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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for House on Haunted Hill can be found here.
House on Haunted Hill is the brainchild of American screenwriter Robb White, who was also the screenwriter for another of director William Castle's films, The Tingler (1959). A remake, House on Haunted Hill was released in 1999.
That was the Ennis House aka the Ennis-Brown House, designed for Charles and Mabel Ennis by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1923. It is located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, south of Griffith Park.
Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) rented the house for a "haunted house" party that his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) wanted to throw. Of course, they each had their own underlying motives.
There is test pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), psychiatrist Dr David Trent (Alan Marshal), owner Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), and typist Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig). Except for the owner and for Dr Trent (who wants to investigate the supernatural), they were all chosen because they wanted/needed the $10,000 that Loren was offering to anyone who could stay the night in the house. Add these five to Frederick and Annabelle Loren, and there are seven people in all -- three women and four men. Of course, some of them had underlying motives, too.
Seven people, three women and four men, including Watson Pritchard's brother, have been murdered in the house. Parts of the bodies were found all over the house, but the heads have never been found. Pritchard himself spent a night in the house and was found almost dead the next morning. He claims that the heads can be heard at night whispering to each other.
Nora shoots Frederick in the wine cellar, Trent comes out of a side room and pulls Frederick's body toward the acid vat, and the screen goes black. Annabelle goes looking for Trent in the wine cellar. A skeleton rises from the acid vat, and Frederick's voice can be heard calling Annabelle a murderess. The skeleton advances on Annabelle, and she stumbles backwards into the acid vat. Frederick comes out of a hidden room, and the wires controlling the skeleton are shown. "Good night, Doctor. Good night, Annabelle," Frederick says to himself. "The crime you planned was indeed perfect, only the victim is alive and the murderers are not. It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing, too." Frederick turns himself over to the other guests, informing them that Nora's gun was loaded with blanks and that Trent and Annabelle were conspiring to kill him. In the final scene, Prichard looks into the acid vat and says, "Now there are nine. There will be more...many more. They're coming for me now. And then they'll come for you."
That question has received a considerable amount of discussion. Some viewers believe that all of the spooky effects, e.g., the dripping blood, the skeleton on wires, the snaky rope, the gliding old lady, Annabelle floating outside the window, etc., were either setups by Frederick and/or Annabelle or they were parts of Nora's hallucinations. Others believe that there might be something malevolent about the house that causes people with animosity toward another person to kill that person. In the end, the definitive answer is up to the viewer to decide.
Director William Castle was known for his use of gimmicks to draw the audience into the experience of his movies. For House on Haunted Hill, he created the Emergo, an elaborate pulley system that allowed a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience.
House on Haunted Hill Complete Story - Enhanced Presentation includes highlighted all dialogue and over 200 screenshots in sync with the story.
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