An attorney arrives at a castle to settle the estate of its recently deceased owner. The owner's wife and daughter reveal that he was someone who was able to summon the souls of ancient plague victims and, in fact, his spirit was roaming the castle at that very moment. Soon occupants of the castle begin to die off in gruesome, violent ways.
- A man is drinking in a local pub. Suddenly a hand is seen at the door, trying to get in. Sensing danger, he quickly flees and goes down cobblestone streets and steps until he reaches a stable. Quickly he saddles a horse and secures the straps. He attempts to untie the rope, but suddenly the horse is startled and begins furiously bucking up and down, stomping him to death. Next we see a close-up of his face: half-mutilated with one eye hanging out. (Title shows.)
Albert Kovac (Walter Brandi) is driving an open-air touring car down a country lane. He passes an old woman (in a deleted scene, he inquires of the woman where the castle is and she crosses herself). He turns into a drive leading up to a castle (Villa Hauff), parking in front. Removing his cap and putting it in the back seat, he retrieves his briefcase and goes to ring the bell at the front door.
The bell will not ring, however. He knocks on the door and pushes it open. Entering, he calls out if anyone is home. He walks down the entrance hall, passing various statues and suits of armor. Hearing a noise behind him, he turns to see the maid, Louise (Tilde Till) who has come out from one of the rooms. He explains that no one answered when he came in. He asks her to introduce him and she opens a door and bids him enter. Inside, Corinne Hauff (Mirella Maravidi) is wiping off a standing suit of armor. He introduces himself and asks if she is the daughter of Dr. Jeronimus Hauff, which she confirms. She tells Louise to take the gentleman's coat. Louise is staring at Kovac as if she hasn't seen a man in years. Finally her attention is gained by Corinne and the coat is taken.
He explains that he is an attorney who received a letter requesting he come and take care of Dr. Hauffs will. She leads him down a hall toward another room. On the way he notices a display case containing six mummified hands. He follows her into a bedroom where he is asked to show the letter. Giving it to Corinne, she hands it to Cleo Hauff (Barbara Steele) who is seated with cold cream on her face. Immediately she begins wiping her face and looks at the letter. Minutes later she emerges with her face clean and ready to talk.
She asks if he is the attorney addressed on the envelope, Joseph Morgan (Riccardo Garrone). He explains that Morgan was absent when the letter arrived so he came at once since it seemed urgent. (In a deleted scene at the beginning of the film Morgan is seen leaving and Kovac reads the mail, finding the letter.) She reads from the letter and remarks how it looks like his writing and seal. He asks if her husband had told her about the letter. She responds that her husband has been dead for a year. Meanwhile there is a flash of lightning and the front door is blown open. Louise closes and bolts the door.
Invited to stay the night, they are next seen at dinner, discussing the letter. Cleo speculates that it must be a fraud while Corinne insists that it is her fathers handwriting and seal. Cleo tells Kovac that the seal was buried with her husband and that she is his second wife. Kovac asks to smoke and is told of course . Louise enters and asks if she should serve the coffee. After this is done, she asks if she may be excused for the evening. Cleo excuses her and she politely curtsies to each of the ladies and leaves. Cleo remarks how not even a storm can keep Louise in the castle.
Kovac tells them that the police will have to be informed of the death. Cleo tells him that it was Dr. Hauffs wish to be interred in the ground for one year before being laid to final rest. She says the villagers want nothing to do with this place, citing superstitions. Corinne corrects her, telling Kovac that her father was a spiritualist who tried to contact supernatural forces. She points to a bust of a woman which has three scratches on the cheek. He notes that they are real. Corinne says she believes it was done by something supernatural. Cleo tells her not to speak anymore of this. Cleo suggests that Kovac might want to telephone his office. Looking at his pocket watch, he remarks that Morgan is usually in his office at this time.
Kovac picks up the phone, giving the operator Morgans number. All at once there is lightning and thunder and strange noises on the line. Outside we see part of the telephone line fall beside the grave of Jeronimus Hauff. Kovac asks the operator what is wrong with the line but she replies there is nothing wrong with it. At this point a strange man enters, carrying a candelabra. It is Kurt, the servant (Luciano Pigozzi) who stares at Kovac. We hear Kovac talking to himself, wondering about the strange man and how much he knows. Kurt closes the shutters and leaves the room just as Corinne enters. She tells Kovac that it is Kurt the gardener and that he has never left since the death of Dr. Hauff. Looking at a painting of the castle and surrounding area, she tells Kovac that hundreds of men died here, since it was once used as a hospital. As for the severed arms, Corinne tells him they are the mummified remains of those who spread the Black Plague. He makes a joke and she tells him not to, saying her father discovered many things about the house. She shows him to her fathers room, telling him to stay there for the night.
