Netflix‘s The Haunting of Hill House, a 10-episode horror series from writer/director Mike Flanagan, has been out for a few weeks, but the buzz around the show has only grown since its debut. The series follows the tormented Crain family, who move into a creepy mansion called Hill House and spend the next two decades of their lives grappling with the loss and trauma they experienced there. The show has gotten a lot of attention for its poignant family drama and the powerful way it handles topics like mental illness and addiction, but surprisingly it’s not getting nearly enough attention for being genuinely terrifying.Of course, fear is subjective, so maybe Hill House‘s spooky scenes don’t crawl under your skin. Or maybe you’ve merely blocked out how scary it got in certain places. We’re here to remind you with this list of the 10 scariest moments (in our opinion) from The Haunting of Hill House.
Spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House.
Nell’s ghost appears in Steven’s apartment
Episode 1, “Steven Sees a Ghost”
The very first episode of Hill House ends with quite a sting: Upon arriving home to his apartment after investigating a paranormal case for his next book, eldest Crain sibling Steven (Michiel Huisman) finds his sister Nell (Victoria Pedretti) in his living room. He scolds her for letting her twin Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a drug addict, loot his things, but is interrupted by a call. It’s his dad, Hugh (Timothy Hutton) calling to inform him that Nell returned to Hill House… and died there. So who’s that in Steven’s apartment? When he turns around, the ghost of Nell is right behind him; she lets out a scream and her face contorts. It’s downright bone-chilling.
A bug crawl’s out of Nell’s mouth
Episode 2, “Open Casket”
Each of the first five episodes of Hill House is focused on one of the Crain siblings, and Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) gets episode two. We learn about her first childhood experience with death at Hill House, when she finds a litter of diseased kittens who die in her bedroom. When she holds a funeral for the first kitten, she thinks for a moment that it’s still alive when she sees its mouth moving, but then a bug crawls from its lips. Later in the episode, when Shirley is preparing Nell for her upcoming funeral, the same bug crawls from her sister’s lips it’s an ominous, distressing moment for Shirley (and for us).
Luke sees a ghost in the basement
Episode 3, “Touch”
Those poor Crain kids were really tortured at Hill House, and no one more than Luke. This episode is centered on Theo (Kate Siegel), but it’s Luke who’s subjected to its biggest scare. As a kid, he begged his sister to let him ride the meal elevator in the Hill House kitchen, which was supposed to go upstairs but instead lowers him into a mysterious, not-in-the-blueprints cellar. Once down there, he sees something in the shadows, and the ghostly figure of a man crawls towards him in the dark. It’s pure nightmare fuel.
Episode 3, “Touch”
Episode three also gives us this creepy as here moment, when Theo, a child psychologist, dreams of “Mr. Smiley,” the figure that’s tormenting one of her young clients. The real Mr. Smiley is something far scarier (in a real-world way) than this nightmare monster Theo dreams of, but that doesn’t stop this jump scare’s effectiveness.
Luke sees the tall man
Episode 4, “The Twin Thing”
Luke really did draw the Crain family short straw. In this chilling scene, young Luke spots a tall, thin, floating ghost in the hallway of Hill House. Understandably, he runs and hides from the specter under his bed, only to have the ghost follow him into the room and slowly stalk about, with his long cane as a guide. He then bends over and meets Luke face-to-face, and… I’m honestly getting goosebumps just thinking about how terrifying this moment is.
The Bent-Neck Lady visits Nell in her dreams
Episode 5, “The Bent-Neck Lady”
A young Nell was subjected to the ghost of a woman she called the “Bent-Neck Lady,” which originated in Hill House but followed her into adulthood in the form of a sleep paralysis vision. Nell learns to manage her sleep with the help of a technician (whom she later marries) and is able to temporarily escape the Bent-Neck Lady’s gaze. But she shows up again, a foreboding vision of what Nell will soon become, and every appearance she makes in this episode is a pang in the chest.
The ghost of an old woman appears behind Olivia
Episode 6, “Two Storms”
This remarkable episode is loaded more with an unspeakable tension than any big scares, but it does have one of the show’s more haunting visuals. When Olivia (Carla Gugino) searches the house for a missing Nell during a major thunderstorm, she is oblivious to the ghostly visage of an elderly woman in one of the rooms. As the lightning flashes, we catch one good look at the woman, sitting upright in her bed. No thank you!
Olivia’s ghost visits Steven at the doctor
Episode 8, “Witness Marks”
This one is more of an eerie, uncomfortable moment than a “scare” but… it’s still scary! Steven and his wife visit a fertility doctor to talk about starting a family, and Steven is distracted by the ghostly image of his mother through the window, who moves slowly closer and closer. It’s a little touch, but a haunting one; symbolic of Olivia’s powerful hold on her children, even from beyond.
Nell scares Shirley and Theo in the car
Episode 8, “Witness Marks”
This moment made me throw my laptop across the room. No joke. It’s a jump scare for the ages. As Theo and Shirley argue on their way to Hill House, the screaming face of Nell suddenly appears between them. It catches you 100% off-guard but isn’t cheap in the slightest; her manifestation leads to a frank discussion between the living sisters, about life and death and the meaning of everything.
Shirley claws her face off
Episode 10, “Silence Lay Steadily”
The Hill House finale isn’t really about the scares, but about uniting the Crains and clearing the baggage of the past. But it does provide this incredibly disturbing moment, when Shirley in a vision from the Red Room claws her eyes out and starts to rip at her face.