This character continually pops up in films involving ghosts or supernatural characters. She moves into Haunted Headquarters without any Genre Savvy idea of what's in store for her. She seems attractive, capable and altogether normal until...the strange noises from the attic keep waking her up. Or that Creepy Housekeeper keeps making cryptic comments. Or her kid starts going on about some Imaginary Friend who might not be so imaginary after all. The Haunted Heroine typically comes equipped with a kid (or younger sibling) that is inevitably the first one to notice the supernatural goings-on, possibly because kids are supposed to have more imagination. It won't take long however, before the woman realizes she's being haunted.
Now the fun begins as the Haunted Heroine sheds her well-groomed exterior to reveal the barely-concealed neuroses and phobias hidden underneath. This character tends to have a Mysterious Past and hinted-at childhood trauma. She might be sexually repressed or traumatized too. Whatever her problems, there's always the subtle suggestion that she herself might be imagining the whole thing because of her messed-up psyche. Freud would have loved the Haunted Heroine. It doesn't help that nobody ever seems to believe her story. As the story continues, expect to see hints of Mama Bear in her as well when her kid or kids are threatened.
The originator of this trope is Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, in which a governess becomes convinced that her dead predecessor and her lover have somehow come back from beyond the grave to mess with the kids. This famous and influential story set the tone for a slew of Supernatural Fiction ever since that tries to imply it might be All in Their Minds. All this while still having a lot of fun with the ghosts.
- Subverted via background in You're Under Arrest with Policewoman Miyuki Kobayakawa, who fits this trope to a "T" with her extreme fear of anything remotely supernatural (to the point of having panic attacks if someone tells a ghost story), Mysterious Past, hinted-at childhood traumas, and sexual neuroses (as witnessed by her UST and platonically-romantic relationship with Ken). But the background of the series has no supernatural elements. Move her to a world with supernatural phenomena and she would plug into the Haunted Heroine trope perfectly.
- Grace from The Others (Subverted with a twist: the Haunted Heroine and her children are the ghosts)
- Yoshimi and Dahlia from Dark Water, both the 2002 Japanese original and the 2005 American remake, respectively.
- Laura from El Orfanato, also known as The Orphanage
- The Watcher in The Woods, an atypical (suspensful) Disney movie from 1980.
- House played this entirely by the book, except in two ways - it was a comedy, and the protagonist was a dude, played by William Katt. Still, he was trying to rescue his disappeared child, there was some implication that it was all in his head (although it turned out that it wasn't), and it all centred around trauma in his past (specifically, The Vietnam War).
- Any version of The Ring has this character as the protagonist.
- Katie in Paranormal Activity.
Literature[edit | hide]
- The Turn of the Screw, of course. As well as The Innocents, the 1961 film version with Deborah Kerr.
- Subverted in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, where the heroine is a young widowed mother who might just be imagining the hearty sea captain's ghost out of romantic yearning, but the ghost himself is utterly benign and the heroine can matter-of-factly tell him not to reveal himself to her daughter as she's much too young for ghosts.
- Eleanor Vance of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, both the book and the 1963 movie.
- Angela in The Good House. She moves into her grandmother's haunted house, but people don't believe her suspicions of supernatural activity until it's too late...
- Former governess, apparently a normal, sweet young woman, whose neuroses bubble up to the surface as uncanny events pop up—Vera Claythorne from And Then There Were None fits this trope to a T, but subverted in that she did deliberately cause the death of her charge, and she ends up snapping completely in the end.
- The unnamed narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper keeps seeing movement in the wallpaper—and this is supposed to be the result of her medical treatment.
- Sara Crowe in The Red Tree takes a lot of emotional baggage (and a seizure-inducing neurological disorder) with her when she moves into a farmhouse near the eponymous tree. How much this affects the goings on in the book is left for the reader to divine