Yes, I know they haven’t even started filming season two of Netflix’s The Haunting, yet, but I’m always looking ahead.
With Mike Flanagan’s use of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House for season one and Henry James’s classic The Turn of the Screw for season two, I can’t help thinking of other classic haunted house/ghost stories he could use for a third season.
The way that Flanagan expanded the world of Jackson’s novel in the first season was nothing short of brilliant, methodical storytelling, and there are a ton of fantastic and terrifying literary locations he could dig into and give the same treatment.
Here are my picks in no particular order. What are some of yours? Let us know in the comments!
The Belasco House–Hell House by Richard Matheson
One of the greatest supernatural writers of the 20th century, Richard Matheson is well known for novels like I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes, and Riding the Nightmare as well as his work crafting episodes for The Twilight Zone including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
Arguably one of his finest and most terrifying creations came in 1971’s Hell House and the nightmarish Belasco House where the tale took place.
William Reinhardt Deutsch, a millionaire facing his looming death, calls in parapsychologist Dr. Lionel Barrett and offers him a handsome sum of money to prove once and for that the afterlife exists by entering the notorious Belasco House and gathering evidence.
Known by its nickname, “Hell House” is so called because of the acts of perversion and blasphemy that took place there under the guiding hand of its builder and original owner, Emeric Belasco. Other teams have attempted to unlock the house’s secrets, and many have died in the process.
Barrett, along with his wife Edith, mental medium Florence Tanner, and physical medium Benjamin Franklin Fischer, enter the aging estate to find the truth once and for all. Fischer carries with him the stigma of being the only survivor of a group of psychic investigators who attempted the same thing thirty years before, and he’s obviously still traumatized by the horrors he witnessed the first time around.
The novel was adapted for film in 1973 starring Roddy McDowell as Fischer, and it’s a classic that still holds up to this day.
What’s more, the story is perfect for the kind of expansion we saw Flanagan perform with The Haunting of Hill House with ample opportunities to broaden the mythology of Emeric and the terrifying rituals he conducted in the mansion.
Eel Marsh House–The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
It’s almost hard to believe that Susan Hill wrote The Woman in Black in 1982. With it’s Gothic imagery and storytelling, it seems much more like a tale from the previous century.
This tale concerns a solicitor by the name of Arthur Kipps who is summoned to the small market town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England. There, he sets about going through the papers to settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow in Eel Marsh House on the Nine Lives Causeway.
One there, Kipps becomes haunted by visions of horrific events and a woman dressed all in black who roams the halls of the house. When he questions locals about the Woman in Black, they begin to avoid him and he soon discovers that they believe a sighting of the malevolent spirit means their children will die.
Kipps initially scoffs at this, but as events inside the crumbling home escalate, he soon becomes a believer. What’s worse, when the tide is high, the house is completely cut off from the rest of the world making escape nearly impossible.
One part ghost story and one part mystery, The Woman in Black became a huge success and has been adapted numerous times for film, radio, television, and notably for the stage, where a play version of the novel became the second-longest running play in London’s theater history.
But again, this is exactly the type of tale that Flanagan could expand upon, digging into the superstitions around the story and its location to create something even more epic in scope with a spirit every bit as terrifying and tragic as the Bent Neck Lady from The Haunting of Hill House series.
The Allardyce Home–Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
Burnt Offerings is an interesting novel with an unusual background. Originally written as a screenplay, Marasco could find no one interested in making the film so he adapted it into a novel which was published in 1973. Soon after its successful release, Hollywood came calling, suddenly interested in the tale they had rejected, and it was adapted into a film starring Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis.
Marian and Ben Rolfe and their son, David, are desperate to escape the city for the Summer when they land upon a remarkable deal to rent a sprawling manor in upstate New York for only $900 for the entire season.
Naturally, there’s a catch. As the elderly brother and sister who own the home explain, their mother lives in an apartment in the attic. She rarely leaves the room, but someone will need to bring her food three times a day. Though skeptical, the Rolfes can hardly turn down the deal and soon find themselves moving into the home along with Ben’s aunt, Elizabeth.
They’ve hardly arrived, however, before they begin to succumb to the effects of the strange house. Their personalities change; the walls seem to close in on them, and a feeling of dread settles over the family.
It’s an unusual haunted house tale, but one that lends itself well to Flanagan’s style with lots of tense family dynamics to dig into and expand upon for a larger series.
Number 13–“The Empty House” by Algernon Blackwood
Algernon Blackwood was a masterful storyteller creating fear and dread with ease, and “The Empty House” was one of his finest outings.
In the tale, Jim Shorthouse, a ghost-hunting character who appeared in more than one of Blackwoods stories, answers a telegraph to visit his elderly aunt and upon his arrival finds that she has found a house that they simply must investigate together.
It seems that over a century ago, a terrible crime was committed in the home when a stableman in love with a maid managed to sneak inside in the dead of night, and in a jealous rage murdered her by throwing over the banister.
Since that time, no one has managed to live in the home and as his aunt points out, it is destined, now, to be empty forever. She has secured the keys to the home and entreats her nephew to accompany her.
Shorthouse agrees and late at night, the two journey to Number 13–no street name is given–to see what secrets the house may hold.
Blackwood was a master at giving his readers just enough to set their imaginations on fire, and that quality is apparent throughout “The Empty House.” Moreover, the author himself was an avid ghost-hunter and member of the Society for Psychical Research who reported numerous experiences of the supernatural himself, one of which he included in this story.
Flanagan could easily make “The Empty House” a central tale for a season of The Haunting while drawing upon Blackwood’s catalog of stories to expand the storytelling, possibly using Shorthouse as a central character, and it has the potential to become a thrilling and chilling season.
The House of Usher–“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
I will never forget the first time I read “The Fall of the House of Usher.” I was in the fifth grade and having discovered Poe the previous year, I was slowly devouring his stories wherever I could find them.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” stopped me in my tracks.
The story of a crumbling family estate and the cursed siblings who reside within its walls haunted my dreams for weeks afterward, and it still sends a shiver down my spine when I revisit it.
Needless to say between premature internment, a house falling in upon itself, and a man who is desperately trying to save his friend from impending doom there is plenty here that Flanagan could unpack for a season of The Haunting and furthermore, it wouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate some of Poe’s other tales into the mix.
After all, Roderick Usher, at one point in the story, sings a song titled “The Haunted Palace” which was actually a poem previously written and published by Poe.