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On Crescent Drive in New Bristol, on a dark, rainy New England night, an elderly housekeeper named Alberta sees a man lurking inside the boarded-up house at Number Eleven, and is strangled by him in nearby Salem Alley. Young Barnaby Fielding watches the scene from his bedroom window at Number Ten, and retrieves Alberta's gold watch. The murder is still unsolved when Elizabeth Howard arrives at the Fieldings' to be the new governess for Barnaby and his sister Ellen. Barnaby is strangely devoted to their former governess, Maxine, who orders him to keep watch at night and leave his stuffed elephant in the window. Elizabeth finds the gold watch and gives it to Barnaby's father David, but because he was suspected of killing his wife, who died in an automobile accident two years earlier, David is afraid to give it to the police. Widow Marian Tygarth, who once lived in Number Eleven with her husband, the commodore, arrives in town to sell the house, which has been boarded up since the commodore's death twelve years earlier. Returning from the movies one evening, Barnaby, on orders from Maxine, leads Elizabeth down Salem Alley, and she is nearly accosted by the killer. Although David refuses to believe her, Elizabeth maintains that someone has been coming in the front door at night. Elizabeth's anxiety mounts, and she visits David's neighbor and friend, Dr. Charles Evans, to explain the strange happenings in the house. She later realizes that Barnaby is being paid to unlock the front door, and the next night, she locks it as the strange man approaches. The next day, Maxine arrives at the house posing as the new maid, and Barnaby tells her he saw the man from Number Eleven chase Alberta the night she was murdered. Maxine slaps him to keep him quiet, and he realizes for the first time that Maxine has been using him. After David orders Maxine to leave, Elizabeth finds her dead inside the gate to Number Eleven, and races to tell Evans. That night, David disappears, and detective Sullivan suspects him of the crimes. While Elizabeth is alone in the house with the children, Marian enters and tells her that her husband was murdered in Number Eleven, and that the perpetrator has returned to the scene of the crime. Barnaby goes to the empty house to return his wages to the strange man. Marian then catches the killer cleaning up dried blood, and is herself killed. Elizabeth saves Barnaby and races back to Number Ten with him, where Evans and David then arrive. Elizabeth fears that David, whom she loves, is the murderer, but he has seen Evans kill Marian, and accuses him of helping Marian kill her husband. When Barnaby interrupts the two men to give his wages back to Evans, David disarms the doctor. Sullivan arrives in search of David, but Evans turns himself in. David and Elizabeth then kiss and discuss marriage plans.