A governess has been hired to care for two children at a remote country house by their distant and preoccupied uncle in London. She instantly takes a liking to the children, Flora and Miles, but feels uneasy in the old house. Before long, she has glimpses of a pale-faced, red-haired man in the grounds and at the window. She describes the man to the housekeeper Mrs Grose, who identifies him as Peter Quint, the former valet, who recently died in mysterious circumstances.
The governess vows to protect the children. However, later that day by the lake, she sees another figure, and realises it is the ghost of Miss Jessel, the former governess who also died some time previously. That night, the children are lured out into the woods by Quint and Miss Jessel, but the Governess and Mrs Grose arrive just in time to save them.
The Governess confides in Mrs Grose after more ghostly sightings and is advised to contact the children’s uncle in London. She writes a letter, but the ghost of Peter Quint instructs Miles to steal the letter before it can be posted.
Learning that her letter was never sent, the Governess confronts Miles. As she questions him, the ghost of Peter Quint pressures Miles not to betray him, but he reluctantly names the ghost and suddenly falls dead on the floor. The Governess cries out in grief.