When real estate agent Benny Dempsey stumbles across Beckford Mansion just outside Salem, Massachusetts, he immediately sees a financial investment worth millions. This large Victorian mansion that has been unoccupied since the 1970s would be an ideal haunted attraction for ghost hunters that flock to Salem in search of a macabre experience.
Benny wants to convince his half-brother Henry Valentine and his wife Elizabeth to buy the home and run it as a haunted bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, the only ghost residing in Beckford Mansion is a lonely librarian named Wilbur Nash, and he wants nothing to do with the plan to promote him as a morbid curiosity. Elizabeth is the only person who can see Wilbur, and the two become friends. So when Benny decides to tear the house down and sell off the land, Elizabeth has to scramble to save Wilbur from an uncertain fate. Morbid Curiosity is an uncommon romantic comedy.
From Act One; scene 2 of Morbid Curiosity
Visiting Beckford Mansion for the first time, Elizabeth Valentine is unsettled to learn the mansion is haunted. When Elizabeth is left alone momentarily she encounters a shy young man named Wilbur Nash. Thinking it was the man from the Historical Society with information about Beckford Mansion that her brother-in-law Benny Dempsey was waiting for, she dismisses him. Later she learns that Wilbur is actually the ghost of Beckford Mansion. She tells her husband, Henry, of the encounter, but he doesn’t believe her.
HENRY: Tell you what. I noticed that Benny brought a bottle of wine along with that coffee. I’ll go into the kitchen, pour us a couple of glasses. We’ll have a drink and talk this whole thing out, okay?
ELIZABETH: Fine. Just . . . fine.
HENRY: I’ll be right back.
Henry leaves. For a bit Elizabeth sits alone in the chair. After a long beat, Wilbur, “steps” through the wall above the fireplace. He is again reading his book and doesn’t notice Elizabeth at first until he hears her sigh. Then he freezes in place and looks about as if trying to decide where to run first. Suddenly, Elizabeth rises from the chair and starts to cross to the door to the kitchen. As she does she passes casually downstage of Wilbur.
ELIZABETH: (As she passes Wilbur) Hello.
WILBUR: (Cautiously) Hello.
ELIZABETH: (Realizing she just pasted a ghost she screams.) Ahhhhhhhhhh!
WILBUR: (Startled) Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Wilbur and Elizabeth find themselves on opposite sides of the round table. They stare intently at each other as they slowly circle the table keeping an equal distance from each other the entire time. Finally they stop circling the table and lean forward toward each other, keeping the table between them.
ELIZABETH: (In a long slow, ghostly tone.) Hellooooo?
WILBUR: (Matching her rate of speech) Hellooooo.
ELIZABETH: (In a long slow tone.) You can hear meeeeeeee?
WILBUR: (Matching her rate of speech) Yessssss. You can hear meeeeeee?
ELIZABETH: (In a long slow tone.) Yessssssss.
WILBUR: (Matching her rate of speech) Soooo . . . Why are we talking like thisssssss?
ELIZABETH: (Suddenly self-conscience she stops.) Oh - - uhmm, sorry I just thought . . . you might . . . being a gh—I mean . . . you are Wilburn Nash, aren’t you?
WILBUR: (Suspicious) Yes.
ELIZABETH: (Trying to break it gently.) I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Mr. Nash, but . . . you’re dead.
ELIZABETH: Yes, sorry . . . but it’s true . . . you’re dead.
WILBUR: I know that.
ELIZABETH: You know?
WILBUR: Of course I know. Who could miss something like that?
ELIZABETH: It’s just . . . well I’d always heard that gh--, ah . . . spirits . . . were people who didn’t know they had died.
WILBUR: Who told you that?
ELIZABETH: I don’t know . . . it’s just a common theory, I guess—
WILBUR: Sounds rude to me. Like the dead are just a bunch of idiots. Frankly the whole notion sounds insulting.
ELIZABETH: So you know you’re dead? You’ve always known—
WILBUR: I mean, I might have been a little confused at first, but after you walk through a couple of walls you start to put two and two together.
ELIZABETH: Sorry. I just--
WILBUR: How are you doing this?
ELIZABETH: Doing what?
WILBUR: Talking to me. No one has been able to talk to me for years. Do you see me, too?
ELIZABETH: Well, yes.
ELIZABETH: And smell you.
WILBUR: Smell me?
ELIZABETH: The mothballs.
WILBUR: Oh, that . . . sorry. In life I was terrified of moths.
ELIZABETH: What do you know, Benny was right.
WILBUR: So you’re saying I stink?
ELIZABETH: What? . . . Well, not stink per se . . .
WILBUR: Does everyone smell me? Or is it just you?
ELIZABETH: I don’t think everyone . . . but a lot of people have said they smelled you. It’s sort of your calling card.
WILBUR: My calling card? My stink is my calling card? How embarrassing.
ELIZABETH: But as to how I’m able to see and talk to you I - - I don’t really know. I mean I’ve always been kind of sensitive--
WILBUR: You cry easily at movies?
ELIZABETH: No . . . well, yes, sometimes . . . but what I mean is you’re not my first ghost. I saw Poppy and Mr. Pendleton when I was a kid.
WILBUR: Poppy and Mr. Pendleton? Sounds like a vaudeville act.
ELIZABETH: You seem upset.
WILBUR: Well I am, rather. I mean I haven’t talked to anybody in decades. And in the first few seconds you’ve hinted I’m probably not smart enough to know I’m dead and that I have an odor problem. This is not a flattering meeting so far. Who are you people anyway?
ELIZABETH: I’m sorry. I’m Elizabeth Valentine. My husband, Henry--
WILBUR: Is your husband that loud, big guy?
