The Canterville Ghost cover image summary

The Canterville Ghost Summary

In The Canterville Ghost, Virginia befriends the ghost haunting Centerville Chase. She chastises him for rattling his chains like a stereotypical ghost. She helps him cross over into the afterlife, but never describes what she saw there.

  • Horace B. Otis and his family move into Canterville Chase despite the warnings of Lord Canterville himself. The house is haunted by the ghost of Sir Simon, who killed his wife there in 1575.

  • Otis's housekeeper claims that the blood stain in the living room dates back to the day of the murder. Otis scoffs at this and cleans it up, but the blood stain reappears the morning after. Later, it's revealed that the ghost used Virginia Otis's paints to recreate the stain.

  • Virginia chastises Sir Simon for stealing the paints, but after talking to him agrees to help him leave the house and travel to another dimension. Virginia returns from their journey unharmed. 


“The Canterville Ghost” begins with the sale of an old British mansion called Canterville Chase to Horace B. Otis, an American minister. Though the former owner, Lord Canterville, warns Mr. Otis that the mansion is haunted, Mr. Otis is not worried and replies that ghosts do not exist. Soon after, Mr. Otis moves into the Chase with the rest of his family: his wife, Lucretia; his eldest son, Washington; his fifteen-year-old daughter, Virginia; and his two young twin boys. Upon moving in, Mrs. Otis notices a dull red stain on the floor and requests that it be cleaned. Their housekeeper reveals that it is a bloodstain from the murder of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was killed in 1575 by her husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, and that it cannot be removed. She warns Mrs. Otis that Sir Simon’s guilty ghost still haunts Canterville Chase. Dismissing the housekeeper’s story as nonsense, Washington quickly pulls out a container of Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover, scrubbing it onto the spot until the stain is gone. As soon as the stain is removed, lightning flashes and a peal of thunder rocks the house. The housekeeper faints in terror.

The next morning, the Otises find that the stain has mysteriously returned. For the next few days they routinely clean the stain only to see it reappear the next morning. Intrigued, the Otis family decides that the house is, in fact, haunted. A few nights later, Mr. Otis is awakened in the middle of the night by a clanking noise. Venturing into the hallway, he encounters the ghost of Sir Simon. Rather than being frightened by Sir Simon’s glowing red eyes, matted hair, and rusty manacles, Mr. Otis politely insists that the ghost oil his chains and gives him a bottle of Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator for this purpose. Utterly humiliated, Sir Simon retreats down the hallway until he encounters the twins, who throw pillows at his head. Returning to his chamber, Sir Simon remembers his long and successful career as a ghost, fuming that never in three hundred years of haunting maids and guests has he been so insulted. Determined to scare these “wretched modern Americans,” Sir Simon stays up all night plotting his revenge.

Though the bloodstain remains, the Otises humorously note that it is changing in color on a daily basis. Virginia Otis, however,...

(The entire section is 952 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

"The Canterville Ghost" is a parody featuring a dramatic spirit named Sir Simon and an American ambassador named Mr. Hiram B. Otis. Mr. Otis...

(The entire section is 122 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Purchasing Canterville Chase
As the story opens, Horace B. Otis, the brusque American minister, ignores the warnings of several...

(The entire section is 1034 words.)