Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

House on Haunted Hill (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

In schlock-meister director/producer William Castle's campy, cheesy and gimmicky horror film - forty years before its glossy, big-budget and elaborate remake House on Haunted Hill (1999); this original, B-movie supernatural horror film was filled with B-movie shocks and plot twists, multiple murder plots, 'haunted house' atmospherics, a few jump-scares, and carnival freak-show scares (decapitated heads, a hanging body, a falling chandelier, dripping blood, etc.) but was very effective and entertaining:

  • In the film's prologue, there were two speakers describing the stone Gothic mansion ("the house on haunted hill") that overlooked Los Angeles:
  1. the owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.) set the tone by warning about the "bewitched" horrors ahead. Pritchard was a firm believer that there had been seven inexplicable, brutal murders (three women and four men) in the reputedly-haunted house by ghosts that could now be heard at night; there had been beheadings and amputations and body parts scattered throughout the house. "The ghosts are moving tonight - restless, hungry....Since it was built a century ago, seven people, including my brother, have been murdered in there. Since then, I own the house. I've only spent one night there, and when they found me in the morning, I-I was almost dead."
  2. Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), an eccentric and slightly paranoid millionaire, an ex-playboy who was married to his fourth "amusing" wife Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart), also ominously explained how he had rented the 'house on haunted hill' from Pritchard to host a strange and mysterious overnight party for his wife. He explained that there might be murders, and that if any of his five cross-section of guests survived the 8-hour night in the locked house (after midnight), with barred windows, no electricity, and no communications devices ("like a coffin"), each would receive a bribe of $10,000 dollars; Dr. Trent realized that the ratio of males to females now in the house was the same as the bloody history of the house: ("4 of us are men, 3 are women, there's a ghost for everybody")
Loren's Five Invited Guests to the Hosted "Haunted House" Midnight Party, Plus His Wife

Lance Schroeder (Richard Long)

Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum)

Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.)

Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal)

Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig)

Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart)

Each of the guests arrived in chauffeured "funeral cars." The five guests (plus the hosts), three women and four men, who claimed they were all strangers and had never met each other, were:

  • Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a handsome test pilot
  • Miss Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum), an older newspaper columnist writing a feature article on ghosts; also desperate for money due to her gambling habit
  • Watson Pritchard, the house's fearful owner, a drunken sot
  • Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), a psychiatrist conducting research on hysteria, greedy
  • Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), a young, pretty secretary-typist who worked for one of Loren's companies, low-paid and in need of money
  • Frederick Loren, wary, paranoid and jealous of his conniving blonde wife Annabelle who wished he was dead
  • Annabelle Loren, who thought her husband was psychotic and the murderer of his previous wives ("He would kill me if he could")

Loren had rented the house, by mail correspondence, through the mansion's owner Watson Pritchard, one of the guests.

  • in fact, the house did seem spooked upon their arrival, with a slamming door and a falling chandelier. There were blood stains on the ceiling that dripped blood, a wine vat of acid in the cellar under a large trap door (the acid "destroys everything with hair and flesh, just leaves the bones"), moving walls and secret passageways, 'ghosts,' a severed head in Nora's suitcase, flickering gas lights, voices from disembodied heads, etc. Pritchard reminded everyone that the past murders in the house were not just ordianary but "wild, violent and different."
  • after a tour of the house led by Pritchard, Lance and young guest Nora Manning split off and explored the basement on their own. Lance entered a dark doorway leading to an empty room and found himself locked in. As the lights dimmed, Nora experienced a brief and frightful look at a black-garbed, wild-haired, female ghost who appeared from the shadows. Lance was discovered in the now-unlocked room, recovering from being struck on the forehead
  • later at about 20 minutes to twelve-midnight, Lance and Nora snuck out together and returned to the cellar with candles. While Lance investigated the possibility of false walls in a different room, Nora was again menaced and frightened - with an effective jump-scare - by the mysterious female ghost-ghoul. She screamed before it scurried (or floated) off and disappeared. Just before midnight in the upper hallway, a hand from a figure behind her (the home's caretaker Jonas Slydes (Howard Hoffman)) covered Nora's mouth and entreated: "Come with us before he kills you."

Nora Fearful of Ghosts
Jump-Scare: Menacing Female Hag-Ghoul Frightening Nora in Cellar

[Note: In the next scene, Jonas and his blind wife Mrs. Slydes (Leona Anderson) were introduced by Loren to the guests - they were the home's caretakers. 'Mr. Slydes' was the man in the hallway, and 'Mrs. Slydes' resembled the ghoul that had scared Nora earlier.]

