A Haunted House Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator, apparently a woman, begins: “Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting.” Along with her husband, the narrator experiences the sensations of a home literally alive with memories. She does not, however, try to keep the reader in suspense regarding the mysterious openings and closings of doors and windows that she and her husband witness. Despite the fact that she knows two ghosts wander through her home, she is not afraid. The ghosts, after all, mean the narrator and her husband no harm.

The ghosts clearly are conducting a search. They look for something that may have been left out in the garden, or perhaps up in the loft. The narrator is anxious to discover what the object of the ghosts’ search can be. The mystery is deepened by the response of the house itself to the searchers; it has a pulse that quickens as the ghosts seem on the verge of recovering whatever it is they have lost. The narrator hears the house’s heartbeat as the word “safe” repeated rhythmically. The house also speaks of a treasure hidden somewhere within its rooms. This must be what the ghosts are looking for.

Although she does not tell how, the narrator has learned a few details from the ghosts’ past. They lived in the house as man and wife hundreds of years before. After the woman died suddenly, the man abandoned the house and wandered throughout the globe. After his death, he returned to be reunited with his wife. The narrator realizes that what the man could not find on his journey, and what the ghost couple still seek, is the joy of a loving relationship. She overhears the ghost husband tell his wife that their lives were full of kisses without number.

Eventually the ghosts come on the narrator and her husband asleep in their bed. The ghosts seem to realize that the living couple may feel the kind of love that they themselves once shared. The narrator is awakened by the light of the dead couple’s silver lantern and by the realization that she knows, in fact she possesses, what the ghosts have been searching for. The ghosts have buried their emotional treasure in the narrator and her husband—in their living love. She calls this feeling of joy and love the light in the heart.