‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’: Why Don’t the Ghosts Have Faces?

The Haunting of Bly Manor is finally here. Many fans were excited to dive in and meet the people that inhabit Bly Manor. But there’s something different about the ghosts that haunt the “great, good place.” They don’t have facial features. Find out why the ghosts in The Haunting of Bly Manor appear without faces. 

[SPOILER ALERT: Some spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor.]

AMELIE SMITH as FLORA WINGRAVE
AMELIE SMITH in THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR | EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is based on Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ 

The Turn of the Screw was released in October 1898. Henry James’s story was told by an unnamed narrator, much like The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Netflix series follows a young governess (Victoria Pedretti) charged with caring for two children, Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). Slowly, the governess learns she’s living amongst the otherworldly ghosts who also inhabit Bly Manor. 

Horror master Mike Flanagan, who worked on films like Gerald’s Game and Oculus, used The Turn of the Screw as the “backbone” for the second installment of The Haunting series. 

“[The Turn of the Screw is] through-line that carries us from beginning to end,” Flanagan told Games Radar. But that’s not the only piece of James’s work Flanagan took an interest in. Throughout season 2, fans will find a few other stories penned by James, including The Jolly Corner and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes

There aren’t any hidden ghosts in ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ 

Since there were dozens of hidden ghosts in The Haunting of Hill House, fans were excited to dive into Bly Manor and try to spot even more. With season 2, showrunner Mike Flanagan opted against hidden ghosts.

“We were just trying to hide faces and figures,” Flanagan told Vanity Fair regarding the ghosts in season 1. “This season, we wanted our hidden elements to tell their own story.” 

Those hidden elements are the secrets the characters in Bly Manor keep. The hidden ghosts in season 1 served no other purpose than to add to the horror of Hill House. But at Bly Manor, each ghost has a story to tell. 

“Very much unlike the first season, [the ghosts are] actually going to be explained,” Flanagan said. “By the end of the season, you’re going to know who they are and why they’re there.” 

Most of the ghosts at Bly Manor don’t have faces 

Two types of ghosts reside at Bly Manor. The “living” ghosts are the more freshly deceased haunts who still have facial features about them. Ghosts who have been at Bly for some time, including the young boy Flora sees in the attic and the lady in the lake, all appear without facial features. 

Why ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ ghosts don’t have faces

During episode 8, “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” the unnamed narrator (Carla Gugino) explains why the ghosts appear without faces. 

“All things fade — all things,” she says, continuing: 

Flesh, stone, even stars themselves. Time takes all things. Tis the way of the world.

The past recedes, memories fade, and so too does the spirit. Everything yields to time. Even the soul.

As her memories left her, so too did her face.

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Tragically, the ghosts of Bly Manor slowly lose any recollection of the life they once had. The loss of their facial features is symbolic of them losing their memories, and more importantly, the human spirit.