The Haunting of Hill House theory: What does the Crain family represent?


The Haunting of Hill House has gained a ton of attention since its release on Netflix two weeks ago.

The adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s seminal horror masterpiece took her ideas and then developed them into a very different story that kept her spirit but created something that stands on its own.

Needless to say, The Haunting of Hill House is quite brilliant.

With that said, it is no surprise that many fans are examining the subtext of the series and one Tumblr user came up with a theory that is actually quite brilliant itself.

According to user cagedbirdsong, each member of the Crain family represents one of the stages of grief. Considering the fact that the entire series is based on the aftermath of a mother’s death, this makes way too much sense.


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The Crain Kids

This does not represent the dad or mom — as it was the mother’s death that set the story in motion and it was the father who tried to protect his kids — although he failed in that aspect over time.

When the family stayed at Hill House, all the Crain kids were young with twins Nell and Luke the youngest and Shirley and Steve the oldest.

The five stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance — in that order.  In the case of The Haunting of Hill House, it is also the order of the ages of the kids who suffer from that specific stage.

Steve is Denial

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Steve is the oldest child and was carried out of the house by his dad after his mom’s death. He was told to not look back and he kept his eyes closed all the way out. He was the last kid in the car and was raced away in confusion.

When Steve became an adult, he refused to believe in the supernatural, although he became a true-crime writer specializing in the occult. However, he was looking for truth — even if he refused to admit it to himself.

Steve lived in denial of his mother’s ghost, despite his father’s fear. He lived in denial of any problems with Luke’s addiction, always looking at the best, and lived in denial of Nell’s mental problems.

When Nell died, Steve remained the skeptic, not believing that anything supernatural could be involved.

Shirley is Anger

Shirley was the oldest daughter and second eldest behind only Steve. She represents anger.

Shirley was angry at her father for leaving the house when she believed her mother was still alive. She was angry for Steve cashing in on their family name for his book about Hill House.

Shirley was angry at Luke for his addiction problems and was angry that no one was there to help Nell. She was also angry at Nell after her death, believing that what her younger sister did was wrong based on their mom’s death.

Instead of empathy or compassion, Shirley spent almost her entire life angry at what happened to her family — however she was able to use that to help others get through their anger and torment after losing loved ones.

Theo is Bargaining

Theo is the middle sister. Since she was not one of the oldest and the younger two were twins, Theo was always an outsider and loner. That did not change as an adult, even when she moved into the guest house on Shirley’s property.

The way Theo dealt with everything was by just building a wall around herself to protect herself from her family’s various levels of crazy.

Theo is always looking for an explanation — the opposite of Steve in many ways — and refuses to live in anger as Shirley does.

When Nell dies, Theo tries to figure out what she went back to Hill House instead of — like her — shutting it out of her life.

Theo is also someone who always wants to bargain for more and when she couldn’t feel anything after even touching Nell, she begged to feel again.

Luke is Depression

Luke is a really tragic character. He knows what he saw when he was a kid but was ridiculed and paid for it more than any of his siblings.

He turned to drugs to numb the pain and remained depressed throughout his life.

Luke tried to clean up but always failed, which pushed Shirley away. Even when he did try to be a better man, such as attending Nell’s wedding, Shirley pushed him away, driving him further and further into depression.

Luke never was able to accept what happened and his depression makes him the most tragic of all the Crain kids on The Haunting of Hill House.

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Nell is Acceptance

Nell is acceptance.

This is very sad because she finally accepted what happened to their mother and what Hill House did to her family. She finally just turns herself over to Hill House in the end and joins her mom again.

It was the final stage of grief and — in the case of The Haunting of Hill House — the final step before Nell accepted her fate.