The Haunted House Historian is a character who knows the Backstory of a Haunted House, Indian Burial Ground, Eldritch Location, Abandoned Hospital, or other evil location. Right around the time the fresh meat— err, "Main Cast" come in or near the evil location and start getting picked off one by one, the Haunted House Historian will intervene. They may exposit on the history of the haunted house, or try (emphasis on try) to take matters into their own hands to save lives or keep the house's secret.
Usually they are introduced early in the first act, and they know the terrible secret of the location either by being present, inheriting the secret from someone who was there, or most rarely, simply researching it themselves.
The Haunted House Historian is usually in the difficult position over whether to try and warn the protagonists because one or more of the following applies:
- The secret is so incredibly bizarre that they'd be labeled as insane and ignored.
- They were involved with the secret and want to keep it hidden to avoid jail, the shame involved, or to protect another. It may be My Greatest Failure, and they are The Atoner looking to warn away the clueless.
- The secret is incredibly dangerous but not lethal unless tampered with, and the historian knows what will awaken or release the threat. Vehemently telling the cast to avoid X usually backfires because it makes them curious and actively seek it out and set it free. The double edge to this sword is that not knowing what will set it off means the main cast will inevitably blunder into it.
As the most knowledgeable on the threat the historian is likely to be The World's Expert on Getting Killed. However, while the Haunted House Historian does have an element of Mr. Exposition, they may only know a bit more than the characters and leave the characters to do their own research into the exact nature of the threat. They also usually form relationships with the new arrivals, and can be very active in the plot. This is exposition plus plot structure and character development.
- The Jusenkyo Guide in Ranma ½ always attempts to warn travelers not to fall into the Jusenkyo springs, but his warnings are often ignored until after someone has been cursed.
- Mr. Harris in the 2010 Don't be Afraid of the Dark.
- Watson Pritchet in House on Haunted Hill (1959) and its remake. He's the actual owner of the house, renting it out to the Lorens for their party, and early on he gives a brief tour of where in the house the various murders have happened.
They've all been sort of wild.
- In The Haunting (1963), Mrs. Dudley actively plays this to scare the people staying in the mansion into being careful. Nell parodies the creepy speech she'd heard earlier back at her when she repeats it to Theo.
Mrs. Dudley: I set dinner on the dining room sideboard at six. Breakfast is ready at nine. I don't stay after dinner. Not after it begins to get dark. We live in town, nine miles, so there won't be anyone around if you need help...Nell: We couldn't even hear you.Mrs. Dudley: No one could. No one lives any nearer than town...Nell: No one will come any nearer than that.Mrs. Dudley: In the night...Nell: In the dark.
- Dr. Markway also serves a bit of this role, having made extensive research into Hill House's history, most of which he lays out in the opening narration.
- Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowell) in The Legend Of Hell House, as sole survivor of a previous investigative team, provides the backstory of the Belasco House, called the "Mount Everest of haunted houses." He relates the evil debauchery that started it all, as well as the dire fates of his colleagues on the earlier mission. Fischer advised the others on the team to do nothing to provoke the forces in the house and wait for the week to pass so they can live and collect their fees. As the casualties mount, Fischer is persuaded/forced by circumstances to take action.
- The Watcher in the Woods has Mrs. Aylwood.
- Justified in 1408, where the hotel manager proves knowledgeable about the troubled past of the room 1408.
- Played for laughs in Dark and Stormy Night, where several characters take turns telling various bits of connecting backstory on a number of curses, recent murders, escapes from institutes for the criminally insane, and prophecies.
Jack: I'll take this one, Burling.
- An old man in The World's End provides Infodumps that help to unravel the town's dark secret.
- Ghostbusters (2016) has Patty Tolan share gruesome anecdotes about several of the places the team investigates.
- The Windmill Massacre: When the tourists take shelter in the old shed, Abe finds some documents that that detail the history of Miller Hendrick and his ultimate, which he reads out to everyone else. By the end of the film, it is revealed that Abe already knew of these facts before 'finding' the documents.
