House on Haunted Hill (1959) “Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here”


vintage house on haunted hill poster


Disembodied screams, rattling chains, and ghoulish groans amidst creaking doors- all a delicious mixture of frightful sounds that emanate from a jet-black screen.

Suddenly Watson Pritchard’s floating head narrates the evening’s spooky tale…

“The ghosts are moving tonight, restless… hungry. May I introduce myself? I’m Watson Pritchard. In just a moment I’ll show you the only really haunted house in the world. Since it was built a century ago, seven people including my brother have been murdered in it, since then, I own the house. I’ve only spent one night there and when they found me in the morning, I… I was almost dead.” -Watson Pritchard

The marvelously dashing face of Vincent Price or for the film’s purposes, Frederick Loren’s head sporting a plucky mustache and highbrow tone introduces himself in front of the imposing Modern-Ancient structure.

“I’m Frederick Loren and I’ve rented the house on haunted hill tonight so my wife can give a party. A haunted house party… She’s so amusing. There’ll be food and drink and ghosts and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I’ll give you each $10,000. Or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. Ah, but here come our other guests…”
“It was my wife’s idea to have our guests come in funeral cars… She’s so amusing. Her sense of humor is shall we say, original. I dreamt up the hearse. It’s empty now but after a night in the house on haunted hill… who knows.”
“Lance Schroeder a test pilot, no doubt a brave man but don’t you think you can be much braver if you’re paid for it?”
“Ruth Bridges the newspaper columnist. She says the reason for her coming to the party is to write a feature article on ghosts. She’s also desperate for money. Gambling.”
“Watson Pritchard a man living in mortal fear of a house and yet he’s risking his life to spend another night here… I wonder why? He says for money.”
“Dr. David Trent a psychiatrist. He claims that my ghost will help his work on hysteria. But don’t you see a little touch of greed there around the mouth and eyes?”
“This is Nora Manning- I picked her from the thousands of people who work for me because she needed the 10,000 more than most. Supports her whole family… Isn’t she pretty?”
“The parties’ starting now and you have until midnight to find the house on haunted hill.”




Von Dexter’s music, a mixture of solemn strings, and a sustained and queasy Hammond organ & Theremin greet us with an eerie funeral dirge while the shiny black gimmicky funeral cars pull up in front of the quite sinister post-modern structure.

And this is just the opening fanfare of William Castle’s classic House on Haunted Hill!



One of William Castle’s most beloved low-budget, fun-house fright ride through classical B movie horror and exquisitely campy performances. Distributed by Allied Artists and written by Robb White who also did the screenplay for Castle’s Macabre 1958, The Tingler 1959 13 Ghosts 1960 & Homicidal 1961.

written by Robb White

White’s story is quirky and wonderfully macabre as it works at a jolting pace delivering some of the most memorable moments of offbeat suspense in this classic B&W B-Horror morsel from the 50s!

The success of the film inspired Alfred Hitchcock to go out and make his own low-budget horror picture- Psycho 1960.

Much of the style and atmosphere can be attributed to the unorthodox detail by art director Dave Milton and set designer Morris Hoffman. The exterior of the house is actually The Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, built in 1924, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


the house


There’s a pervasive sense of dread in House on Haunted Hill, that makes the house itself a ‘spook.’
Whether the house is haunted or not, its forbidding presence tells us that it just doesn’t matter. The history of the house itself, its violent past is enough to give one chills. While not in the classic sense like that of Robert Wise’s diseased and imposing Hill House, William Castle does a fabulous job of inventing a parameter to tell a very cheeky and pleasurable little scare story. As David J Skal puts it succinctly “The real, if unintentional spook in House on Haunted Hill is postwar affluence.”

The narrative is fueled by the creepy atmosphere of the house itself. Not using a claustrophobic Old Dark House trope but rather a modern Gothic construction that swallows you up with odd motifs and a sense of malignancy within the fortress walls. The starkness of the wine cellar and it’s empty minuscule dark grey rooms with sliding panels is almost more creepy than black shadowy corners with cobwebs and clutter. Director of Photography Carl E Guthrie  (Caged 1950) offers some stunning and odd perspective camera angles and low lighting which aid in the disjointed feeling of the sinister house’s magnetism.

interior house

Nora explores the house

The constant explorations into the viscera of the house by the guests is almost as titillating as the criminal set-up and conspiracy that is afoot propelled by Von Dexter’s tantalizingly eerie musical score with deep piano notes and eerie wispy soprano glossolalia.

