Everyone Verna made a deal with in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ including Donald Trump

The Fall of the House of Usher is a great reminder to never make a deal with a demon.

The new series from Mike Flanagan introduces us to siblings Madeline and Roderick Usher (Mary McDonnell and Bruce Greenwood), who created an empire with medical company Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. However, as we learn in the series finale, “The Raven,” that empire came at a steep price.

In 1979, young Madeline and Roderick (Willa Fitzgerald and Zach Gilford) encountered a demonic being who introduced herself as Verna (Carla Gugino). She offered them success beyond their wildest dreams, telling them that they’d never face consequences for any wrongdoings they may commit. The only catch? When Roderick dies, his entire bloodline (including Madeline) dies with him.


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Verna comes to collect on her end of the bargain, leading to the gruesome deaths of Roderick’s children. In order to figure out what’s going on, Roderick and Madeline enlist family lawyer Arthur Pym (Mark Hamill) to dig up any dirt he can on Verna, thinking she’s a human suspect. However, in episode 6, “Goldbug,” Pym’s research unveils Verna’s otherworldly nature. He finds photographic evidence of her all throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The photos show her rubbing shoulders with major industrialists and politicians, including the Rockefellers and Donald Trump.

Like Roderick and Madeline, everyone in these photos must have made some kind of deal with Verna. After all, each figure we see her with is incredibly successful, despite controversies and scandals. (Notably, the Sackler family, a perfect candidate for a Verna deal, is missing from the photos, given that the Ushers act as their equivalent in the series.)

Verna tells Roderick that in terms of the influential people she’s worked with, he’s in her top five for “sheer body count.” So who are the candidates for the other four spots? And how did their successful deals impact the world? Let’s break it down.

1. The Koch brothers

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Charles Koch is CEO of Koch Industries, the second largest private company in the world. His brother David, now deceased, was executive vice president. Massively wealthy, the two have funded many conservative political campaigns and attempted to block further environmental regulation and climate action.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

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The founder and CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), Mark Zuckerberg helped usher in a new age of social media use. But while Facebook offers the option to connect with friends and family, it also presents user data and privacy concerns and has become a breeding ground for misinformation and hate speech.

3. Gina Rinehart

Gina Rinehart wearing a white dress, with Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" standing behind her.

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Mining magnate Gina Rinehart is the richest person in Australia, having inherited mining company Hancock Prospecting from her father. She has come under fire for climate misinformation, as well as comments about paying workers $2 a day.


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4. Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh in a suit walks down a hallway, with Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by his side.

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Brett Kavanaugh is one of the three Supreme Court Justices appointed by Donald Trump. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by three women, including Christine Blasey Ford, who testified at his public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

5. Mitch McConnell

A smiling Mitch McConnell with a laughing Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" beside him.

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Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the longest-serving senator from Kentucky, having started his Senate career in 1985. During his tenure as Senate Majority Leader from 2015 to 2021, McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination. He also voted against convicting President Trump following his second impeachment trial, stating that the trial had come too late — even though he himself delayed the trial.

6. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison and a group of friends, including Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher," stand outside while the sun sets.

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Billionaire Larry Ellison co-founded Oracle Corporation and is now acting as CTO and executive chairman. Oracle has faced a number of controversies, including getting hit with a 2022 class-action lawsuit accusing it of mass tracking and surveillance. Outside of Oracle, Ellison funds 2020 election deniers and was himself part of a call strategizing about how to overturn President Trump’s 2020 loss.


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7. Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch and his former wife Anna go for a walk, with Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" standing behind them.

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Rupert Murdoch built a vast media empire with his company News Corp, which owns papers like The Sun and The New York Post, as well as Fox News. His publications and news outlets have had a destabilizing effect on democracy. In 2011, the Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World shut down due to its use of phone hacking practices.


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8. The Trump family

The Trump family, all wearing tuxedos, gather together at a gala, with Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" in a gold gown standing among them.

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Fred Trump was a real-estate developer and businessman whose housing developments were sued for racial discrimination. His son Donald Trump went on to become the 45th president of the United States. While in office, Trump stoked far-right discriminatory views, attempted to overturn the 2020 election, incited an insurrection, and became the first president to be impeached twice. Recently, he was arrested in connection with attempts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

9. The Getty family

J. Paul Getty walks with a woman in a white dress, while Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" stands nearby.

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The Getty family were prominent oil tycoons in the 20th century. J. Paul Getty founded Getty Oil in 1942 and became a billionaire before his death in 1976. Outside of his massive wealth and art institutions such as the Getty Center, Getty may be best known for negotiating a lower ransom for his grandson when he was kidnapped in 1973.

10. Prescott Bush

Prescott Bush and Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" look over a newspaper.

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A banker and Republican senator from Connecticut, Prescott Bush kicked off the Bush Republican political dynasty. Both his son George H.W. Bush and his grandson George W. Bush served as president of the United States. One firm where Prescott Bush worked, Brown Brothers Harriman, was connected to German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, who helped fund Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. BBH’s German assets were seized by the U.S. government in 1942 due to the Trading with the Enemy Act, but Bush was not convicted of a crime.

11. William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst stands with three women, including Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher."

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Media mogul William Randolph Hearst started his newspaper career by taking over the San Francisco Examiner from his father. Over the course of his life, he expanded to magazines (including Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar), radio, and film. His conflict with fellow news distributor Joseph Pulitzer led to the rise of “yellow journalism,” which prioritizes sensationalism over fact (something another media mogul on this list is all too familiar with). Anti-Spanish yellow journalism from both Hearst and Pulitzer publications was a factor in sending the U.S. into the Spanish-American War. Hearst himself also held deeply racist views, with his papers publishing anti-Japanese and anti-Japanese American sentiment.

12. The Rockefeller family

John D. Rockefeller and some friends, including Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher," gather together.

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John D. Rockefeller became America’s first billionaire, thanks to the oil industry. He and his brother William A. Rockefeller were among the co-founders of Standard Oil, which was ruled to be an illegal monopoly in 1911. Standard Oil was split into 43 companies, with descendants including Chevron and ExxonMobil. A 2021 study demonstrates how the latter shifts blame for climate change onto consumers.


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13. Edward L. Doheny

Edward L. Doheny stands beside Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" and his son.

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Another oil tycoon on the list is Edward L. Doheny, who kicked off a petroleum boom in Southern California with his successful Los Angeles oil well. He was also involved in one of the biggest scandals in American politics: the Teapot Dome Scandal. Doheny was one of many oilmen to bribe Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall for access to Navy oil reserves at Wyoming’s Teapot Dome. Doheny was charged, then acquitted, for bribing Fall. For his part, Fall became the first U.S. cabinet official to go to prison.

14. The Vanderbilt family

Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" gathers with a group of women in a room full of typewriters.

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Once the wealthiest family in the U.S., the Vanderbilts were major players during the Gilded Age thanks to their shipping and railroad empire. The family’s fortune dwindled in the mid-20th century, in what is now referred to as “The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.” (Hey, sounds like another family I know!)

15. John Francis Queeny

Verna from "The Fall of the House of Usher" carries a parasol while walking next to John Francis Queeny.

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John Francis Queeny founded the chemical company Monsanto in 1901. Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) would go on to become one of the manufacturers of Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used by the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Monsanto is also known for producing the weed killer Roundup, which has been associated with potential carcinogens, and for threatening small farmers with its genetically modified seeds.

The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.

The Fall of the House of Usher

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