'The Haunting of Bly Manor': Who is Lady Viola of the lake? Here's how the property became a ground of purgatory
Spoilers for 'The Haunting of Bly Manor'
Back when the trailer of'The Haunting of Bly Manor' had dropped, there was a terrifying, faceless female-figure emerging from the lake in the property. Assumed to be the main antagonist there were hints that this Lady of the Lake was presumably the ex-nanny of Miles and Flora Wingrave, whom our protagonist, America au-pair Dani Clayton (Victori Pedretti) arrives at the manor to care for. But in Episode 8, we learn that despite having killed herself by drowning in the lake, Miss Jessel (Tahirah Sharif), the nanny, wasn't the infamous lady.
The other faceless ghost would emerge from the water to walk through the grounds into the manor, all the way to the master bedroom, and back to the water, killing anybody who got in the way of her sporadic nightly adventures. This woman is Lady Violet Lloyd of Bly Manor (Kate Siegel), who lived there in the 1600s. It is her murder, and subsequent condemnation into the waters of the lake that turned the property into grounds of purgatory.
When Viola and her sister Perdita (Katie Parker) were young women, they lost their father. Because women did not have property rights at the time, Viola crafted a plan to get married to a distant cousin so they could retain the manor. The beauty with brains that Viola was, it didn't take long for her to woo this man out of a business proposition first, which later turned to love. Soon Viola gave birth to her first child, a daughter, and the hypnotic love her husband bore for her, began fading. She saw him shooting glances at Perdita, but there was something far more dangerous lurking. Viola began coughing up blood, which was diagnosed as 'the lung' - probably cancer. This forced her to be banished into her bedroom, with little to no contact with the rest of her family.
Waning under the shackles of her deteriorating health, Viola refused to let go when the priest came over for her last rights. She refused to die, and Perdita, devoted as ever to her sister and her wishes, gave her the strength and support to carry on for six more years. As days went by, Viola was reduced to a sickly shadow of her former glorious self; her mind a storehouse of jealousy and insecurity over a life she was missing out on. As the disease got worse, Viola got meaner, striking Perdita for so much as suggesting anything about how to care for her daughter or her husband.
Viola locked away all her prized clothes and jewelry in a trunk and gave the key to her husband, making him promise it would go only and only to their daughter. But soon after, in one of her bad days while she was throwing a coughing fit, Perdita, under the facade of mercy, suffocates Viola to death. In a short while, business deteriorates for the new owners of Bly. Viola's widower marries Perdita and their relationship flourishes only to be spited by her attacks at the lord's lack of business mind. Perdita tries convincing her now-husband to seel Viola's locked up possessions to help their financial situation, and when she fails, she steals the key to do the task herself. But unbeknownst to her, a little part of Viola stayed alive in her possessions.
Trapped and locked away for years in purgatory, this soul yearned to be let out. And when the trunk was finally opened, instead of her daughter, to Viola's absolute shock and anger, it was her murderer for a sister. So Viola strangles Perdita to death before going back to sleep, wake, and walk-in her own purgatory. Her widower, seeing no benefit in continuing to live at Bly, decided to move away with their daughter. But out of superstition, he dumps the trunk in the lake, thus trapping Viola in the grounds of Bly Manor forever.
Thus, begins Viola's nightly ordeal of waking up, walking to the manor looking for her daughter, and going back disappointed. Every time she would sleep, her memory would be wiped and she would not remember that there was no child to seek in Bly Manor anymore. The rules of purgatory in Flanagan's story sees faces disappearing into hollowed sheets of skin as time passes and the person's memory fades. But just like her previous self, Viola refused to go from purgatory. Out of pure rage and vengeance, as she lay in the lake's floor, she pulled into this realm so hard, her own gravity turned Bly Manor's grounds to purgatory - cursing anybody else who died there to be condemned within the estate forever. And Viola, reduced to a mere shadow of her former self, a faceless Lady of the Lake, sleeps in the water's floor, wakes, walks the manor to find her daughter, and returns disappointed.
'The Haunting of Hill House' premiered on October 9 and is now available for streaming only on Netflix.