House on Haunted Hill works wonderfully, partly due to the presence of the urbane master of chills and thrills, the great Vincent Price who plays millionaire playboy Frederick Loren. Vincent Price was a versatile actor who should not be pigeonholed as merely a titan of terror, given his too numerous layered performances in great films like Otto Preminger’s Laura ’44, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Dragonwyck ’46, etc. Vincent Price did however make his mark on the horror genre with House on Haunted Hill. The New York Herald-Tribune praised Price’s performance as having “waggish style and bon-vivant skepticism.”


As David J Skal puts it in his, The Monster Show {Vincent Price} “Could bring an arch elegance to the most insipid goings-on…

The omnipresent Elisha Cook Jr. is superb as Watson Pritchard, the neurotic sot who is riddled with fear, spouting anecdotes about the house’s grisly history.

I adore Elisha Cook, from his cameo in Rosemary’s Baby, his performance as George Peatty in Kubrick’s masterpiece The Killing ’56 to his very uniquely intense role as Cliff the sexually jazzed up drummer in Phantom Lady ’44.

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 4 The last Killing in a Lineup of unsung noir

Elisha Cook Jr as the doomed George Peatty in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing ’56.

The strikingly beautiful Carol Ohmart plays Loren’s treacherously seductive wife Annabelle who is sick of her husband’s irrational jealousy. Has she already tried to poison him once but failed? The story alludes to as much. Annabelle wouldn’t be happy with a million-dollar divorce settlement, she wants ALL her husband’s money! Annabelle is Loren’s fourth wife, the first wife simply disappeared.

The supporting cast is made up of Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Julie Mitchum, Leona Anderson, and Howard Hoffman as Mrs. & Mr. Jonas Slydes.

And of course, the skeleton who is billed as playing ‘himself!’




CapturFiles_30 If I were going to haunt somebody this would certainly be the house I'd do it in
“If I were going to haunt somebody this would certainly be the house I’d do it in.”
CapturFiles_31 who closed the front door
who closed the front door?CapturFiles_33


The chandelier nearly kills Nora.



CapturFiles_7 why all these strangers why none of our friends do we have any friends no your jealousy took care of that
Annabelle- “Why all these strangers, why none of our friends?” Frederick -“Do we have any friends?”Annabelle- “No your jealousy took care of that.”
CapturFiles_3 and from drunk to jet pilot
“I had a reason for inviting each guest. I wanted kind of a cross-sectionthey all share one thing they all need money. Now let’s see if they’re brave enough to earn it…From psychiatrist to typist and from drunk to jet pilot.”
CapturFiles_9 don't worry I haven't poisoned it
Annabelle “Don’t worry I haven’t poisoned it.”
CapturFiles_9 make a good headline playboy kills wife with champagne cork
Frederick- “Make a good headline playboy kills wife with a champagne cork.”
CapturFiles_13 of all my wives you're the least agreeable but still alive
Frederick- “Of all my wives you’re the least agreeable” Annabelle-“But still alive.”
CapturFiles_13a your possessiveness is maddening
“Your possessiveness is maddening.”
CapturFiles_13b remember the fun we had when you poisoned me- something you ate the doctor says yes arsenic on the rocks
Frederick- “Remember the fun we had when you poisoned me.” Annabelle“Something you ate the doctor says.” Frederick- “Yes arsenic on the rocks.”


CapturFiles_13f and don't sit up all night trying to think of ways to get rid of me- it makes wrinkles
Frederick- “And don’t let the ghosts and the ghouls disturb you” Annabelle- “Darling the only ghoul in the house is you.” Frederick- “And don’t sit up all night trying to think of ways to get rid of me- it makes wrinkles.”

Millionaire Frederick Loren rents a notorious house, the scene of seven brutal murders. Then he invites a sampling of bourgeois America to the Modern-Gothic ‘haunted house’ so that his beautiful wife Annabelle can play party hostess. Behind the couple’s motivations is a hostile and cunning strategy to destroy each other while manipulating their unwitting guests.

