13 Ghosts (1960)

Cyrus Zorba and his family are broke and their furniture is being confiscated once again. When a charming, young lawyer comes along and tells them that they inherited a big mansion from a distant uncle, they couldn’t happier. When they hear that the uncle was a supposed ghost collector and his collection of 12 ghosts resides at the mansion, they think it’s nothing but a joke. However, shortly after moving in, they get warned during a Ouija board session, that one of them will die and become the 13th ghost. Unsure what to make of it, they stay and only after a couple of days at the mansion, their smiles truly turn into terrified screams…




Full Plot:
The 1960 horror movie “13 Ghosts” begins with Paleontologist Cyrus Zorba holding a lecture at his work place, the Los Angeles County Museum, when his wife Hilda calls and informs him that the moving men are once again in their home and taking away their furniture. Cyrus has forgotten to pay the bills for 3 months and the couple is broke, with his next salary coming up not before a month and being too low to pay their debts anyway.

Cyrus and Hilda have two children: Medea, a teenage girl and Buck, a boy who happens to turn 11 on this very day. The family gets together in the evening and celebrates his birthday by eating a cake on the floor. Medea has given Buck a book filled with ghost stories as a present and the boy is immediately immersed into the content. When asked to make a wish, Buck wishes for a house with furniture in, that no one can take away from them.

Just as Buck makes his wish, a sudden wind burst rushes through the house and the door bell rings. A very old and creepy looking man hands Cyrus a telegram. It states that Cyrus has an appointment with Benjamen Rush, a young lawyer, the very next morning.

After meeting Benjamen, Cyrus and Hilda learn that they have inherited a big, furnished house that Cyrus’ uncle Dr. Plato Zorba has left for them. Besides the house, he also left a mysterious box, but no money whatsoever.

Ben explains that Dr. Zorba conducted countless occult experiments and that he collected ghosts from all over the world and brought them back to the mansion. Ben insists that the ghosts are part of the inheritance. Hilda and Cyrus assume that he is joking, but Ben is clearly serious. When the couple opens the box and finds a pair of strange glasses inside, a strong wind comes through the office. A random fly flies by and as soon as it touches the glasses, a spark flashes up, killing the fly instantly.

After the family moves into the estate, Ben comes by and is greeted by an excited Buck, who tells him about Elaine Zacharides, the housekeeper, who resembles your stereotypical witch. When Medea sees Ben, she is immediately charmed by the young man.

Inside, Ben and Medea come across a portrait of Dr. Zorba that is hanging over the fireplace. Medea reveals that she doesn’t believe in ghosts, upon which Ben explains that he never believed in them either but that this rapidly changed after he got to know Dr. Zorba. He claims that Dr. Zorba himself was killed by the ghosts and that they found him with his back broken, his face torn to shreds and lips ripped away.

In the mean time, Buck messes around with the fireplace and accidentally opens up a secret compartment which contains a Ouija board, a planchette and an old book filled with Latin text. Cyrus decides to later hand over the book to his boss Van Allen, who is fluent in Latin.

The family and Ben immediately decide to play with the board. Buck asks whether there are really ghosts in this house and the planchette moves to “YES”. Ben and Hilda seem negatively surprised that it actually worked and want to pack the board away, but Medea and Buck continue to play by themselves. Buck asks how many ghosts there are and the board answers with “13”. Next, they ask whether the ghosts are gonna hurt them and once again, the planchette moves towards “YES”, startling the group. Ben warns Medea to stop fooling around, but she suggests asking the board once again – but this time, without putting the fingers on the planchette in order to test whether it’s truly none of them doing the pushing. Buck asks whether the ghosts are going to kill any of them and suddenly, Dr. Zorba’s portrait flies off the wall and crashes. Simultaneously, the planchette starts moving by itself over the board, then starts floating, points towards Medea and finally drops on her lap. She becomes visibly upset and begs the others to not ask when she is going to be killed, as she would rather not know.

Hilda is now terrified and turns from a skeptic to a believer, but Cyrus insists that there probably is a simple explanation to the seemingly spooky events during the séance.

Later that night, he finds out that them inheriting the house comes with certain conditions: They can not sell the estate and are forced to actually live there, otherwise it would go to the state. After learning this new detail, the temperature suddenly drops in the house, flowers quickly wilt and a spooky howling wanders through the halls. Unseen to the eyes of the family, creepy apparitions manifest around the house and sinister laughing can be heard.

Cyrus goes down to the living room, grabs the book with the blank cover and follows the strange sounds, which eventually lead him to a laboratory. There, he hears disembodied whispers saying “Thirteen” over and over again. Cyrus puts on the glasses he found in the box and with the help of them, he sees the number 13 light up on the book, before it bursts into ghostly flames. The spectacle continues and different eerie apparitions show up in front of him, all bursting into flames and screaming. The ghosts fuse into a flaming whirlwind, which moves menacingly closer to Cyrus, before finally fading into thin air. After the apparitions are gone, he feels a sudden pain and finds that the number 13 has been burned onto his hand.

The next day, Cyrus talks to his boss Van Allen, who has studied the book and found out a couple of things about Dr. Zorba in the meantime. Van explains that Dr. Zorba believed that ghosts are unhappily earthbound because of unsolved problems. He successfully developed glasses for seeing ghosts and was working on creating a device to photograph ghosts. He managed to capture 11 ghosts, such as one in a castle in Ireland, one in the catacombs below Rome, one in a village in Italy and one in Tibet. Dr. Zorba himself is the 12th ghost, who is earthbound because of crimes that have been committed against him. He vows to only move on as soon as he has taken revenge on the wrongdoers. Mysteriously, one page in his book carries the title “Ghost 13”, but the rest of the page is blank.

