The Terror – 1963 (Public Domain Horror)!

The Terror (1963) is a low budget American Vistascope horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman about a French soldier who finds a beautiful mysterious woman who turns out to be a ghost possessed by a witch. It is famous for being filmed on sets left over from other AIP productions, including The Haunted Palace. The movie was also released as Lady of the Shadows, The Castle of Terror, and The Haunting; it was later featured as an episode of Cinema Insomnia and Elvira’s Movie Macabre.

The movie is sometimes linked to Corman’s series of “Poe films,” which were made between 1960 and 1964 based on the public domain works of Edgar Allan Poe, but The Terror is not actually based on any text by Poe.


Set in 1806, the film tells the story of a lost French soldier in the Confederation of the Rhine named Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) who is saved by a strange young woman named Helene (Sandra Knight). She looks like Ilsa, the wife of the baron (played by Boris Karloff), who died twenty years before.

Investigating who the woman really is, Andre stumbles upon a hidden secret of the Baron: After he found Ilsa sleeping with another man named Eric, the Baron killed his wife while his servant killed Eric, or so he explains.

All the while, the phantom of Ilsa remained under the control of a peasant witch (Dorothy Neumann), who has commanded the ghost to torment the Baron for the previous two years. Over the course of the film, Ilsa’s ghost beseeches the Baron to kill himself, so they could be together. After much hesitation, the Baron decides to do so, perhaps to atone for his crimes.

During the climactic scenes, Andre, as well as the Baron’s butler Stefan (Dick Miller), try to stop him, eventually forcing the witch into compliance. Here it is revealed that the witch Katrina is in fact the mother of Eric, who she believes was killed by the Baron twenty years before, and that is why she has tried to make him commit suicide and damn his soul to hell. In a stunning revelation, Stefan reveals that Eric never died, that it was the Baron who was killed. Eric then took the Baron’s place, living his life until he deluded himself into thinking he was the Baron.

Katrina, realizing her folly only too late, goes with the two men to stop Eric from flooding the castle crypt and killing himself. However, she is unable to go into the mausoleum and ends up being struck by lightning and burning to death to the ground as she tries to escape.

In the climax of the film, Ilsa’s ghost attempts to kill Eric while the crypt floods, and Stefan joins the struggle. However, by the time Andre gains access to the crypt, it is already flooding and crumbling, and he is able to carry only Helene’s body away. the film ends as the two share a touching moment together outside before Helene begins to rapidly dissolve into a rotting corpse.

About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).