Inside, he lights a cigarette, thinking of how strange the whole situation is. He finds another adjoining room and takes a candelabra in to see it. It is Dr. Hauffs office, where he finds an old Edison recording cylinder. Cranking it, he turns the needle to play the recording. It is the voice of Hauff, who talks about several people who were spreading the plague. When caught, their hands were severed before they were hanged. The remains were buried on the property. As he describes the sound of the wagon carrying corpses to a mass grave, the sounds of creaking wheels are heard outside. We see covered graves and wagon wheel tracks in the dirt.
Corinne begins to undress in her room, when suddenly she turns to look and screams, covering herself. Kovac, hearing the scream, starts to her room. She comes out, claiming that she saw her father in her room. Cleo suggests that Corinne is too tired and on edge and has imagined it all. Entering her room, she reacts to the sight of a bronze bust of her father. Cleo tells her that it is only a statue. As they leave, Cleo tells Kovac that Corinne learned all of these things from her father. She says she will show Kovac where he died. They come to a long stairway going down below. She tells him that Dr. Hauff fell there and died. At the bottom of the stairs we see the face of Kurt, who looks up at them. Meanwhile, the recorded voice of Hauff, playing the last groove of the recording over and over, intones: I summoned them from their graves, and now I am among them.
Outside, Kovac finds that an owl has gotten into his engine and caused damage (in a deleted scene we see the owl when Louise is admiring the car). When he asks Kurt how to get into town, he gets no reply. At this point Dr. Nemek (Alfredo Rizzo) walks up, telling Kovac that he will get nothing from Kurt. When Kovac shows the engine to Nemek, he says no one knows how to work on engines. Nemek explains that he is the new doctor for the area. Kovac asks for a ride into town and Nemek agrees. As they walk by the castle, he asks about what he sees. Nemek tells him that these are the unconsecrated graves of the plague spreaders from the fifteenth century. As they walk toward the horse and buggy, Corinne approaches and asks for a ride into town. They all get in and start out.
Meanwhile, Cleo in their absence goes through the briefcase, removing documents to read. She asks the operator if the phone line to town has been repaired and is told it has. Then she hangs up.
They arrive at a building where Nemek tells them he has to stop for a few minutes. He suggests they take a walk down by the lake. They do.
Corinne talks about her father being misunderstood by everyone and that he had supernatural powers. She apologizes about her outburst last night, saying that he was in the room. They walk along the shoreline, past a number of small boats. She tells Kovac that her father used to bring her there often. She points out two sticks in the ground, a large one and a smaller one. Explaining that this is a sundial her father devised, she tells him that when the shadow of one touches the other, the time is right for fishing in the reeds. Turning back the other way, she suddenly screams my father! and runs into the reeds, falling down. Kovac chases her and she tells him that she saw her father in a boat in the reeds. We see it with an oar attached. She claims that the water dripping from the oar means it was just used. He tells her there is no one there. Frightened, she seeks comfort in his arms. Just then Nemek calls them to go back.
They are seen in the home of Oskar Stinner (Ennio Balbo), a paralytic in a wheelchair. Corinne is seen dressing behind a sheet in silhouette. Her clothes which were hung by the fire are now dry and handed to her by Dr. Nemek. Kovac smokes and Corinne is shown getting dressed (shown behind the sheet). Nemek tells Kovac that Stinner has a fine wine for them. He gets the bottle and some glasses, explaining that he can smell a good wine for miles. Stinner refuses to drink, but wine is offered to Corinne and Kovac, who suggests they talk about the letter. He shows it to Nemek, who remarks how it looks authentic. Stinner asks to see it, telling them he has an old letter to compare it to. Pulling one out of his desk, he looks at both seals, saying they are the same. Kovac says the police must be informed. Stinner tells Corinne to get out of town before its too late. Nemek says they should get back home and tells Stinner not to worry and that he will come see him tomorrow. Kovac thanks Stinner and exits. Corinne hesitates by the door, telling Stinner she will see him again soon. As they leave, Stinner says to himself I will never see her again. I just know it. The day of revenge is at hand.
Arriving at the local apothecary, Nemek tells them he knows the pharmacist who also serves as the mayor. Inside, he calls the mans name but gets no answer. They look around and Nemek continues to call out. As he looks behind the counter, he is horrified to see the man dead, with a bottle of acid dripping on his horribly disfigured face. They immediately get Corinne into the carriage to leave, telling her they will join her later. She drives off to return home.
