Arthur Kipps, an attorney, has hired the Actor to help him tell the story about an experience from his youth. It is Kipps’s hope that the telling of this story will somehow “exorcise” the experience from his mind, and give him peace, and rid him of his persistent nightmares. The Actor rehearses Kipps in an old Victorian theatre, convincing Kipps to make an effort to make the story more vivid for his audience. Soon, the two become immersed in the strange tale of Mrs. Drablow and her Eel Marsh House.
The storytelling begins as Kipps is sent to handle the estate of the deceased Mrs. Drablow. He makes the trip to her funeral in a bleak and lonely part of England, the small village of Crythin Gifford where all of his enquiries into the details of the Drablow estate and the family are met with silence.
At the funeral, Kipps alone observes a strange young, ghastly-looking woman dressed in black. Mr. Jerome, the colleague accompanying Kipps to the funeral, did not see the woman in black and reacts powerfully when Kipps mentions her.
The next morning, Mr. Keckwick takes Kipps to Mrs. Drablow’s eerie Eel Marsh house. The house is reached by way of a narrow causeway that is passable only during low tide. As Kipps investigates the house and the surrounding property, he again sees the woman in black, but is unable to follow her. His apprehension and fear grow.
As he cautiously explores the inside of the house, he uncovers a large number of documents and information he must sift through in order to settle Mrs. Drablow’s affairs. His efforts reveal secrets and unexplainable events. Who is this woman in black? Why are the townspeople so hesitant to answer his questions? What happens to haunt Kipps years later? As Kipps and the Actor struggle to tell the story and exorcise both their demons, we learn the chilling answer to these questions—and more.