If you consider yourself an avid fan of The Haunting of Hill House and now The Haunting of Bly Manor, then you know that one of the best reasons to give these series a rewatch (beyond the fact that they’re excellent storytelling) is so you can go through and try to find all the ghosts that creator Mike Flanagan is known for tucking away in so many of the episodes.
WARNING – MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
During a recent virtual press day for Bly Manor, Flanagan addressed this visual Easter egg hunt that he enjoys sending viewers on, and how the idea of incorporating hidden ghosts into both series came about in the first place. “Well, for one thing, I can tell you—and this was Trevor [Macy]’s idea, is that no matter how many ghosts there are hidden in this season, even if you find them all, we’re going to tell you that there are two more. There’s really no downside to that for us.”
“It started as part of the pitch for Hill House that was something we were really excited about,” Flanagan explained. “I love those pictures that go viral every now and again where you see somebody, it’s always captioned ‘wait until you see it’ or something like that, and you spot the face under the couch or something. I love that stuff. And so, in the first season, it was really just a little spice we wanted to put on it. We didn’t really want to do anything with it other than create that rewatchability and hopefully spook out a couple of people.”
“We executed it by having extras dressed and in makeup every day, standing by usually at the craft table, eating candy, and waiting for every shot to go up. We would always look for an opportunity to throw them in, and it would be as fast as after we’ve finished our first team rehearsal, it would be, ‘Fly in and go. Let’s see if we can find a spot.’”
“This season, though, we didn’t want to do that again. And, for Bly, it was important that if we could find a way that the ghosts could actually be a part of the narrative this time instead of so many random faces, we could cast them. Which is a tough sell for a performer, to say that we want you to play a part where hopefully we never notice you and hopefully you are not seen until the end. But I wanted it to really fit into the story and that we’d find out eventually who they were.”
So, this year was a lot more surgical. Some of them were written into the drafts where they would be, especially the Plague Doctor and the doll-faced ghost in particular. But then it was just the usual thing on set of trying to figure out if the ghost was too visible or too obvious. I would always try not to tell the cast if there was going to be a ghost in the shot, too. I like to mess with them that way and sometimes they don’t notice until their take is over and they turn around and someone’s in the fireplace. And, occasionally, we forget about them. We bury them so deep in the background. It happened to the Plague Doctor all the time on the exteriors. We placed him by the lake way deep and we’d be frantic to keep our day going. We’d move on and realized we left him out in the water, patiently waiting for us to tell him to move [laughs],” Flanagan added.
Look for more on The Haunting of Bly Manor right here on Daily Dead all this week.