Inside the hall of records, Nemek fills out a death certificate and signs it, stating that cause of death was heart failure. Kovac asks whether the police should be involved but is told that a heart attack is not a violent death. Nemek asks the clerk for two forms, which he brings immediately. Looking at the forms, he asks the clerk why they are already filled out. He is told that the corpse collectors came by the village last night and that everyone knows when that happens that someone will die. Kovac says how could you know it would be the mayor? The clerk tells him it was one of the five men present at the death of Hauff and that they all are doomed to die.
Cleo is seen in a bubble bath. Corinne enters and is asked to scrub Cleos back. Taking Corinnes hand, Cleo remarks how she is trembling. Corinne replies that she saw the mayors body, horribly eaten away by acid in the pharmacy. Cleo seems shocked and steps out of the bath. When asked if the mayor was her friend, Cleo says no, but he was one of the men who would come around to see Jeronimus. She states that all his friends were low-class individuals, not like what she was accustomed to. Corinne implies that her step-mother had been a performer. Cleo answers that she had to give up her career to marry Dr. Hauff, who became a crazy country doctor. She tells Corinne that it was not what she expected. Her friends formerly envied her. Rising to leave, Corinne tells her flat out that she is the same lousy actress she always was.
Back at the hall of records, the clerk looks up and begins to read the death notice of Dr. Hauff, which was signed by the five men present at the time. He notes that three of them are dead and the remaining two have not long to live. Kovac takes the page with their names to study it. As Kovac calls out each of the three names, the clerk reads the fate of each one from the record. Asking who the fourth man is, the clerk is told Oskar Stinner. It is said that the name of the fifth man is unknown because the handwriting is illegible. Kovac expresses doubt that the friends of Hauff would want to kill him, but the clerk suggests they hated him because he dabbled in the occult.
Back in his room, Kovac wonders about the fifth man. He plays the recording, hearing a girls voice singing remember pure water, pure water will save you. Looking out the window, he sees a young girl sitting at the fountain below. He goes down to the fountain but finds only the flowers the girl was holding, now discarded in the water.
Stinner is seated at his desk when he hears the sounds of the corpse collectors wagon outside and declares that the end has come. After a torturous moment of worry, he rolls his wheelchair to the wall and removes a sword, which he places point-out from a chest of drawers. Backing up, he rushes upon the sword and kills himself. At this point the window opens from outside and we see Stinner dead from behind. One of the mummified hands is seen upon his shoulder, implying that it had come to kill him but was too late. The hand pulls Stinners wheelchair back off of the sword, which drips. We see from a front angle that Stinners intestines are hanging out. (In a deleted scene there is an alternative death scene where he dies by hanging himself instead of by sword.)
Next day a policeman is shown investigating at Stinners place. Nemek tells him he will come by the station later to file a report. He tells the men to take the body away. Kovac asks Nemek if he still believes this is coincidence, to which Nemek replies he isn't sure anymore. When Kovac reminds him that they both heard the clerk predicting the death but they did nothing, Nemek replies that there is nothing they could have done to have prevented Stinner from taking his own life. Kovac suggests that maybe Hauff is still alive and that his body has not been seen, except by the witnesses. Finding a partially-burned note on the desk, Kovac shows in to Nemek, telling him that Stinner was writing it to warn the final victim, who was summoned. He tells him that tomorrow Hauffs body will be dug up to be re-interred. They are hoping to see the body at that time, which would prove whether Hauff is really dead.
The next day at the cemetery a small gathering stands around the temporary grave. As the slab is removed from the grave, those present see that it is empty. Some gasping is heard from the ladies. Kovac thinks to himself so that means the fifth witness is in danger. He is directed to a phone to call his boss but is told he has left for the Villa Hauff. Explaining to Nemek, Kovac says the fifth witness is Morgan, since he was the one summoned by the original letter.
Morgan enters the castle and looks around, seeing no one. He goes into another room and hears Dr. Hauff greeting him from a chair across the room (his face is not visible, but as Morgan nervously approaches, he notices a ring on Hauffs hand with a large jeweled J).
Kovac and Nemek arrive and begin to search for Morgan. His hat is seen on a hallway table. Morgan comes out from the front room in a state of shock. The men sit him down. He tells them that he saw Jeronimus. When Kovac goes to search the room, he finds only a cat in the chair. He is given a sedative by Dr. Nemek. Kovac demands to know why he has come. Nemek suggests that this discussion take place later. Kovac leaves with an apology, giving Morgan the letter.
Next we see Louise preparing to leave, questioned by Corinne about what she saw. She says she saw nothing, only feeling more coldness in the house than during a normal winter. Locking herself in the kitchen in fear, she tells Corinne she heard the voice of Jeronimus speaking. Asking what he said, she says to ask Kurt. At this point she leaves, saying that she can no longer remain in this house.
