How is The Canterville Ghost different from the old traditional ghost story?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a few ways, The Canterville Ghost is similar to a traditional ghost story. It is a story about a ghost that haunts a big mansion. The story even comes complete with a creepy blood stain that won't go away. Readers find out fairly early on in the story that people have been afraid to live in the house for quite some time because of the ghost's haunting presence. Even the ghost's first appearance is quite scary in its description.

His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

Of course, this moment is when the story starts to turn the traditional ghost story on its head. It turns out that unlike normal ghost stories, the Otis family is completely unafraid of Sir Simon's ghost. Mr. Otis isn't scared at all at the presence of Sir Simon appearing outside of the door in the middle of the night. In fact, Mr. Otis is annoyed at having to get out of bed in the first place. Mr. Otis kindly tells Sir Simon to stop making so much noise, and Mr. Otis even hands the ghost some oil to quiet his chains. He then turns around and goes back to bed. Sir Simon is left standing there completely speechless and quite dumbfounded.

"I shall leave it here for you by the bedroom candles, and will be happy to supply you with more, should you require it." With these words the United States Minister laid the bottle down on a marble table, and, closing his door, retired to rest.

From this point forward, the story ramps up its departure from the traditional ghost story. The members of the Otis family turn out to be antagonistic toward the ghost. The twins make it their personal mission to make the ghost's existence miserable. By the time that Virginia helps out Sir Simon, he is afraid to come out of his hiding spots for fear of coming across any more of their tricks.