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    Believe It Or Not, But "The Haunting Of Hill House" And "Supernatural" Are The Same Show

    Join me on an exploration into grief.

    !!🚨WARNING🚨!! this post contains major spoilers for both shows, so if you haven't seen either and want to avoid major plot points I advise you to exit now.

    If you haven't seen either show but still want to read this post, I explain every character and general plot mentioned so it's easy to follow along.

    Before we start...

    It is important to note from the beginning how grief is defined differently between Supernatural and The Haunting of Hill House. While both shows personify grief in their characters in one way or another, Supernatural’s grief is more rooted in revenge whereas The Haunting of Hill House’s grief is more rooted in fear.

    This is a long post so grab some popcorn and let's get started!

    Pivotal Deaths: The Haunting of Hill House


    The pilot episode is marked by two deaths; one signifies and explains the character's past and the second one is what sets up the series moving forward.

    In The Haunting of Hill House pilot, we are introduced to the fatal night where Olivia Crain, the mother, tragically died at Hill House. For the majority of the series, the nature of her death is up for interpretation by both the audience and the Crain siblings. The ending of the pilot reveals that the youngest Crain sibling, Eleanor “Nell” Crain has “committed suicide” also at Hill House. This is the death that ultimately brings the viewer into the story and consequently brings back together the remaining Crain siblings; Steven “Steve” Crain, Shirley Crain, Theodora “Theo” Crain, Luke Crain, and their father, Hugh Crain.

    The uncertainty and disbelief over the idea that the house was responsible for Olivia and Nell’s death is what makes the rest of the Crain family’s grief rooted in fear; fear of Hill House’s capabilities, fear of what they experienced at Hill House when they were younger, fear of their own mental wellbeing at the hands of Hill House.

    Pivotal Deaths: Supernatural

    The CW

    Like Hill House, the pilot episode also is marked by two deaths; one signifies and explains the character's past and the second one is what sets up the series moving forward.

    In Supernatural’s pilot episode, the very first sequence is the fatal night that the mother, Mary Winchester, tragically died. Unlike The Haunting of Hill House, Supernatural makes it very clear how Mary died; she burned to death on the ceiling. This is an important distinction because of how the pilot ends. The last sequence is of Sam Winchester, one of the two main brothers, finding his girlfriend, Jessica Moore, burning to death on the ceiling in a complete parallel to how his mother died as shown earlier in that episode.

    For Sam, and his brother, Dean Winchester, they both know the nature of what killed their mother and Jess; some type of supernatural entity. For them, the knowledge of knowing causes their grief to manifest as revenge. Their revenge is then outwardly expressed through hunting and the power of wanting to take down whatever killed their loved ones.

    The Five Stages of Grief in both Supernatural and Hill House

    Netflix, The CW

    In The Haunting of Hill House, each of the five Crain siblings is a personification of the five stages of grief; going in order from stage one to stage five in correspondence with the oldest to the youngest sibling.

    In Supernatural, the idea of the five stages of grief is expressed through both Sam and Dean throughout the series at different times rather than one stage attached to one brother. The Winchesters' grief is showcased as a coping mechanism and how one may deal with grief whereas the Crains' grief is explained and defined through the characterization of each sibling.

    Stage One: Denial

    Denial:The Haunting of Hill House

    steve says "what am i supposed to write? he said it was haunted." his sister says "he believed it steve. when he said those things he believed them in the moment at least and you never did"

    Steve, being the oldest Crain sibling, represents denial.

    Despite having lived in the house himself and being told firsthand by his siblings the haunting experiences they went through, Steve does not believe in the supernatural or the idea that the house is haunted and capable of doing monstrous things. This is evident in the first episode when Steve is talking to Shirley about his book deal that tells the story of the summer they lived in Hill House. 

    Steve is trying to explain the rationale behind his work by simply stating, “What am I supposed to write? He said it was haunted,” in relation to their father. 

    Shirley hits back, further proving Steve’s denial with, “He believed it, Steve. When he said those things, he believed them. In the moment, at least, and — you never did.”

    Denial: Supernatural

    dean holds sam by his collar and says "don't talk about her like that"
    The CW

    In Supernatural, the viewer is first introduced to denial through Dean.