The eccentric Loren offers each of the 5 invited an award of $10,000, but only if they are willing to remain in the house once the caretakers lock them in after midnight. Presented in nifty little coffins, they’re each given a gun as charming little party favors. This was the 50s after all, a time when the American Dream was blossoming with possibility and everyone wanted a piece of the pie, willing to do whatever it takes to grab some ready cash. Even if it meant being trapped until morning in an odd and unsavory Gothic structure with veritable strangers.

CapturFiles_3 this is the knife she used on my brother and her sister Hacked them to pieces
Watson Pritchard-“This is the knife she used on my brother and her sister. Hacked them to pieces.”
CapturFiles_4 4 we found parts of the body all over the house in places you wouldn't think**
“We found parts of the body all over the house in places you wouldn’t think.”
CapturFiles_5 so there are two loose heads just floating around in here somewhere-lance
Lance- “So there are two loose heads just floating around in here somewhere?”
CapturFiles_5 the wife probably in a rage threatened her husband with a knife and then carried away by hysteria took a swing at him and simply went on from there
Dr.Trent-“The wife probably in a rage threatened her husband with a knife and then carried away by hysteria took a swing at him and simply went on from there.”

Among them is Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), owner of the house and weary alcoholic who always looks dizzy and dismayed as he relates the story of his brother’s ghastly murder. Pritchard rambles on with his nihilistic warnings of death. He is the authority on the place and the gruesome circumstances involving the other untimely and violent deaths plaguing the cursed house.

Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) is a suave test pilot who isn’t easily rattled. Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig) works for one of Loren’s companies as a secretary. Nora needs the money to help care for her family and does a majority of the film’s screaming. She plays the proverbial ‘hysterical’ woman and is in fact dubbed that by psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal) a man who specializes in cases of ‘hysteria.’ Saying that ghosts are merely ‘creations’ of hysteria.

Lastly is another avid drinker, newspaper writer Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum) who desperately needs the money because of her gambling addiction. As the guests settle in for the night’s festivities, eerie events begin to unfold. A flickering and falling chandelier. The grotesquely patent blood stain that drips on Ruth Bridger’s hand, the vat filled with acid in the wine cellar, the horrific white-eyed hag in black with talon-like fingers that seems to float passed Nora in the darkness.

Eerie sound effects by Ralph Butler and Charles G.Schelling and the freakish severed head in Nora’s suitcase all help build the hysteria that drives Nora to ultimately shoot Frederick Loren or does she?


CapturFiles_7 you should cancel this party
Pritchard warns Loren to cancel the party the ghosts are already moving about.
Loren begins to tell everyone about the rules of the party. No phone, no electricity no way to call for help…
CapturFiles_11 no phone, no electricity no way to call for help-like a coffin
Pritchard-“Like a coffin.”
CapturFiles_12 why pritchard here promises us genuine ghosts why the party aside from the pleasant company? ghosts

Dr Trent-“Why the party? Aside from the pleasant company?” Frederick Loren- “Ghosts…
Why Pritchard here promises us genuine ghosts.” Pritchard- “7 now… maybe more before morning.”
CapturFiles_15 see that stain-blood
“See that blood stain.”
CapturFiles_17 a girl was killed here and whatever got her wasn't human
Pritchard- “A girl was killed here and whatever got her wasn’t human.”


The blood drips on Ruth, marking her.


CapturFiles_25a Mr Norton did a good deal of experimenting with wine but his wife didn't think it was any good- so he threw her in
Pritchard- “Mr Norton did a good deal of experimenting with wine but his wife didn’t think it was any good- so he threw her in.”
CapturFiles_27 all the murders have been sort of wild
Pritchard-“All the murders have been sort of wild.”
Looking on in horror at the deadly vat of boiling acid.


Lance tries to make nice to Nora.


looking for secret passageways and sliding doors.




the lights dim to darkness the sound of electronic cicadas drone their eerie din.




Nora tries to tell the others about the witch in black and Lance is missing!
This door was locked…see how locked it is.


Lance gets a nasty bump on the head from something that goes bump in the night.
The ghosts are after Lance now.



this wall sounds hollow.


