The set-up is pretty cheery for such a dark tale. It opens with Arthur Kipps at home with his family and enjoying a pleasant Christmas Eve. However, when the talk of the evening turns to ghost stories, the real tale begins—and the real exposition.
Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor who's heading off on a business trip to tie up the affairs of a newly deceased Mrs. Drablow. He's bound for a small town called Crythin Gifford, where he'll be sorting papers at the creepily named Eel Marsh House. And, with all the info we need for a truly nail-biting story, we're off!
When Arthur gets to Crythin Gifford, he encounters lots of fog and uneasy townsfolk who don't want anything to do with (1) him, or (2) talk of Mrs. Drablow. We know that something is afoot, and we know it even more when all sorts of creepy things start happening at the house after Arthur spies a scary-looking woman in black at Mrs. Drablow's funeral.
As Arthur explores Eel Marsh House, things start to go bump in the night (literally). It all comes to a head when he realizes that the woman in black is actually a ghost. And if that's not climactic, we don't know what is.
When Arthur brings up his findings to Sam Daily, the whole story falls into place. We find out that the ghost is of a woman named Jennet Humfrye who haunts Eel Marsh House and Crythin Gifford because she's super angry about the death of her child. Every time she's seen, a child dies… except for this time. Whew! Arthur heads back to London, certain that the story is over.
Or is it?
Not exactly. The actual resolution happens a couple years later, when Arthur has married his girlfriend Stella and had a child named Joseph. He sees the woman in black again and his wife and child get into a terrible accident and die. That's when everything really gets resolved—with a bitter old ghost's revenge.