'The Haunting of Hill House': The Bent-Neck Lady episode explained
24 October 2018, 15:48 | Updated: 24 October 2018, 16:22
The meaning behind the biggest twist of the entire series. Episode 5, the 'Bent-Neck Lady' had viewers emotional and shocked.
One episode that really captured the imagination of fans was The Bent-Neck Lady, episode 5.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
The Bent-Neck Lady was a well crafted and truly heartbreaking twist in the series. The unbelievable revelation that Nell was The Bent-Neck Lady was jarring for many viewers, especially ones that never saw it coming.
Oh..my..god..the bent-neck lady is by far the most FUCKED UP episode of the haunting on hill house. I’m speechless. pic.twitter.com/LYLb2XWzCF— Shaikha (@goldenwoc) October 18, 2018
Just in case the revelation came a bit fast for you...
Here is the Bent-Neck Lady episode explained.
From the start of the series, Nell and Luke are plagued by the paranormal trauma they experienced from living in Hill House. Luke frequently sees a tall man in a hat, while Nell is frightened by a ghostly woman with a broken ("bent neck") that appears in her bedroom and hovers over her sleeping body.
This trauma eventually manifests itself as sleep paralysis, a condition that persists into her adulthood. As an adult, Nell seeks help for her sleep disorder and meets Arthur, a sleep tech whom she later marries.
As Nell finds some happiness in her life, she sees The Bent-Neck Lady less and her sleep paralysis becomes infrequent.
One night, Nell experiences an episode of sleep paralysis and Arthur springs out of bed to help her. Sadly, as he goes to turn on their bedroom light, Arthur falls to the ground unconscious and dies from what is later explained to be an aneurysm. In the corner of the bedroom, Nell sees The Bent-Neck Lady and assumes that she has murdered Arthur.
This all leads to Nell becoming crazed and depressed, confronting her siblings, and eventually deciding to return to Hill House, to face her trauma.
There, she is ambushed by a vision of her family and Arthur. Her mother's ghost later tricks her into putting on the same "necklace" that was promised to her as a child, which is, unfortunately, just a noose.
Standing on the ledge of the tall staircase, Nell is pushed by her mother's ghost, causing her to fall through time as a broken necked woman (THE BENT-NECK LADY), seeing herself from the opposite perspective as a child, during her husband's death, and when she bought drugs for Luke.
Bent-Neck Lady meaning:
Nell turning out to be The Bent-Neck Lady speaks to the different ways that our traumas follow and haunt us. Sometimes we are not just fearful of the bad things that we experience, but also the physical, emotional, and psychological toll that these bad things can have on us.
In episode 1, Steve explains that "a ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt." From this, we know that the ghosts attached to the Crain siblings aren't strictly spirits, but also the manifestation of unresolved grief and fear.
Their father, Hugh, never explained what happened to their mother on their last night in the house, so this grief and confusion follows them into adulthood. This results in Nell being literally paralysed with fear at the Bent-Neck Lady for much of her life, only for it to turn out that she was haunting herself the whole time.
Why did Nell's mother push her?
It is later explained in the series that, during her short time in Hill House, Olivia is overcome with paranoia and visions of her children being hurt by the outside world.
Olivia pushes Nell in a misguided attempt to "wake her up" from the "nightmare" of depression and grief. That is why Olivia literally says "it's time to wake up, sweetheart," before kissing her on the forehead and shoving her off the ledge.