    Dean does not want to believe that his father, John Winchester, was a neglectful father growing up or come to terms with the loss of his family over the years. There is a moment in the first episode of the series where we can start to understand how the loss of family has affected both Sam and Dean in how they handle grief. When talking about their mother on a bridge in episode one, Dean becomes upset over Sam’s ability to casually brush her death off, forcefully pushing him and stating, “Don’t talk about her like that”. In this moment, it becomes clear that Dean had never fully grieved the loss of his mother and rather is perpetually stuck in denial over the severity of the situation.

    Stage Two: Anger

    Anger: The Haunting of Hill House

    shirley says "before she's ever in the casket i'm gonna fix her. what's what i do" (referring to nell). then in another scene she says "i told you she was in trouble, i told you to find her. i told you!"

    This stage is personified in Shirley and how she handles grief.

    Shirley is outwardly resentful to both her family and her own experiences; she seems to be on the cusp of a believer and a skeptic. A key characteristic of Shirley is that she likes to be in control and her anger seems to stem from being in situations where she can’t control things or has uncertainty over them. Ultimately, Shirley fears death and she is angry over the fact that she can’t understand it. This leads her to become a mortician in the future which allows her the opportunity to come closer to an explanation while also never allowing herself to face her fears. This is echoed in the second episode of the series where Shirley is speaking to a little boy about his grandmother's funeral. She states with confidence, “Before she’s ever even in the casket, I’m gonna fix her. That’s what I do."

    When Shirley gets the news that Nell killed herself, she is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she couldn’t fix it or control it by angrily telling Steve, “I told you. I told you she was in trouble. I told you to find her. I told you!”

    Anger: Supernatural

    woman tells dean, "well one things for damn sure nobody's dying in this house ever again" and next image is sam talking to dean saying "how old were you when mom died? four? jess died six months ago. how the hell would you know how i feel?"
    The CW

    The manifestation of anger in Supernatural is presented frequently throughout both brothers in different ways, especially in the first season: Sam is angry over the death of Jessica whereas Dean is angry over the death of their mother all these years later.

    During the ninth episode of Season 1, Sam and Dean have to go back to their childhood home for a case. This triggers Dean, as I’ve previously mentioned, he hasn’t grieved the loss of his mother properly, into being angry about the house. He expresses to Sam, “You tell me that I’ve got to go back home, especially when...when I swore to myself that I would never go back there." This anger is then elevated later in the same episode where he states with passion, “Well one thing's for damn sure, nobody’s dying in this house ever again." Dean is dealing with his grief by being angry at the house and what it did to his family.

    For Sam, his anger comes forward two episodes later, Episode 11, while driving with Dean. The brothers are bickering about whether to follow their father's instructions or to follow their father with Sam becoming more annoyed as the conversation progresses. It all bubbles to the surface for Sam after Dean tells him that he knows how he feels which prompts Sam to say, “Do you? How old were you when Mom died? Four? Jess died six months ago. How the hell would you know how I feel?”

    Neither of the brothers outwardly express anger as the only form of grief but it’s present quite commonly throughout the series as the pressures of their daily lives coexist with their past trauma.

    Stage Three: Bargaining

    Bargaining: The Haunting of Hill House

    theo is crying in the rain

    Theo is a prime example of bargaining at the hands of grief.

    Theo would rather feel content than let her feelings take over. A key trait about Theo is that she has this unexplainable connection through touch though she doesn’t understand where it came from or what it means so she wears gloves to stifle it. The thing is, Theo also doesn’t understand death and her desire to push away people that try to come close to her is her coping mechanism for handling grief. Her sensitive touch that she tries so hard to conceal is the closest thing to death she has come to and that terrifies her. This is evident during the scene where Theo finally breaks down to Shirley about what she is feeling both physically and emotionally. 

    The scene is one long monologue recited by Theo but the stand-out lines are, “I can’t see. And I can’t feel. And I’m just...I’m just floating in this ocean of nothing, and I wonder if this is it, if this is what death is, just out there in the darkness, just darkness and numbness and alone, and I wondered if that’s what she felt and that’s what Mom feels, and it’s just numb and nothing and alone."

    Theo has spent the majority of her life masking her feelings in fear of feeling the grief that has slowly been building in her throughout the series.

    Bargaining: Supernatural

    sam cries
    The CW / Via

    In Supernatural, there is one particular episode that focuses on bargaining in the literal definition.

    After Dean is injured fatally during a hunt and given two months to live, the brothers hear about a preacher that can supposedly perform miracles and save him. Once Dean is healed, the brothers realize how strange the whole ordeal actually is and come to the conclusion, “Every time someone was healed, someone else died, and each time, the victim died of the same symptom that Le Grange was healing at the time."

