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Verden Fell has his wife, Ligeia, buried in a churchyard in 1821 despite the parson's objections that Ligeia was not a Christian. A black cat perched atop the coffin screeches, and Ligeia's eyes open for a moment before the grave is closed. Several months later, Lady Rowena, the daughter of a local squire, is fox hunting when she is suddenly thrown from her horse near Ligeia's grave. Frightened by the surroundings and the loud wailing of a black cat, Rowena faints and is carried to safety by Fell. She finds herself strangely attracted to him in spite of his forboding manner and the gloomy Gothic abbey where he lives. The two eventually marry, but after they return from their honeymoon, Fell becomes more remote than ever and leaves Rowena alone at night. She begins to have dreams involving the black cat and Ligeia, and one night she discovers a dead fox in her bed. Christopher Gough, an admirer of Rowena, becomes suspicious, and after exhuming Ligeia's coffin, he finds a wax figure inside. Meanwhile, Rowena smashes through a mirror and finds Fell in the arms of the preserved body of Ligeia, who apparently had hypnotized Fell into believing that she would live forever. Rowena tries to help Fell, but he convinces her that she has become Ligeia. Possessed with the spirit of his dead wife, Fell sets fire to the abbey and tries to kill the cat. Christopher manages to rescue Rowena, but Fell dies in the flames, clutching the cat.