ELIZABETH: Oh, no. That’s his brother, Benny.
WILBUR: I don’t like Benny.
ELIZABETH: I don’t either.
WILBUR: I feel like Benny is . . .
WILBUR: Someone you should never turn your back on . . . like if he were a baby tiger, he might eat the parent, not the other way around. Why is he here?
ELIZABETH: Oh . . . he just wants my husband, Henry, and me to open our B&B here.
WILBUR: B and what?
ELIZABETH: B&B. It stands for Bed and Breakfast. It’s a kind of inn.
WILBUR: (Panicked) An inn?! Here? Why? Why here?
ELIZABETH: Well . . . mainly because of you.
WILBUR: (Growing alarmed) Me? Why me?
ELIZABETH: Well, because you dead and . . . well, haunting this house.
WILBUR: Haunting this house? My God, is that what you people think I’m doing? Haunting? That’s awful.
ELIZABETH: What is?
WILBUR: Haunting! It sounds so . . . diabolical. I had no idea. I mean . . . I’m just here, you know. (Growing very anxious) Oh my God, I stink and I’m haunting people. I have to sit down.
He staggers to his chair and drops down in it.
ELIZABETH: Are you okay?
WILBUR: Sorry, just let me sit here a moment. This is all so terribly distressing. It’s like finding out you’ve been changing your clothes in front of a window instead of a mirror. This is terribly embarrassing. (He covers his face with his hands. Then quickly pulls them away) Eww, I smell the mothballs now. How disgusting. I wish ghosts could shower.
ELIZABETH: Gracious, I’ve upset you . . . I’m so sorry. Can I get you something?
WILBUR: Like what, a can of air freshener and an exorcist? I seriously thought I was keeping a pretty low profile here. I have to go. (He jumps up)
ELIZABETH: No. Why?
WILBUR: I’m not good with people. I’m not. I prefer books, And quiet. Solitude. Lots of solitude. When I’m with strangers I get the— (Hiccups) Damn, here they come. (Hiccup) This is just what I need. (Hiccup) Do you know how hard it is to cure this if you can’t drink water? It could last for days. (Hiccup)
ELIZABETH: You’re a ghost. You could just scare yourself.
WILBUR: Very funny. (Hiccup) Oh this always happens when I’m freaking out. Ginny always said she thought this was all in my head but—
ELIZABETH: Ginny? Who’s Ginny? Is there another ghost here?
WILBUR: (Quickly) No . . . Ginny is . . . Forget I said Ginny . . . please, (Hiccup) I have to go. (Starts to leave)
ELIZABETH: Please don’t go.
WILBUR: Wait a minute . . . if I’m “haunting” this place, why does this Benny person want you to have your BM here.
WILBUR: Whatever. If memory serves me right, the living used to shun (Hiccup) “haunted” places.
ELIZABETH: Not anymore. These days some people love the experience. They like the fear factor.
WILBUR: They like being scared.
ELIZABETH: Well, I think . . . I think we’re open to question the afterlife these days. guess . . . we all want to know what awaits us on the other side, you know?
WILBUR: Apparently it’s smelling bad and getting the— (Hiccup). And that’s why you’re here. Because I’m “haunting” this house you want to make it into your B&O.
ELIZABETH: B&B. Yes . . . I mean we thought that maybe people would enjoy experiencing what I’m experiencing right now. (She crosses in slowly to Wilbur) They want to get close to a ghost.
WILBUR: Oh my Lord . . . is that what I’ve become? Some morbid curiosity?
ELIZABETH: Well, when you say it like that—
WILBUR: This. . . this is terrible. . . I can’t . . . . I need to get out of here—
ELIZABETH: You can’t, Wilbur . . . please. Stay . . . you have to stay.
ELIZABETH: Well, I have so many questions. I mean, I’ve seen ghosts, but you’re the first one I’ve really been able to really talk to. What’s it like after we die? Why are you still here? Why haven’t you moved on? I mean, isn’t there an afterlife to go to?
WILBUR: These are all highly personal questions. I just met you. I really don’t know you well enough to answer. And to be honest, it’s rather rude of you to ask. (Starts to leave again)
ELIZABETH: Please, Wilbur, talk to me. You talked to those high school kids—
WILBUR: What high school kids?
ELIZABETH: The ones that broke in here last Halloween with the Ouija Board.
WILBUR: Oh, those damn Ouija boards. Look, let me tell you something about séances and Ouija boards. To the dead they’re like the office Christmas party, we don’t want to go but we feel like if we don’t at least put in an appearance somehow we’ll get in trouble. (Hiccup) Now, please take you husband and loud mouth Benny and leave me alone, okay? Let this horrible BLT idea go and let me get on with my afterlife in peace. I beg you.
ELIZABETH: Wilbur, relax . . . it will be okay . . .
WILBUR: I can’t. I wish I could but I . . . I’m waiting for something . . . that’s why I’m here, okay? . . . Ginny told me to wait . . . so I’m waiting . . .
ELIZABETH: Waiting? Waiting for what?
WILBUR: I-I can’t—
Elizabeth slowly advances on Wilbur with her hand out.
ELIZABETH: Wilbur, look at me . . . please . . . (He does) I don’t know why I’m suddenly able to see and speak to you, but there’s got to be a reason. Maybe this is what was supposed to happen . . . Maybe I was brought here for a reason. Talk to me, Wilbur. Let me help you.
As she gets closer, Wilbur slowly reaches out his hand to her. They are about to touch when suddenly Benny bursts through the front door. He is agitated.
BENNY: I don’t care what Hodges says, there have got to be more ghosts in this house than some nervous little, mothball librarian.
Wilbur uses this distraction to retreat through the “hole” in the wall he used to enter the room. He is quickly gone.