Down a Dark Hall

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Down a Dark Hall
Lois Duncan Down a Dark Hall Revised Cover 2011.jpg
Cover of the 2011 revised edition of Down a Dark Hall.
Author Lois Duncan
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult fiction, thriller
Publisher Little Brown
Publication date
September 1974; revised April 2011
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 199 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-316-19546-4 (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-316-09898-1 (revised edition, paperback)
OCLC 640901
LC Class PZ7.D9117 Iak

Down A Dark Hall (1974) is a novel for young adults by Lois Duncan. It is a supernatural/suspense novel and is the only gothic fiction she has written. It tells the story of a girl who was sent to a boarding school by her parents where only four students were admitted including herself.

Plot summary[edit]

After Kit's mother remarries David, Kit is forced to attend Madame Duret's Blackwood Boarding School. She planned to attend school with her best friend, Tracy, but Tracy was not accepted, despite her better grades. The school is far out in the countryside, and when Kit first sets eyes on the ancient and deserted-looking building, she feels something dark emanating from it - something evil. She is further disturbed to find that her room locks only from the outside, and that there are only three other students attending the school: Sandy, Ruth and Lynda. The faculty consists of only Madame Duret; Professor Farley, who used to work at Madame Duret's school in England; and Jules, Madame Duret's son, who teaches piano.

The girls begin to discover new talents, which manifest most prominently as they sleep. Lynda, who exhibited no artistic ability before attending the school, begins to paint landscapes on a professional level, signing them "T.C." Ruth finds herself able to understand and practice extremely high-level math and science. Sandy, Kit's closest friend at Blackwood, often brings her sonnets she claims were dictated to her by a woman named Ellis. The girls finally realize what is happening to them after Kit wakes up at the school's piano in the middle of the night, playing a piece she has never heard, as Jules records her. She forces him to tell her what is going on at the school—why they suddenly possess their new skills, and why the skills come to them in their sleep.

Blackwood, Jules explains, targets young people with the ability to connect with the other side and that each of the students selected has some form of this gift. Madame Duret brought these girls to Blackwood because the spirits of deceased owners walk its halls, giving it a thin barrier between this life and the next. It is here that she can use the girls to channel great minds of the past - artists, musicians, writers, mathematicians, scientists - and continue the work they could not finish before their death. Kit begs him to let them leave, afraid of what these connections could mean, but Jules refuses.

Kit tells the other girls (minus Lynda, who has locked herself in her room to paint) what she discovered. They realize that Lynda must be channeling American painter Thomas Cole and that Emily Brontë under her pen name Ellis Bell has been contacting Sandy. As the girls investigate this new information, they discover that Professor Farley has been hoarding their letters instead of mailing them and that if they do not leave Blackwood before Christmas vacation, the psychic bonds will be permanent and they will never be free from the harassment of the dead. In a final effort to escape the school, Kit slips a letter to Blackwood's former cook and tell her to get it to Tracy Rosenblum, even though the woman likely has no idea who this is or how to reach them.

One night after the lights go out, Kit sneaks off to Madame Duret's office to call for help. Jules follows and catches her, and they stumble across a horrific painting done by Lynda. Jules looks through Madame Duret's files, which are in French, and discovers that the girls at his mother's previous schools all died or went insane. He finally agrees to help the girls escape. Jules and Kit confront Madame Duret with their findings as Sandy and Ruth look on. Sandy and Ruth throw what they have done into the fire, angering the spirits and causing a fire that soon engulfs the entire house. Once everyone has made it safely outside, they realize that they left Lynda in locked in her bedroom. Kit goes back to save her, while Ruth and Sandy throw rocks at her window. She finally convinces Lynda to jump to safety from outside her door, but realizes that she is trapped in the burning house. The apparition of Kit's father leads her out of the house, where Tracy's family is waiting outside to take her home, having received her desperate letter.


Katherine "Kit" Gordy - The book's main protagonist. She is sent to Blackwood while her mother and new step-father go on their honeymoon in Europe. Although she has no musical skills, the spirits summoned by Madame Duret choose her as their present-day composer. With the help of Jules, Kit is able to free the students from the school.

Sandy Mason - Kit's closest friend at Blackwood. She is first visited by the spirit of Emily Brontë or Ellis but is later implied to be used by the violent Marquis de Sade.

Jules Duret - Madame Duret's son and Blackwood's music teacher. While he is at first in line with his mother's plans, he vows to help the girls escape after he discovers the horrific fates of all of Madame Duret's previous students.

Madame Duret - The headmistress of Blackwood. She believes that she is called to help the great masters of the past continue their work from the grave by using the students in her school to channel their talents. For this purpose, she chooses only girls with psychic abilities and absentee parents as her pupils.

Ruth Stark - She is initially excited by the opportunity to continue the work of brilliant scientists and mathematicians. However, the knowledge that she will either die young or go mentally insane quickly changes her mind.

Lynda Hannah - The daughter of a film star, Lynda has led a sheltered life. She isn't very bright or talented, which causes her sudden aptitude for painting to surprise everyone, especially her best friend Ruth. She first channels Thomas Cole, but it is implied that she later channels artists of a much darker and twisted nature.

Professor Farley - The only teacher at Blackwood other than Madame Duret and Jules. He is a strong supporter of Madame Duret's cause, willing to sacrifice the lives and minds of unremarkable young girls for the sake of art and science.

Film adaptation[edit]

The film was released on August 17, 2018 with a limited release in theaters and a digital release through video-on-demand.[1] It is directed by Rodrigo Cortés and written by Chris Sparling and Michael Goldbach. It stars AnnaSophia Robb as Katherine Gordy and Uma Thurman as Madame Duret.[2]


  1. ^ "Down a Dark Hall". Lionsgate. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  2. ^ McNary, Dave (October 7, 2016). "AnnaSophia Robb to Star in Supernatural Drama 'Down a Dark Hall' From Stephenie Meyer". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2016.