The Haunting Of Hill House Scene That Scared The Cast In Real Life

"The Haunting of Hill House" is one of the best horror shows ever made, and one of the best TV shows of the past decade, regardless of genre. Mike Flanagan's first TV series is more than an adaptation — it is an homage and a love letter to Shirley Jackson's novel that it is loosely based on. It follows the Crain siblings across two timelines: how they as kids survived living in a haunted house of horrors, and how they as adults reckon with past traumas and tragic deaths.

The show is a beautiful exploration of grief, a ghost story that is both a tear-jerker but also very spooky. Flanagan weaves together emotions like he's a tailor, with a deeply unsettling sense of horror that is not about jump scares or intense gore. Instead, it's more of a slow meditation on grief covered in layers upon layers of dread and uneasiness. The story doesn't necessarily terrify you but offers a consistent sense of fear throughout, with the knowledge that something is wrong. But you are not sure what exactly.

This works in the show's favor, as it slowly increases the tension and reveals more and more about the events of the past and the supernatural things that happened in Hill House. This climaxes in the single scariest scene in the show — and stands as one of the best jump scares in horror history. It is a jump scare so terrifying it even scared the cast.

The rest is confetti

The scene in question happens toward the end of episode 8, as the Crain siblings are on their way back to Hill House to confront their past and try to rescue one of their own who has gone missing. This is an important episode that has the characters finally confront the demons that they've kept hidden for years, the scars they caused one another, and the supernatural events they denied for so long.

As the two surviving Crain sisters — Shirley and Theo — drive up to the house, they fight and confront unresolved issues. At the height of their fight, the ghost of their dead sister, Nell, shows up and scares the hell out of everyone.

Elizabeth Reaser, who played Shirley, told PopSugar that filming that scene was as scary as watching it. "Yeah, it was really scary when we did that scene," she said. "Because if someone came up right now behind me, I would jump, you know?" Likewise, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who played Luke Crain, revealed that he got scared watching that scene. "I screamed and I was still scared, so I screamed again."

Even Victoria Pedretti, who did the scaring in the scene as Nell, confessed to Decider that she frightened herself just shooting the scene. "I knew it was happening [and] I screamed — at myself!" Same, Victoria, same.

Not just a house

The reason the scene works so well is because, up to that point, we hadn't really got any jump scares in "The Haunting of Hill House." There were scary moments and little jumps — like the Bent-Neck Lady, but nothing like this. Usually, the scares happened at the house or in moments with long leads before the actual jump scare.

Here, we get an emotional scene where Theo and Shirley argue about their trauma. Because the jump scare happens mid-conversation, it changes the tone of the scene. It comes just as the characters start to realize that the supernatural events from their childhood weren't just figments from their imagination but actual ghosts. This specific pairing of sisters adds to the realness of the scare. We have Theo, who has always been connected to the supernatural, but also the skeptical Shirley who always denied everything.

As creator Mike Flanagan told Entertainment Weekly, it was a surprise for the cast too. Turns out, they knew the jump scare was coming and had rehearsed it to happen at a certain cue. But Flanagan "just told Victoria [Pedretti] before [they] read the first take to come in substantially earlier than the written cue." This meant that when Pedretti shows up and does her thing, the reactions from the actors are genuine.

"It also scared the s*** out of all of us at the monitor," Flanagan admitted. "All of us who knew it was coming were completely blindsided by it and every time I've seen it, I'm never prepared. I'm just never ready for it because I get sucked into what they're saying and they seem so relaxed that it just gets me."