Creator/HenryJames' {{novella}} ''The Turn of the Screw'' (1898) introduces us to the memoirs of an anonymous governess, which relate her eerie experiences at the country estate of Bly. Young and inexperienced at the time, the governess initially adored her two charges, the "angelic" Miles and Flora. Soon, however, her glimpses of a strange man and an equally strange woman convince her not only that dark doings are afoot, but also that the children are directly involved. With the help of Mrs. Grose, the stolid housekeeper, the governess seeks to save the children from unimaginable evils...

''The Turn of the Screw'' still ranks as one of the Victorian era's most famous tales of the supernatural, yet half of its appeal is the ambiguously UnreliableNarrator. The story could either be about a brave but overmatched governess trying to defend her charges from evil spirits, or about an insane governess who subjects innocent children to her own murderous hallucinations. It's equally spooky either way.

The novella has inspired numerous film, television, stage, and even ballet adaptations, as well as {{sequel}}s and the occasional PerspectiveFlip. Of these, the best-known are the film ''Film/TheInnocents'' (based on a Broadway play that was itself an adaptation of ''The Turn of the Screw'') and Benjamin Britten's {{opera}}.

!!Tropes in ''The Turn of the Screw'':

* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Invoked; the first time the governess sees Miles, she decides he can't possibly have done whatever it was that got him expelled from school because he's so adorable. (Of course, she soon changes her mind...)
* BigFancyHouse: How the governess initially perceives Bly--although she admits that if she saw it again, she would probably think differently.
* BrainFever: Flora, after the governess accuses her of conspiring with the ghosts.
* TheCasanova: Peter Quint, according to Mrs. Grose. And, perhaps, the Master of Bly.
* CreepyChild: Miles and Flora. The extent of their creepiness, however, depends on how you judge the narrator's sanity.
* CreepyChildrenSinging: An important part of the Britten opera (especially [[IronicNurseryTune "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son"]]).
* DaylightHorror: Most of the ghost sightings occur when there is still light outside.
* TheDiseaseThatShallNotBeNamed: Whatever kills Miss Jessell (quite possibly [[spoiler: death in childbirth]]).
* EvilRedhead: Peter Quint.
* FalseFriend: Some scholars see Mrs. Grose as this, noting that the governess always got more hysterical after her talks with her, only noted details about the ghosts when Mrs. Grose provided them about the people (notably Mrs. Grose asks if the first ghost "had red hair" and the governess suddenly agreed that he did indeed). The main interpretation is that before the Governess came, Mrs. Grose ran the house, and she wanted her old job back (of course all of this falls into the "there were no ghosts" camp).
* TheFilmOfTheBook: Several, notably ''Film/TheInnocents''.
* GenreSavvy: The governess frequently imagines herself in the role of a Gothic or romance heroine, albeit while forgetting their tendency to be driven insane...
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: Flora and Miles show several signs of having been Sexually abused, a rampant problem during the time the story was written.
* GhostlyGoals: If you believe the governess, Peter Quint and Miss Jessell are attempting to [[spoiler: murder the children.]]
* HauntedHeroine: If the governess isn't an UnreliableNarrator, then she's this.
* HeartwarmingOrphan: How the governess initially perceives Miles and Flora, before she decides that they're actually [[CreepyChild in cahoots with dark forces]].
* IJustKnew: A variant on this phrase occurs repeatedly:
--->"But how do you know?"
--->"I know, I know, I know!" My exaltation grew. "And ''you'' know, my dear!"
* ISeeDeadPeople: The governess is the only person who ''admits'', at least, to seeing the ghosts.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: The story is supposed to be the main character's diary, as read to the author. Bookends deal with how the story is read to him, and his reaction.
* LoveAtFirstSight: The governess falls for the Master immediately, and sometimes fantasizes about obtaining his approval. Her obsession usually emerges only obliquely, as in her excuses for his lack of interest in the children.
* MadwomanInTheAttic: The governess' initial explanation for Peter Quint's sudden appearance.
* NamelessNarrative: The governess remains unnamed throughout.
* MoralMyopia: Depending on whether the reader believes the governess or not. If she is imagining the ghosts, then she torments and frightens the children with accusations, ultimately driving Flora into hysterics and [[spoiler: leading to Miles' death]]... all the while believing that she is saving them.
* NeverLearnedToRead: Mrs. Grose is illiterate.
* NiceToTheWaiter: Subverted. The governess makes much of her graciousness to and intimacy with the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, but consistently condescends to her. Possibly FairForItsDay, seeing as noticing that servants were people too was enough to put you in the stated trope at the time.
* NotSoImaginaryFriend: The governess believes that Miles and Flora spend their time with the ghosts, much as they did when Peter Quint and Miss Jessell were still alive.
* OrphansOrdeal: Given what ultimately happens to both Flora and Miles...
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: The governess seems convinced that the children will be liberated from the ghosts if they admit to their existence.
* ParentalAbandonment: Or, rather, avuncular abandonment. The Master of Bly refuses to have anything to do with the children.
* PerspectiveFlip: Hilary Bailey's ''Miles and Flora'', as well as Joyce Carol Oates' ''The Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly''.
* SanitySlippage: If the ghosts aren't real, then the governess shows signs of this, which has disastrous consequences on her young wards.
* SupernaturalFiction
* TitleDrop: In both the prologue and the governess' narrative.
* UnfinishedBusiness: How the governess explains why the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessell have returned.
* UnreliableNarrator: Whether or not the governess is just imagining the ghosts is a matter for debate. James claimed that it was just a simple ghost story, but he was also known for writing stories from biased or unreliable perspectives.
* TheUnreveal: We never find out just what Miles did to get expelled from school. Theories verge into the realm of UnfortunateImplications...