Arthur Kipp, a young solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of the elderly Mrs. Alice Drablow in Crythin Gifford and afterwards go through her papers at the eccentric recluse’s lonely estate, Eel Marsh House.
It is a house haunted by pitiful and painful memories and the spirit of a veiled and bonneted woman clad in rusty mourning black hell-bent on revenge. The terrifying drowning death of a child in a pony trap also repeats itself in sounds, like a record stuck in a groove, out in the salt marshes. And in the nursery an abandoned rocking chair sits surrounded by toys.
As he sorts through Mrs. Drablow’s papers, Mr. Kipp finds letters telling of an illegitimate child unwillingly given up for adoption. And whenever the dreaded apparition of the woman in black is seen locals know that a child is sure to die.