Once again, Hilda calls Cyrus at work and begs him to come home immediately. At home, the kitchen is a mess: broken cups, plates and bottles are scattered on the floor in countless shards. The flour container and a milk bottle start floating around in front of their eyes, spreading the contents further around. Buck reveals that the responsible ghost is Amelio, an Italian chef who killed his wife, mother in law and sister in law with a meat cleaver. He tells his parents to step aside, before a meat cleaver flies of the table and gets stuck in the wall next to them, giving them another scare. Buck says he knows this from Elaine, who claims to know all the ghosts of the house.

Elaine explains that she and Ben were Dr. Zorba’s only friends and that she, a medium, has helped him with the experiments. When he suddenly decided to turn all his assets into cash, Elaine thought it was a foolish thing to do and he lost his trust in her. Now, neither Ben nor her know where the money went.

Elaine leads Cyrus to Dr. Zorba’s bedroom, where he died and leaves him alone in the room. There, a candle starts floating around the bed and points towards a strange button. When Cyrus turns the button, the solid canopy over the bed starts slowly descending onto the bed itself. The candles suddenly extinguish and a strong wind rushes through the room. Cyrus becomes nervous and wants to leave, just as the canopy starts to rise back to ceiling again.

When the whole family is asleep, Medea comes home from a date with Ben and also goes to bed. When she is asleep, the door to her room slowly opens, accompanied by a creaking sound. One of the window opens as well and starts rattling. Medea gets up to close it and gets grabbed by a half rotten corpse in a spiderweb covered suit. She screams and runs out into the hall, where her parents try to calm her down.

Click here to unfold the remaining story (SPOILER WARNING)

The next day, after sliding down the rail of the staircase, Buck finds 200$ that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. At that moment, Ben comes by once again. As soon as he sees the money, he insists that Buck doesn’t tell anybody else about it. He tells Buck that Dr. Zorba has hidden a treasure in the house and that they will find it together, but he mustn’t tell anyone else or they will forbid it as it might take such things as making holes in walls.

Later, Ben shows up at the museum and meets a terrified Cyrus who can not wait to get out of the mansion. Ben says that he might convince the state that they never truly took possession of the house and might get 10.000$ for it. At this moment, Cyrus’ boss Van bursts in and reads from Dr. Zorba’s diary, revealing to Cyrus that he has converted all his assets into cash and hidden it where the “unscrupulous can no longer steal it”. Van suggests that it is most likely in the house as Dr. Zorba never left it and only a month passed since he hid it.

Cyrus starts rethinking moving out of the house – much to the frustration of Ben, who keeps trying to convince him to leave immediately. Van suggests conducting a séance with the help of Elaine to contact Dr. Zorba himself and Cyrus agrees.

At night, Buck is send to bed while Elaine, Cyrus, Hilda and Medea sit down at a table and join hands. Elaine instructs them to concentrate on contacting Dr. Zorba. She says that he might use her or someone else’s body to speak through or he might even appear himself. Soon after they begin calling for Dr. Zorba, a howling can be heard and Cyrus appears to be possessed. A strange voice speaks through him, he gets up and we see Dr. Zorba’s ghost emerging from his portrait above the fireplace.

Meanwhile, Buck is bored and slides down the staircase rail again. Once again, money seems to fall out of nowhere. He examines the stairs and finds that stacks of money are stored in the staircase itself. Ben shows up again and Buck shows him the money. Ben tells him to go to bed and to wait until the next day to tell the others. Grumpily, Buck complies and goes to sleep.

At the séance, Dr. Zorba’s ghost possesses Cyrus, saying “Thirteen” over and over again, before proclaiming “Death tonight to one of you”. He then screams, leaves Cyrus’ body and goes back into the portrait.

The group is dissatisfied with the results and wants to get more details, but Elaine insists that it is no use to bring Dr. Zorba back again. Disappointed, the family goes to bed and mentally prepares to move out the next day.

While they are all asleep, we can see the man in the spiderweb covered suit once again, but as the camera shows his face, it is revealed that it is not a rotten zombie, but Ben, who is roaming around the house in a costume. Ben sneaks into Buck’s room, grabs Buck and carries him to Zorba’s bedroom, where he puts him into the bed. Ben turns the button and the canopy starts slowly descending onto sleeping Buck.

Ben waits for the canopy to crush Buck, when Dr. Zorba’s ghost manifests in the room, pushing Ben onto the bed. Buck wakes up and escapes from the bed. Horrified, he watches Ben being crushed as he screams his lungs out.

The next morning, the family couldn’t be happier. They sit at the table, counting the money. They have finally found out that Ben murdered Dr. Zorba and then tried scaring them out of the house by dressing up as a walking corpse to shock Medea.

Elaine tells the family that the ghosts have finally left the house, but admits to Buck that they will be back soon.

At last, unseen by the family, we can see the ghost hunting glasses float up into the air, where they explode. Apparitions manifest all over the house and the text “House for Sale” appears on the front door.

Donald Woods as Cyrus Zorba
Rosemary DeCamp as Hilda Zorba
Jo Morrow as Medea  Zorba
Charles Herbert as Buck Zorba
Martin Milner as Benjamen Rush
Margaret Hamilton as Elaine Zacharides
John Van Dreelen as Van Allen

William Castle

Robb White

13 Ghosts (1960) on IMDB

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