113 user 79 critic

Ghost Story (1981)

Two generations of men find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman. When the son of one of the elderly men returns to his hometown after his brother's mysterious death, they attempt to unravel her story.


John Irvin


Peter Straub (novel), Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay)

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From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred Astaire ... Ricky Hawthorne
Melvyn Douglas ... John Jaffrey
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Edward Wanderley
John Houseman ... Sears James
Craig Wasson ... Don / David
Patricia Neal ... Stella
Alice Krige ... Alma / Eva
Jacqueline Brookes Jacqueline Brookes ... Milly
Miguel Fernandes ... Gregory Bate
Lance Holcomb ... Fenny Bate
Mark Chamberlin Mark Chamberlin ... Young John Jaffrey
Tim Choate ... Young Ricky Hawthorne
Kurt Johnson ... Young Edward Wanderley
Ken Olin ... Young Sears James
Brad Sullivan ... Sheriff Hardesty


Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing. Written by Jeanne Armintrout <jeannee@uwyo.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The time has come to tell the tale.


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuento de fantasmas See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,105,729, 20 December 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of two suspense-horror movies that child actor Lance Holcomb appeared in during 1981 with the other film being Venom (1981). See more »


With David's naked plunge through the window, not only does the towel disappear but in the distant long shot of him falling from the building, there is no broken window. See more »


Ricky Hawthorne: Good Lord, she's in the pond!
Gregory Bate: Alive. Still alive.
See more »


Referenced in Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) See more »


Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
Written by F. Dudleigh Vernor and Byron D. Stokes
Performed by Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians (as His Royal Canadians)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

What do Peter Straub and Stephen King have in common besides a talent for the macabre? Bad adaptations.
21 October 2009 | by ihatespikeSee all my reviews

I love a good scary story, and in spite of the large selection in both the film and book industry, good ones are very rare indeed.

This is not one of them. Like the adaptation of The Shining, Ghost story takes every bit of intrigue and plot that the book was overflowing with and tosses it out the window. Unlike The Shining however, Ghost story doesn't even manage to be a good scary movie on its own.

Whoever composed the musical score should be shot. It's overbearing and loud in scenes that call for a low key to enhance suspense, making all the "tense" scenes appear comical or inappropriate, like playing polka at a funeral. The acting is competent but since I'm not made to care about any of them the movie plays like a trailer instead of an actual film. The makeup and special effects were definitely the work of talent, but a lousy substitute for what it should have been. The only thing about it I really liked was Fred Astaire because I couldn't have picked a better Ricky Hawthorne myself.

Basically this movie replaced one of the most intriguing villains I've ever read about with a sloppy ghost woman, sacrificed suspense for an incoherent slap-together plot and some nudity. The scariest thing about this movie was Craig Wasson's full frontal nude scene less than ten minutes in, and Alice Krige's soggy boobies for the remainder of the film. The book isn't the greatest thing you'll ever read, but it is still a good book and didn't deserve this canker sore of a film. Why can't they remake stuff like this instead of the karate kid?

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