The Caleigh family, having suffered the loss of their young son Cam, are falling apart. Cam’s mother, Eve Caleigh (Surrane Jones), finds herself tormented by the posters of her missing child as the anniversary of his disappearance looms. She blames herself, having fallen asleep momentarily at the park the day her child wandered off. The remaining Caleigh children, Loren (Maisie Williams) and Cally (Pixie Davies), travel with their family farther north for their father, Gabe’s (Tom Ellis) work. Leaving behind a slew of bad memories, the family does not realize that soon they will be in the middle of a haunting that is far worse than anything they can imagine.
Inter-spliced into the modern story is the tale of a young governess, Nancy Linnet (Olivia Cooke), who has arrived in the care of the Augustus and Magda Cribbens to help teach children at a home for orphans located in Crickley Hall. The Cribbens are cruel people, often starving the orphans with the claims that food is a reward not a right. Augustus Cribben enjoys punishing the children with a wooden cane, recording every lash in great detail in a log book as if it was a transaction. His sister, Magda (Sarah Smart), is a willing partner in crime and often covers for her brother, as he is usually hiding his rapidly failing sanity or beating a child. Nancy is horrified to discover what is being done to the children and enacts a plan to free them. The local groundskeeper, Percy (Iain De Caestecker), takes a liking to Nancy and listens to her as she details the horrible goings on of Crickley Hall. Specially, they discuss the plight of a young German-speaking Jewish Boy, Stefan Rosenbaum, who is specifically being targeted by the Cribbens. Also in the care of the Cribbens is a young man, Maurice, who will carry out their every desire and wish after having suffered great pain and tragedies at a former orphan establishment. Maurice’s fear of pain outweighs all moral standings.
Back in modern times, the Caleigh family arrives at a manor home known as Crickley Hall. The house has been mostly rented out for very short periods of time, due to odd goings on and a tragedy in the home that the village dislikes talking about. It does not that long for the family dog, Clyde, to go missing. Cally quickly discovers ghosts in the home, sharing the experience with her mother. Gabe is, of course, skeptically that anything has been seen at all. Loren finds herself having a hard time with the local children to the point where she punches a girl in the nose for accusing Loren’s mother of horrible parenting. This girl enacts a plan for revenge later in the series, only to be pushed down the stairs by a ghost. Loren, however, is seemingly punished by the ghost of Augustus Cribben for poor behavior.
It appears Percy never truly left the house. His older self (David Warner), quickly warns the family Caleigh family that if they value their children they will leave as soon as possible. He has not left the town, or his original home, after the strange disappearance of Nancy Linnet, his former lover. Eve Caleigh speaks with Percy about the tragedy in the home, after she hears the voice of her missing son through a sort of trance brought on by an old spinning top found in the house. Percy sends her to a local psychic, Lili Peel (Susan Lynch). Lili immediately swears she will do nothing to help Eve. After all, the last time she entered Crickley hall a horrible personal tragedy struck her. Eve manages to convince the poor woman to come to her aide. Also added into the mix is the strangely familiar parapsychologist Gordon Pyke (Donald Sumpter). Pyke seems to have a knowledge of the house far greater than any mere researcher, and claims that there is no metaphysical activity in the house, even though he is shown more than once being tormented by the ghost of Cribbens.
With new faces, the series quickly turns back to the past, showing what actually happened to young Nancy when she attempted to rescue the children of Crickley Hall. Having caught Magda and Maurice in flagrante delicto, the wicked pair feel that the only way to hide their secret affair is to kill Nancy and dump her body in the well leading to the river under the house. It is now up to the Caleigh family to put things right and release the souls of the children, while fighting the abusive spirit of Augustus Cribben.
The cast of The Secret of Crickley Hall is extensive with it’s accomplishments. Viewers will recognize David Warner, Surrane Jones and Sarah Smart from recent episodes of Doctor Who. Maisie Williams is easily remembered as Arya from HBO’s Game of Thrones, alongside Donald Sumpter who played Maester Luwin. Tom Ellis was Robin Hood recently in Once Upon A Time. The actors are well cast, not one seeming out of place or incorrectly placed.
The Secret of Crickley Hall, by James Herbert, is not a happy story. I would highly advise parents of children who have passed or those who suffered physical abuse as children to avoid this one. The intrigue and mystery are worth a watch, but I would not recommend this if you are looking for an uplifting and joyful tale.