Lance goes to the other side of the wall and begins tapping.






This iconic scene still gives me little chills even now. When I was a little Monstergirl I would actually cringe and shudder at the moment Mrs Slydes comes ‘floating’ passed Nora… I still do!


Annabelle warns Nora not to go snooping around the house, it could be dangerous.
Annabelle tells Lance that she is in danger from her husband Frederick who wants to kill her. “Would he hurt you?” “He’d kill me if he could.”


Frederick Loren insists that his wife go down to greet their guests



Nora finds one of the missing heads in her overnight case.




Jonas Slydes begs Nora to come with them before it’s too late.



The caretakers Mr & Mrs. Jonas Slydes who has worked at the house on haunted hill for years enter the parlor. Something out of Charles Adams!
Nora tells Lance that she refuses to stay in the house any further.
Loren tells Dr.Trent that it must be a clear case of hysteria where Nora is concerned. The good psychiatrist tells him she’s just upset… oh really
Loren formally introduces his wife to the guests.
With a gust of wind, the lights flicker and dim.



The front door… the only way out has been slammed shut. The Slydes have left before the designated hour.
The Slydes never leave before midnight.
Ladies and Gentleman, I’m afraid you have no choice but to stay the night.




charming party favors.
guns won’t protect Watson Pritchard from his ghosts.


I may have found one of your missing heads…




Lance asks Ruth to watch over Nora… in between drinks that is.
Lance finds the severed head hanging in the closet.
We’ll just see about these dreadful accommodations



Pritchard tells Lance that the ghosts now have Nora.





Dr. Trent tells Loren that Annabelle has committed suicide.



Nora tells Lance that she thinks Loren tried to choke her.


Annabelle was… So beautiful so greedy.


Pritchard comes to view Annabelle’s body before the ghosts take her.


Obviously one of them is a murderer!!! Annabelle couldn’t have hung herselfSo far tonight one of us was almost killed by a falling chandelier. One of us has been driven to the brink of absolute hysteria and one of us is dead.”



We’ll all stay locked in our rooms til morning- only the guilty party would leave.



Pritchard guards the door with a useless gun.


more blood drips on Ruth.
Out out damned spot!
Lance always looking to get in or out.









the old organ begins to play music by itself. It’s a nice haunted house touch.



Annabelle thinks it’s taking too long. Trent tells her they’ve driven Nora nearly to the breaking point where she’ll shoot Frederick-







Trent tries to drag Loren over to the vat of boiling acid.



Annabelle calls out for David her secret lover, Dr. Trent.













Mr. Skeleton says, “Come with me, murderess!!!



Mr Skeleton has a very John Wayne swagger!










That’s the end of all the spooky fun for now…!

I just finished reading Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants Off America. Bill Castle ALWAYS put so much of his heart, good humor, and genuine passion into every project of his. He was always thinking about his audience and how best he could entertain them.

I think that daughter Terry Castle should produce a biopic about her dad. His memoirs and the easily accessible storytelling, relating the utterly fascinating experiences of his life are every bit as titillating as one of his movies. He was loved, admired, and most of all respected by everyone he ever worked with. And all this ballyhoo and celebrating aside, he was NOT a Schlockmeister- William Castle had a serious eye for good stories and knew how to make a darn compelling picture. He treated everyone around him like a human being and knew what he wanted to do once the ideas started pouring out like smoke from one of his fat cigars!

In his chapter, The Skeleton Factory-he recounts how he had been looking for the perfect lead for House on Haunted Hill. While drinking coffee at a shop near Samuel Goldwyn’s studio, he noticed Vincent Price sitting at the next table. Price had told him that he was very dejected having been passed over for a part he really wanted. Price was very gracious with Castle’s friendly intrusion and listened while he told him about the new film he was making in which he’d be perfect for the lead. “During the night many strange ghostly things happen… blood dripping from the ceiling… walls shaking… apparitions appearing. The millionaire, the part I want you to play, has plotted to kill his wife. She plots to kill you. It’s a battle of wits” Price smiles and says, “Who wins?” Castle tells him “You do of course. She tries to throw you into a vat of boiling acid” Price says“How charming!” and agreed to do the picture.