    In Supernatural, bargaining is shown by the giving of a life for a life; a human sacrifice if you will. Prior to the knowledge of the miracles, the Winchesters took to a higher power to make right of their situation, a prime example of bargaining while going through grief.

    Stage Four: Depression

    Depression: The Haunting of Hill House

    luke has brows furrowed as if very angry
    Netflix / Via

    Luke is the most clear depiction of a stage of grief compared to the rest of his siblings as his experiences as a young child followed him into adulthood.

    The ability to experience the paranormal as a result of trauma can, without guidance and therapy, lead to secondary trauma and subsequent mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Luke’s grief is due to his trauma as a child in the house which then progressed into addiction into his adulthood. Over the course of the series, we are introduced to Luke’s heroin addiction as his way of handling grief. Having been so young when his mother died, having to deal with his own demons at such a young age, to then losing the one person in his life who truly took the time to understand him, can bring and keep anyone in a depressive state.

    Depression: Supernatural

    dean has brows furrowed as if worried
    The CW

    In Supernatural, it’s important to note that neither Winchester brother outwardly expresses depression in the first season compared to Luke in Hill House.

    Trauma will be defined as an experience that consists of a psychological impact that has a lasting effect due to a powerful emotional shock. This statement more encompasses how the fourth stage of grief is showcased through Sam and Dean. In Dean more specifically, he has been told his whole life to essentially not be emotional or let emotions get in the way. Sam, on the other hand, has always been more in-tune with his emotions. Dean’s inability to express his feelings makes him project his feelings onto other things, like hunting, and unintentionally pushes him into a state of depression, whether he realizes it or not.

    Stage Five: Acceptance

    Acceptance: The Haunting of Hill House

    nell is smiling

    The personification of acceptance is through Nell, the youngest Crain sibling.

    Nell spends her whole life running from herself and she doesn’t know it until it’s too late. As terrifying as the running was, Nell ultimately learns to accept her fate. In Nell’s final scene of the series, she is reunited with her siblings as an apparition. She presents a monologue to her family all about her acceptance of herself and them with the words, “Forgiveness is warm. Like a tear on a cheek. Think of that and of me when you stand in the rain. I loved you completely, and you loved me the same. That’s all. The rest is confetti." 

    Nell has extinguished her grief after all of these years of holding onto it and has finally moved on.

    Acceptance: Supernatural

    sam looks at dean and gives a speech which is in the text below this image

    In Supernatural, acceptance is not as clear-cut as Nell’s manifestation. A great example of how Sam accepts his grief is shown in the first episode during the same scene I briefly touched on earlier with Dean and him on the bridge speaking about their mother.

    Sam says, “If it weren’t for pictures, I wouldn’t even know what Mom looks like. What difference would it make? Even if we do find the thing that killed her, Mom’s gone, and she isn’t coming back." This scene shows how Sam has already worked through the death of his mother and has come to terms with the fact that she is gone and isn’t coming back, a stark difference to how we witness Dean in this scene going through stage one of grief.

    And the Final Parallel:

    An interesting parallel to both shows that plays into the idea of family is that The Haunting of Hill House ends with Hugh passing the torch of the family to Steve by saying, “This is all yours now. The house. And the promise." 

    Supernatural begins with John passing the family business off to Sam and Dean with Dean saying, “This is why. This book. This is Dad's single most valuable possession. Everything he knows about every evil thing is in here. And he's passed it on to us. I think he wants us to pick up where he left off, you know, saving people, hunting things — the family business."

    Hill House:

    hugh crain says "this is all yours now the house and the promise"
    dean says This is Dad's single most valuable possession. Everything he knows about every evil thing is in here. And he's passed it on to us. I think he wants us to pick up where he left off, you know, saving people, hunting things — the family business.

    So basically...

    When comparing The Haunting of Hill House, a limited-series show that wraps up all its loose ends in a concise ten-episode arc, to Supernatural, a show that spans fifteen seasons despite me having only touched on Season 1, the usage of grief is vastly different; one wraps it up in a bow at the end and the other takes you through and back the stages of grief multiple times. 

    While the structure of The Haunting of Hill House takes the viewer through grief and defines it for them as they watch episode by episode, Supernatural brings the viewer through the bumpy reality of grief and the unhealthy or healthy ways to deal with it.

    Do you agree that these shows are similar? Let me know in the comments below!

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