I would agree that the Otis family's terrorizing of Sir Simon's ghost is a very interesting part of the story. It's just so completely unexpected. That is especially true when I consider the popularity of modern day horror movies. They're everywhere, and they all seem to try and one up each other. The scarier and gorier the better. No audience member goes to one of those movies expecting the characters in the movie not to be frightened of the supernatural creatures; however, that's exactly what happens in "The Canterville Ghost."
The Otis family's disregard for the ghost starts right away. Lord Canterville tells Mr. Otis about the ghost, and Mr. Otis isn't concerned in the slightest. He doesn't bat an eye or second guess his purchase at all. Quite the opposite actually. He flat out tells Lord Canterville that he doesn't believe that a ghost exists at all. Lord Canterville insists that the ghost exists, and Mr. Otis then makes a joke of it.
"I fear that the ghost exists," said Lord Canterville, smiling, "though it may have resisted the overtures of your enterprising impresarios. It has been well known for three centuries, since 1584 in fact, and always makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family."
"Well, so does the family doctor for that matter, Lord Canterville. But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy."
Mr. Otis's complete disregard for the possibility of a ghost is so completely atypical that it is immediately interesting. Who exactly is this Otis guy? Is he that dumb or just that brave?
The majority of the Otis family responds similarly as well. Even in the face of ghostly evidence, the Otis family stays unconcerned. The first evidence of the possibility of a haunting is the creepy bloodstain that can't be gotten rid of. Mrs. Umney explains what the stain is from and that it has been present for hundreds of years. Washington Otis is completely unfazed. He politely explains that his special cleaner can get rid of the stain, and he proceeds to rid the house of the stain.
"The blood-stain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed."
"That is all nonsense," cried Washington Otis; "Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time," and before the terrified housekeeper could interfere, he had fallen upon his knees, and was rapidly scouring the floor with a small stick of what looked like a black cosmetic. In a few moments no trace of the bloodstain could be seen.
The bloodstain does return, and the Otis family remains more or less unconcerned about any potential dangers that the ghost might present. Instead they are interested in the ghost.
The whole family were now quite interested . . .
Soon after, Sir Simon decides to make an actual appearance. This is my favorite part of the story. Sir Simon shows up looking very scary. He's shaking metal chains, he's got red eyes, and he's wearing worn out clothing. He's not friendly looking.
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.
I'd be scared. If this were a horror movie, I'd be hiding behind my pillow. I don't do scary movies. But Mr. Otis isn't scared at all. He's more annoyed than anything else. He has been forced out of bed late at night because of all of the noise that the ghost is making, and he wants to go back to sleep. Mr. Otis calmly hands the ghost a bottle of oil, tells him to use it, turns around, closes the door, and promptly returns to bed. Sir Simon is left standing in the the hall dumbstruck by what has just occurred.
"My dear sir," said Mr. Otis, "I really must insist on your oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator. It is said to be completely efficacious upon one application, and there are several testimonials to that effect on the wrapper from some of our most eminent native divines. 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.
For a moment the Canterville ghost stood quite motionless in natural indignation; then, dashing the bottle violently upon the polished floor, he fled down the corridor, uttering hollow groans, and emitting a ghastly green light.
From there things only escalate. The twins especially love to antagonize Sir Simon. They set trip wires up in the hall, lube up the hallway, set buckets of water up on doorways, make fake ghosts to scare Sir Simon, and shoot their pea shooters at him. At the beginning of the story, readers assume that the ghost will antagonize the Otis family throughout; however, the Otis family completely turns the tables on Sir Simon, which makes the entire story a very interesting and funny read.