  • afew minutes before midnight, when the house was locked up and Nora was unable to depart, Loren presented each guest with a "party favor" - a .45 caliber, compact, semi-automatic Colt hand-gun in a miniature coffin. Shortly later, the severed female head that Nora claimed was in her suitcase was found by Lance hanging in Nora's closet.
  • the main events that ended the film were precipitated by the suicidal hanging of Loren's wife Annabelle in the stairwell. Everyone wondered - was it suicide or murder? Had Loren pre-emptively murdered his wife? (SPOILER: It was faked. She had allied herself with Dr. David Trent to create "the perfect crime" - the two lovers were planning on orchestrating Loren's murder to acquire his wealth and fortune)
  • Lance looked after Nora's safety and then went to investigate on his own, and discovered a secret room at the end of the second floor hallway - but the door slid shut behind him. As a thunderstorm raged outside, and the lights went out, the terrified Nora became spooked in her room when Annabelle's suicide rope entered her window and coiled around her feet. She was deliberately being driven to "the brink of absolute hysteria" by the haunting ghosts (via the machinations of both Loren and Annabelle, and her partner in crime Dr. Trent).
Plot Twist: Dr. Trent and Annabelle, Two Lovers Scheming to Orchestrate Her Husband Loren's Murder
  • Nora fled from her room with her gun, and came upon Loren in the basement's wine cellar with his gun. Believing that he would try to kill her (like he had done his wife), she shot him. (SPOILER: The vengeful Loren also manipulatively faked his murder. The gun used to shoot him had blanks in it). She screamed and ran off.
Nora's 'Murder' of Loren
  • as Dr. Trent entered the cellar to dump Frederick's body into the acid vat hidden beneath a large trap-door in the floor, there was a 'lights-out' struggle between the two, and it sounded like Loren's body was dumped into the vat.

[SPOILER: However, it was soon revealed that a revived Frederick Loren had pushed Dr. Trent's body into the vat of acid.]

  • shortly later after hearing the shot, Annabelle arrived to join Trent in the cellar. Once she entered, all of the doors shut and locked, and she watched as a skeleton emerged dancing from the vat. [Note: From a side room, Loren was manipulating an "Emergo" marionette skeleton.] She believed it was her vengeful dead-murdered husband's skeleton. Scared out of her wits, the conniving wife was pursued and taunted by the skeleton, with Loren's voice:

"At last, you've got it all. Everything I have, even my life. But you're not going to live to enjoy it. Come with me, murderess. Come with me."

  • Annabelle screamed as the skeleton touched her shoulder, recoiled and backed up in fright, and tumbled into the vat behind her. Loren emerged from the shadows, manipulating the puppet-like skeleton on wires and strings. He offered silky-voiced eulogies for the two deceased plotters against him:

"Goodnight, Doctor. Goodnight, Annabelle. The crime you two planned was indeed perfect. Only the victim is alive and the murderers are not. It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing too."

  • all of the guests convened in the wine cellar, where Loren was indeed alive. He surrendered and admitted to his guests that the gun Nora used to kill him only had blanks. He had been able to prove that Trent and his wife Annabelle had died trying to kill him, but failed: "I'm ready for justice to decide if I'm innocent or guilty."
  • in the final line of dialogue, the terrified Watson Pritchard warned that the ghosts of the doomed house were now unleashed - while looking straight into the camera:

"They'll be more, many more. They're coming for me now - and then they'll come for you!"

Prologue from "House on Haunted Hill" Owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.)

Prologue by Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) Hosting a Party in the House

Reflection of Guests On the Surface of a Vat of Acid in the Cellar

Severed Head in Nora's Suitcase

The Home's Caretakers - The Slydes

Severed Head in Nora's Closet

Annabelle's Suicidal Hanging in Hallway's Stairwell

Rope Coiled Around Nora's Feet

Nora Spooked by Vision of Ghostly Annabelle Outside Her Window and Hanging by the Neck in the Hallway

Taunting and Murdered, 'Loren's' Vengeful Skeleton (a Marionette) Emerged and Rose Up From the Acid Vat

Frightfully Scared, Annabelle Backed Up Into Vat

Loren's Scare Tactic Against his Unfaithful Wife Annabelle with an "Emergo" Marionette Skeleton

The Four Surviving Guests

Loren's Admission That Two Died Trying to Kill Him

Final Words Offered by Terrified Watson Pritchard


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z