Manor reveals that the entirety of the story being told is not only that of Bly Manor’s numerous ghosts, but a very special ghost — someone dear to the narrator’s (Carla Gugino) heart. After learning how possession works, Dani bravely invites Viola to possess her to keep her from continuing her rein of terror at the manor, however, this comes with a great personal cost. While, for the time, she is able to go on and continue her life with Jamie—and the two even marry to the extent they’re allowed by law—Dani is cursed by time. Eventually, Viola’s spirit will take her over; she makes it clear that she doesn’t want Jamie to be around when that happens. It’s a difficult decision for her to make, but one that proves her selflessness and her dedication to keep those she loves safe, no matter what she has to sacrifice.

Though Dani made her decision to be possessed in order to save Flora’s life, her happiness is always shadowed by the inevitable and, one day, she makes her return to Bly Manor, then willingly drowns herself in the lake. This has two results: Viola’s spirit is no longer a threat, and the other ghosts are at peace, but Dani must stay there forever. However, as proven by the story that Jamie tells at Flora’s wedding, ghosts never really stay dead so long as they exist in the hearts of those who love them.

Next: What To Expect From The Haunting Season 3

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