- Dagon has drunken old Eziquiel who tells the protagonist what happened to Imboca. It does no good, and Eziquiel gets brutally killed for his pains.
- In The Hollow, Crusty Caretaker Claus knows everything there is to know about the legend of the Headless Horseman, and the lineage of Ichabod Crane; including how to destroy the Horseman permanently.
- In Lizzie Borden's Revenge, Cindy is obsessed with the story of Lizzie Borden and keeps trotting out details about Lizzie and the murders.
- Pet Sematary has the fatherly neighbor in this role, who runs squarely into the "kickstart the newbie's curiosity" problem when he tells him about the Indian burial ground. He is profoundly conflicted about whether to tell the main character anything at all, and it is implied that the spirit that haunts the ground may be influencing or manipulating him. Falls into Moral Dissonance territory when it's revealed that, while he initially presents it as spooky but ultimately harmless, he actually knows exactly how bad things can get when folks go messing around there.
- Dr. Montague plays this role in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. He discusses the trope by commenting on how difficult it is to get accurate information on a haunted house.
- H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth has old Zadok Allen, a drunken tramp who nonetheless becomes an invaluable source of information on the history of Innsmouth and the strange forces that now shape it.
- In the Goosebumps book The Headless Ghost, the local haunted location Hill House is staffed by the kindly Otto and Edna. Who turn out to be ghosts in the Twist Ending, although not malevolent ones.
- American Horror Story: Murder House has various characters who know about the house's history, but only one (Tate Langdon) who out and out warns the house is haunted. Of course, he falls squarely into Cassandra Truth.
- There is also the driving tour that goes by the house, but all they know is that it is the "Murder House" (which still puts them leagues ahead of the poor saps who buy the house).
- Goosebumps: In the episode "The Headless Ghost" the Mandatory Twist Ending reveals that the old tour guide was a ghost all along. However, unlike the book, he's actually evil and tries to use magic to trap the main character inside a painting.
- In the Stephen King mini-series Rose Red, Joyce Reardon is the researcher type of historian for the eponymous haunted house with assistance from Steve Rimbauer, a descendent of some of the haunting parties. Joyce is not particularly concerned about the safety of the group.
- In the Dream Theater concept album Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory. It comes from the song "Fatal Tragedy," where the protagonist Nicholas visits the house he sees in his dream. He meets an "older man," who tells him about the murder of a young woman in the house years before.
- In Luigi's Mansion, Professor E. Gadd was introduced as an old man who knew a lot about the mansion...
- Played with; he knows a lot about the ghosts, but the mansion appeared out of nowhere the day before.
- Yamamura in Sweet Home, both game and the movie, provide useful exposition to the group. The game also hints at their real identity which explains why they know so much about what's going on.
- In World of Warcraft, Lorewalker Cho fills this role in Mogu'shan Vaults. Brann Bronzebeard does an equivalent job in various Titan ruins, though Brann is less about previous knowledge and more about shockingly accurate intuitive leaps.
- Kumasawa, the senior maid in Umineko: When They Cry, knows the history and legends of the island dating back before it was called Rokkenjima. Because she's a known prankster and likes to embellish stories for extra creepiness, no one takes her warnings seriously.
- There's a Recurring Character parodying this in South Park (specifically, an Expy of the character Jud in Pet Sematary). He turns up now and again to warn people away from the Spooky Location du jour.
- Mr. Burns serves this purpose in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror V":
Mr. Burns: This house has quite a long and colorful history. It was built on an ancient Indian burial ground and was the setting of Satanic rituals, witch-burnings, and five John Denver Christmas specials.Homer: (Shudders) Ugh, John Denver!
- One of these will appear early on in most episodes of Scooby-Doo. Quite often they're the ones behind the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, but sometimes they genuinely believe in the Monster of the Week.