Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Down a Dark Hall

Go To
Down a Dark Hall is a young adult novel by Lois Duncan. Originally published in 1974, it has now been updated for 2011 with some extra lines thrown in about why our intrepid heroine doesn't just use her mobile phone or the internet to summon help.

The story is as follows. Sixteen year old Katherine 'Kit' Gordy is sent to Blackwood Hall boarding school so her mum and stepdad can go on honeymoon in Europe. Although she finds it creepy Kit has to admit the rooms are luxurious, the food is good and the teachers led by the glamorous Madame Duret are intelligent. Unfortunately, Madame Duret is using the four girls who make up the student body as vessels to let the spirits of long dead writers, artists, scientists and musicians continue their work. Kit and her friend Sandy are horrified but Ruth who is a genius is excited by the maths and science she finds herself doing while possessed.

Unfortunately being a medium comes at something of a personal price and when Kit and her teacher Jules (Madame Duret's son) find out what this is they vow to escape...

A film adaptation came out in 2018.

Tropes present:

  • Alpha Bitch: It's tough to be one of these in a school with only four students, but Ruth manages.
  • Big Fancy House: Blackwood originally was one for the Brewer family until the family passed away.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Blackwood is one of these for the students even if they don't quite realize what those horrors are at first.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kit sees her father's spirit on the night he died when she was younger. His spirit is able to reach out to her at the end to help her escape Blackwood's fire with her life.
  • Dumb Blonde: Lynda is portrayed as a version of this, given that among the four students, she is clearly the least intelligent.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Jules is a willing participant in his mother's scheme, but once he finds out that every previous girl she's tried this on is dead or in a mental institution, he changes sides immediately.
  • Historical Domain Character: Emily Brontë, Franz Schubert and painter Thomas Cole are three real life figures whose ghosts play a part in the plot. One work however is indirectly implied to have been written by Marquis de Sade.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Kit is puzzled when her mother and her best friend Tracy both act like she's never bothered to send them any letters when she's been writing both of them frequently. It turns out that Madame Duret has been suppressing almost all the letters the students have written.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Kit had multiple opportunities when her mother would have removed her from Blackwood if she'd asked, but Kit was so determined not to be a burden while her mother and stepfather were on their honeymoon that she let them all go by.
  • Missing Time: The girls in the school are possessed by ghosts randomly, and they have don't remember anything that happens while possessed.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sandy is an orphan, and Kit has both lost her Dad and feels abandoned by her Mother and Dan. Ruth's and Linda's parents are alive but don't even bother to escort their kids to school on the first day. It's strongly implied that this is part of the reason these students were selected to attend Blackwood: Madame Duret didn't want parents who would be inquiring too closely into what was going on with their kids.
  • School for Scheming: The exclusive school Blackwood (it's really really exclusive, it only has four students counting the main character) is really for the purpose of collecting kids with ESP so dead writers, artists, composers, scientists, and mathematicians can use them as vehicles to produce all the things they didn't get to when they were alive. This would be all fine and dandy — in fact, Ruth, the most intelligent of the girls, doesn't mind being used to write down mathematical theories — except that not only can people like Emily Bronte and Vermeer get through, but so can anyone else. Sandy ends up transcribing a terribly vulgar poem in French, and let's not even get into what Lynda paints. Also, Blackwood is not the first school Madame Duret opened; there was one in France and one in England. Of all the students at those schools, four killed themselves and the rest are in mental hospitals. Madame Duret keeps trying anyway.
  • Science Is Bad: Madame Duret and Professor Farley see the girls as expendable subjects in important research. Also, Ruth is happy to be used by the dead to make scientific breakthroughs until she finds out what's going to happen to her.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: If Kit and Sandy can't escape by Christmas the ghosts will be able to use them anywhere and not just at Blackwood. Even if Kit goes home, she'll still be driven mad by the dead.
  • Together in Death: Sandy's parents. Their ghosts visit her and specifically tell her that they're together and happy, and she should get on with her life.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Subverted. Kit and Dan don't particularly get along, but Kit doesn't resent him and honestly wants her mother to be happy in her second marriage.