What information did Lord Canterville provide to Mr. Otis before handing over Canterville Chase?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an honest man, Lord Canterville feels that it is his duty to inform the Otis family that the Canterville house is haunted by a ghost.  As an aside, I figure a really honest man would have said something before the house was sold. 

When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms.

Lord Canterville tells Mr. Otis some specifics of the haunting.  He describes some of the haunting incidents and tells Mr. Otis that none of the younger servants ever agree to stay with the Canterville family at the house.  The ghost has even been seen by an esteemed reverend.  

". . . Mr. Otis, that the ghost has been seen by several living members of my family, as well as by the rector of the parish, the Rev. Augustus Dampier, who is a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge."

Mr. Otis's response is quite comical.  He flatly denies the existence of ghosts, and he even goes so far as to say that if ghosts were real, Americans would already have had them on display in museums or traveling road shows.

". . . I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in Europe, we'd have it at home in a very short time in one of our public museums, or on the road as a show." 

To his credit, Lord Canterville stays cordial and attempts to further warn Mr. Otis.  Lord Canterville describes a bit more history about the ghost and explains that the ghost has been haunting since the 1500's.  Mr. Otis responds with a joke, and Lord Canterville decides to drop the subject. 

"You are certainly very natural in America . . . and if you don't mind a ghost in the house, it is all right. Only you must remember I warned you."

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter One of "The Canterville Ghost," Lord Canterville sells his ancestral home, Canterville Chase, to Mr Otis. On the day of the sale, Lord Canterville feels duty-bound to inform Mr Otis that the house is haunted and this is the reason why he and his family have moved out.

In fact, the ghost has been at Canterville Chase since 1584 and, during this time, has appeared on many occasions. Lord Canterville's grand-aunt, the Dowager Duchess of Bolton, was "frightened into a fit" after the ghost put his skeletal hands on her shoulders. His wife, Lady Canterville, was also bothered by the resident ghost: she got "very little sleep at night in consequence of the mysterious noises that came from the corridor and the library." After these incidents, many of Lord Canterville's servants refused to stay at Canterville Chase, forcing the family to depart and find a new home. 

Despite Lord Canterville's warning, Mr Otis is very sceptical about the presence of a ghost because he comes from a "modern country" and believes in the laws of nature, not the supernatural. This contrast between Lord Canterville and Mr Otis represents a clash between the old world and the new. It also sets the tone for the rest of the story, by preparing the reader for the inevitable conflict between the ghost and the Otis family. 

Read the study guide:
The Canterville Ghost

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