How do the boys respond to the potential ghost in the house in "The Night the Ghost Got In"?

In "The Night the Ghost Got In," the boys respond to the potential ghost in the house with fear. The narrator's brother Herman rushes to his room and slams the door behind him. As for the narrator, he slams the door shut at the top of the stairs and jams his knee against it.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is just after 1:00 a.m. when the narrator believes that he hears the quick pacing of footsteps around his dining room table downstairs. He has just emerged from a bath and is clad in only a towel as he begins to further investigate the source of these footsteps. Initially,...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

It is just after 1:00 a.m. when the narrator believes that he hears the quick pacing of footsteps around his dining room table downstairs. He has just emerged from a bath and is clad in only a towel as he begins to further investigate the source of these footsteps. Initially, he believes that the footsteps belong to his father or brother, as the weight and force of the steps indicate that it is a man who is downstairs.

The footsteps continue in the circular pattern of the dining room table; the narrator hears a particular board creak each time the steps fall upon it. After several minutes of listening to the rhythmic cadence of these footsteps which only continue to circle the table, the suspense is too much. The narrator goes to his brother's bedroom and wakes him up, telling him that something is downstairs.

The brothers jointly go to the top of the staircase, listening with anticipation for the sounds. At first, nothing can be heard, but the narrator presses his brother to wait and listen.

The sounds return, and this time the footsteps are those of a man running, and the steps head up the stairs where the boys stand. They can't see anything, yet they clearly hear the steps.

This terrifies the narrator's brother, who runs into his room and slams the door. The narrator slams the door at the top of the stairs and presses his knee into it for several minutes. All of the slamming wakes the boys' mother, who begins an investigation of her own.

While the narrator's brother runs away from the eerie sounds in order to hide in his room, the narrator reacts with more confidence. He actively seeks out the source of the sound and then uses his own body to try to block the "ghost" from entering their upstairs area.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The drama of the ghost begins when the narrator steps out of the bathtub and hears the sound of someone walking around downstairs in the dining room. His response to this is fairly ambivalent at first, as he assumes that the nose is being made by his father or brother, both of whom are expected to return from Indianapolis at any moment. His next suspicion is that the sound he hears is the footsteps of a burglar.

His response then heightens, and our narrator then awakens his other brother, Herman, and the two listen but can hear nothing. Herman's initial response is to want to go back to bed, but then the two hear the nose again. The footsteps sound faster now, and whoever or whatever is making them starts moving up the stairs.

Since they can’t see anything from their vantage point at the top of their stairs, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the intruder is not a person, but a ghost. At this thought, the brothers clearly forget that ghosts are meant to be able to move through closed doors, because both seek to put a door between them and the ghost.

When the boys’ mother wakes up and gets involved in the situation, their response is to go along with the notion of the noises having been made by a burglar. They are aware that their mother is even more scared of ghosts than she is of burglars.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At first, the narrator thinks that the alleged ghost that's stalking the house is his father or his brother Roy just back from Indianapolis. Then he thinks it might be a burglar lurking around the dining room. It's only later on that the thought crosses his mind that, horror of horrors, there might be a ghost in the house.

In any case, the narrator's keen to investigate the source of all those strange creaking sounds emanating from the floorboards in the dining room. He tiptoes along the corridor to his brother Herman's bedroom. He wakes him up, and ever so quietly, he whispers to him that there's “something” downstairs.

Herman gets out of bed and accompanies his brother to the head of the back staircase where they listen closely together. Initially, there's nothing to be heard, not a single sound. Feeling like he's been dragged out of bed for no good reason, Herman wants to go back to sleep. But his brother insists that there's something down there.

Just then, more sounds can be heard. Only this time, it sounds like a man running up the stairs towards the narrator and his brother. As the brothers can't actually see anything, it would appear that there's a ghost wandering around the house. Whatever it is, it's got the boys well and truly spooked. Herman rushes back to his bedroom and slams the door behind him, and his brother slams the door shut at the top of the stairs and holds his knee against it.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Night the Ghost Got In" is a short, fictional story written by American writer, cartoonist, journalist, playwright, and humorist James Thurber, which, basically, showcases a night he remembers from his childhood. The narrator, who is Thurber himself, hears strange noises coming from the dining room, while he is taking a bath. At first, he assumes that it is someone from his family, but as soon as he realizes that this is not the case, he gets out of the bath to investigate the situation. Thinking that it might be a burglar, James goes to wake his brother Herman; Herman is very scared, but he decides to accompany his brother. Once they get to the stairs, they hear how the footsteps become louder, as if someone is coming towards them, and so they run back to their rooms and slam the doors.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team