‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: Henry Wingrave’s Alter Ego Explained
Henry Wingrave is one of the many tortured souls in Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor. Played by Henry Thomas (who fans saw as the dad in The Haunting of Hill House), Henry struggles with alcoholism and is tormented by the death of his brother and sister-in-law.
The English Lord is also tormented by a sinister dopplegänger, but it’s not the same kind of ghost trapped at Bly Manor. In fact, the alter ego is never even seen at Bly. And while The Haunting of Bly Manor is based on the Henry James 1898 story The Turn of the Screw, Henry’s personal demon is based on another short story of James’.
[Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor].
Henry Wingrave’s alter ego is inspired by another Henry James story
The story is called The Jolly Corner, which is also the title of Bly Manor Episode 6, where fans learn all about Henry’s alter ego.
Think of this spirit as similar to the Ghost of Christmas Past from A Chrismas Carol, in that it appears to torment Henry for his past choices (although, the spirits in the Charles Dickens classic aren’t nearly as cruel). In Episode 6, viewers learn that Flora and Miles Wingrave’s uncle wasn’t just grief-stricken by the sudden and tragic death of his brother and sister-in-law—he had had an affair with Charlotte Wingrave, so he was also mourning the loss of his lover.
When the alter ego first appears in Episode 6, he tortures a drunk Henry by reminding him of all the traumatic moments he recently experienced and his role in all of them. It’s through this evil twin that viewers learn Henry is actually Flora’s father, not her uncle, and that the trip that killed Dominic and Charlotte Wingrave was intended to help repair their broken marriage. This gives the much needed context behind Henry’s complete refusal to return to Bly Manor.
Henry Wingrave’s grief stops him from returning to Bly Manor
It isn’t until the last episode that Henry reaches his fill of the alter ego’s torture. It comes just after fans learn that Henry is actually the one who’s been calling Bly Manor and hanging up once someone picked up. When the phone is disconnected, this motivates Henry to drive hours to Bly to check on his family.
“I’m going to Bly,” Henry declares to his dopplegänger.
“That’s insane,” the lookalike replies. “It’s a three-hour drive and you’ve been drinking, well, for two years, really.”
Try as he might, the sinister spirit can’t convince the Lord to stay put. Henry makes it to Bly just in time to try and save Flora, who is about to be killed by the Lady in the Lake. The ghost of Viola Willoughby chokes him and he nearly dies, but Owen resuscitates him. In the end, he ends up raising Flora and Miles without interruption from his unsettling alter ego.