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In 1765, several persons disappear from the New England village of Arkham. The townspeople soon discover that Squire Joseph Curwen is a warlock who with the aid of Hester Tillinghast is sacrificing village girls. Curwen is set upon by the villagers and burned alive. Through the flames, Curwen vows revenge upon the villagers and their descendants. A century later, Curwen's great-great-grandson, Charles Dexter Ward, and his wife, Ann, reopen the Curwen mansion. The villagers, who fear Curwen's curse, are openly hostile to Ward. Ward discovers mutants living near the village who, according to Dr. Marinus Willet, the only villager to befriend the Wards, are direct descendants of the villagers who burned Curwen. Ward comes under the spell of a portrait of his ancestor, whom he resembles, and is befriended by Simon Orne and Jabez Hutchinson, themselves warlocks. Together they resurrect Hester, and Curwen (in Ward's body) prepares to sacrifice Ann. Meanwhile, the villagers storm the house and burn the portrait. Ward is released from the spell, but once they are safely away from the burning mansion, the couple's features appear to undergo a change: Ward becomes Curwen and Ann becomes Hester.