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 (based on the novel by), Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay by)
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 ... 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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The time has come to tell the tale.


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Feature film debut of Ken Olin. See more »


In the retelling of the 1931 events, Sears & Ricky describe Edward's impotence with Eva. However, Eva was silenced before she had a chance to reveal this information; information which Edward is not likely to have shared (at least, not truthfully.) See more »


Ricky Hawthorne: If only we'd been 30 instead of 20.
See more »


Referenced in The Dick Cavett Show: Episode dated 15 November 1980 (1980) 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 »

User Reviews

Chilly and underrated
3 February 2000 | by heedarmySee all my reviews

When this film was first released, it was greeted with a sense of disappointment. Many felt it did not do Peter Straub's source novel justice.

I thought this was an unfair judgement at the time, and watching the film again today confirms this belief. "Ghost Story" does not attempt to emulate the complexity of Straub's epic tale : that would have been impossible. But it does distil the essence of that story - four ageing men haunted by a terrible tragedy from their youth - and puts it on screen with chilly precision.

With some masterly photography and a recurring motif of running water (most dramatically in the truly scary bathtub scene), Irvin imbues the film with a real chill of the grave feel. The ending, as Alma descends the staircase of her decaying house in her wedding dress, isn't a gorefest : there are no elaborate effects or dramatic battles between good and evil. But it is subtly terrifying nonetheless.

Just about all the IMdB reviews, good or bad, have praised Alice Krige's performance. For such a young actress, she's simply stunning. It's a brave, brilliant portrayal. A feminist reading of the film could argue that the real horror lies in the inability of men (and especially the callow youngsters featured in the 20s flashback) to cope with a powerful, sexually-assertive woman.

This is a clever, stylish film which lends itself to differing interpretations. It creates more elegant frissons of fear than almost any other 80s horror film.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ghost Story See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,105,729, 20 December 1981

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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 »

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