One of the spookiest installments to come to Netflix this year is The Haunting of Hill House, a 10-episode series based on the 1959 horror novel by Shirley Jackson. The show follows the Crain family and their relationship with their haunted home, but there is another family who has been affected by the house’s evil as well. So who are the Dudleys on The Haunting of Hill House?
Warning: Spoiler alert for The Haunting of Hill House
The Dudleys are the caretakers of Hill House, and when Hugh (Henry Thomas) and Olivia (Carla Gugino) Crain purchase the home as a summer property that they hope to flip, the Dudleys help them move in and get situated. Horace Dudley (Robert Longstreet) and his wife Clara (Annabeth Gish), have maintained the haunted house for years, but because they know of its potential for evil, they try to stay away from it at night. Mr. Dudley reveals to Hugh that Mrs. Dudley once lived in the house and suffered from strange nightmares and an eventual miscarriage, but when she moved out she started to feel better.
The Dudleys also have a young daughter, Abigail (Olive Elise Abercrombie), who befriends the Crain kids when they first move in. The house begins to reveal its ghosts and sinister plans to keep the family there forever, and ultimately Olivia succumbs to its grip. One night, she tries to poison her youngest children, twins Luke and Nell, but inadvertently poisons and kills Abigail.
When the Dudleys arrive at the home to find their daughter’s dead body, she reappears as a ghost along with Olivia, who also dies in the house that night. This leads Hugh and the Dudleys to realize that anyone who dies in Hill House stays there as a ghost forever, so they make a pact to never destroy the house. In the final episodes, as Mrs. Dudley is dying, Horace carries her to Hill House, so that she can be with her daughter forever.
But the Dudleys in the show are slightly different versions from Jackson’s novel. In an interview with Bloody Disgusting, The Haunting of Hill House producers Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan discussed how their characters — which were meant as comic relief in the novel — were changed and developed. “I don’t think anybody wanted anything to be silly, comic relief didn’t seem like anything that was really necessary for them,” said Howard. “Plus, Annabeth Gish makes such a great different tone Mrs. Dudley that I can’t imagine her being used as a yokel to be made fun of.”
Flanagan added that for him, it was just important to see the Dudleys, especially Mrs. Dudley, integrated as part of the story rather than limited characters. “There’s these wonderful characters who are so memorable but who are kind of blank slates. We can take them in whatever direction we would like,” he told the outlet. “I just wanted to hear her say, ‘In the night in the dark’ and then after that she was all mine to do whatever we wanted.”
Both Howard and Flanagan also revealed that the show itself is loosely adapted from Jackson’s book, and because there have already been a number of films based on it, they wanted to take a fresh approach. “You want to tip your hat to the original source material and you want to be as true to the tone and the feel as possible, but you also want to be able to open it up for 10 hours and have a different experience that feels like it’s part of the same world,” said Howard. With Flanagan adding that he wanted to make this series like a “remix” which was inspired by the original “Hill family” from the book, rather than a straight up adaptation of the Crains.
So the Dudleys ended up playing a much larger role in the series than the book, but for many fans, their characters helped explain some of the backstory of the house, and the sinister forces it carries.