During the scene when the ‘skeleton’ emerges out of the acid vat moving toward Annabelle, an iridescent plastic skeleton on a wire was released above the heads of the audience then reeled back in sync with the skeleton that puppeteer Vincent Price’s character Frederick Loren is reeling in so that when the gimmick goes back into it’s little black box it’s seemingly moving back into the movie screen.

William Castle dubbed this particular gimmick “Emergo” for theatergoers. The rowdy moviegoers began throwing projectiles at the skeleton so the theaters had to stop using this effect.

Emergo House on Haunted Hill premier


Emergo all!! I go for now -MonsterGirl

24 thoughts on “House on Haunted Hill (1959) “Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here”

  1. I’ve seen it so many times. Favorite line: “Arsenic on the rocks”.
    There are spots where Nora annoys me greatly (everytime she screams).
    Ruth’s several “Scotch and…” orders annoy me too. Well which is it, water or soda?
    I still have trouble suspending my disbelief every time the scary lady rolls away from Nora on the skateboard, or whatever it is that they used.
    Lovely post. Now I must go read the other fabulous William Castle blogathon posts. :)

    1. Haha, Sometime I wished Nora fell in the vat. The penultimate screamer I need aspirin after she lets one rip. I also love the Scotch And… It’s filled with so many screwy plot holes but it’s a hell of a fun ride. thanks for joining us for the festivities….

  2. Joey, you and Patti sure got your swell William Castle Blogathon off to a rousing (and screaming) start! Even a scaredy cat like me can be engrossed (and gross when it comes to the blood :-)) with Vincent Price, Richard Long, and Elisha Cook Jr.! Fun Fact: a while back, I saw a LIFE Magazine picture with Carole Ohmart in sand to look like a lovely sphinx because she supposedly claimed to be part Egyptian. I love the tidbits about that Frank Lloyd Wright house, too! Love that GIF and the “John Wayne swagger” with the skeleton, too! Great job, dear pal!

    1. Haha, it’s actually me and Terri (Goregirl) who is just as Bill Castle would say Cool-O to host this with. Her gifs have me rolling in the aisles. I’m glad you caught the John Wayne swagger bit. I thought that was the funniest thing ever. And you don’t really have to be brave to enjoy a good Castle film. He’s done noir and sword and sandal and programmers and westerns and gee just a bunch of fun galore. I’d love to see that LIFE magazine article I love Olhmart. We can’t wait to see your post on THE SPIRIT IS WILLING and ZOTZ

  3. Thanks for the tip! Just checking out these movies for the Blogathon has me even more impressed with Our Man Castle’s versatility! :-D I’ll keep my eyes peeled (ouch! :-)) for the picture of Carole Ohmart, and I hope you gals and the rest of the bloggers will enjoy Team Bartilucci’s double-feature! :-)

    1. BTW-I’ve been quite overwhelmed here at the drive in, so don’t think that I’ve forgotten to read your wonderful The Asphalt Jungle feature at TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED. Once Bill Castle gets some love- I’m heading over to your place to show my love there… your pal joey

  4. Ahhh… Emergo! And Vincent Price can make anything awesome.

    It was interesting to hear insights about Castle and Price’s working relationship in the documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, and how their respective personalities were virtual opposites. House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler are evidence that they somehow managed to form a great working relationship.

    Fun post!

    1. I adore Vincent Price. He was an urbane gentleman all the way. I enjoyed Spine Tingler immensely- Castle was so easy to get along with. He tried to make everyone feel so at ease. I often wonder why the two didn’t do more films together. But then again, Corman and Price had the best chemistry that’s for sure

  5. I can only imagine how wonderful Vincent Price was in this movie. Great story of Castle seeing him at the coffee shop and offering him the lead.

    Well done, Jo! I loved your use of humour and all the great screen caps.

    1. Thanks so much Ruth, it truly is such a wonderfully fun film to sit through over and over again. So many little odd details that just don’t matter if they don’t make sense. Price is always mesmerizing and Castle just pulled it all together like a fun house ride. I can’t wait to read your take on THE OLD DARK HOUSE. I watched it the other night and found it so amusing. Tom Poston is just wonderful. Charles Adams was all over it… just a fun creepy romp- So very happy you’re with us to celebrate my friend

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