How did the ghost treat the earlier residents of Canterville Chase? 

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since his death in 1584, the ghost has terrorised countless residents of Canterville Chase and he is fiercely proud of his long and varied career. 

Encountering the Canterville ghost has so terrified some of the residents that they required medical treatment soon after. In Chapter Two, for instance, we learn about the ghost's treatment of the Dowager Duchess of Bolton. He terrified her by appearing as a skeleton and placing his bony hands on her shoulders while she dressed for dinner. She was so frightened that she subsequently fell into a "fit." Similarly, one of the parish rectors was left terrified after the ghost blew out his candle while he walked along the corridor. As a result of this experience, he required medical care by a doctor called Sir William Gull, well-known in the field of nervous disorders. Another resident, Madame de Tremouillac saw the Canterville ghost reading her diary by the fire in her bedroom and became so distressed that she developed "brain fever." After her recovery some weeks later, she became a devout member of the Church. At his most extreme, the Canterville ghost has also caused the suicides of two residents: a butler who shot himself after seeing a green hand tapping on a window, and Lady Stutfield, a woman who drowned herself after the ghost left a burn mark around her neck. 

For other residents of Canterville Chase, seeing the ghost has scared them so much that they have left the house. Lady Canterville's French governesses, for example, all gave their notice after seeing the ghost. Similarly, Lady Barbara Modish broke off her engagement to a member of the Canterville family after seeing the ghost and eloped to Gretna Green in Scotland to marry another man (Chapter Four). 

In fact, the story comes into being as a result of the ghost's antics. In the opening chapter, we learn that the ghost has so terrified its current residents, like Lady Canterville and the servants, and guests like Reverend Dampier, that nobody will stay at the house. This prompts the Otis family to buy Canterville Chase and this sets the scene for their meeting with the ghost. This meeting causes intense conflict as the ghost seeks to inflict the same terror on the Otises as he has with former residents but, this time, his success is far from guaranteed.