Corinne apologizes to Kovac, telling him it is her fault for asking him to remain. She confesses her need for him and they kiss. At this point they are interrupted by Nemek, who asks for cognac. She goes to fetch it while the men sit down. Kovac tells Nemek that Morgan is highly believable, because he doesn't believe in ghosts. They both agree that Kurt needs to be found so that what he knows can be determined. Corinne enters with a tray and two glasses, carrying some kind of dispenser which she sets on the table. Nemek seems pleased and Corinne adjusts something on the dispenser.
Louise is seen walking through the woods. Bird sounds are heard, which gradually give way to the sound of the corpse collectors cart. Louise looks around but sees nothing. She hurries away.
Morgan is awakened by the door opening. Cleo comes in and he stands to greet her. From their conversation we learn that they had agreed to separate for one year after the death of Jeronimus, but Cleo tells him they cant just resume their affair now. Confessing his love, Morgan begins kissing her shoulder. Next they are seen in bed, kissing.
Meanwhile Corinne goes to the attic with Kovac to look around. They find a doll, which she explains was hers. It contains a music box which plays. Kovac remarks that he knows that tune. Corinne tells him it is an old song which she then sings. He remembers it from the recording he heard before and wonders what is the meaning of pure water will save you?
Cleo listens as Morgan reads the letter sent to his office, which was signed by Jeronimus. She asks if he believes Hauff wrote it. He tells her he knows who is behind all this. Checking his gun, he informs her that there was one more witness there that night: Kurt.
Corinne and Kovac go down below into a crypt-like room where she calls out for Kurt. Hearing no answer, they leave. One wall opens and Kurt enters, carrying the body of Hauff, which he lays on the slab. He says to the corpse that the night of revenge has begun. He removes the ring (which contains the J used to make the seal) from Hauffs finger and places it in a torch, which causes it to flare up. Soon the hour of death will come, he says, which will free the spirits of the plague spreaders, who will begin killing the innocent and guilty alike. He confesses his loyalty to Hauff but asks forgiveness for having to break his vow of silence, since Corinne will have to be warned.
Nemek asks whether they found Kurt, to which Kovac says no, telling him that they searched the entire house. At this moment Corinne screams as she sees Kurt coming in, his face all covered with oozing sores, signs of the plague. Nemek tells them not to touch him. Kurt says the night of his revenge has begun, and they are here. Pointing to a full-length mirror, he says that one year ago he saw it all happen here. In a flash-back sequence, we see the five men (not including Kurt) and Cleo all facing Jeronimus, who reveals that they had all signed a petition to run him out of town. He refuses to leave, telling them he knows too much about their sins and will alert the public. He addresses each one, telling what he knows. Finally he faces Cleo and Morgan, telling them he had known about their clandestine affair for some time. Morgan approaches him with a candlestick to strike him from behind. Encouraged by each face, he hesitates until Cleo cries out kill him, Joseph! Hauff is struck from behind and falls, cursing them all and telling them that they wont escape his anger.
Coming out of the flashback, Cleo tells him to go back to the dead and throws a candlestick at the mirror, breaking it. Hauffs voice is heard summoning the dead spirits of the plague spreaders to avenge him. The grave covers are slid over and we see at least one hand emerging. Cleo cries no and begins to run. She goes from door to door but cannot escape. She opens a double outer door and screams. As she turns back inside, we see her face with signs of the plague. She staggers around the room, getting a glimpse of her face reflected in the tray. Finally she falls upon the harp and breathes her last. Morgan shouts that he will not die. Pulling out his gun, he tells Hauff that he is not afraid but begins acting like he is being stalked. Firing several shots, he too receives signs of the plague and collapses. As Kovac looks at him, he notices on a grandfather clock the painting of the young girl at the fountain, again wondering about the pure water that will save them. (In a deleted scene Kovac is told about the painting of this legendary girl who would save the village with purified water.) Thunder and lightning are heard. All at once he announces that water is the answer. He tells Nemek to take Corinne outside. She protests that she wants to remain with Kovac.
Opening up a door, Kovac sees Louise, now covered with the plague. She dies in his arms. He goes outside to join the others. The sounds of the corpse collectors cart are heard and the open graves are viewed. Kovac tells them that it is the water that has kept the spirits away, and now that all the water is drying up, they can only hope for rain. Nemek takes Corinne aside and a mummified hand is seen in the bushes. When we see Nemek again, he has the plague, telling her not to touch him. Kovac stumbles around, backing away from an unseen spirit. Only the shadow is visible approaching him. As he is backed into a corner and sinks down, suddenly the menacing sounds stop and raindrops appear. Corinne calls out that it is raining and the two of them embrace. Saved from the avengers, they are seen walking off together as the rain comes down.