Frederick Loren is an extremely wealthy individual who owns several companies, though it is never stated exactly what his business interests are. Though he presents himself as charming and gracious to strangers and acquaintances, during his private interactions with his current wife, Annabelle Loren, a much darker personality is revealed. Annabelle comments at one point that Frederick sometimes becomes insane with jealousy, and that nothing matters to him when this emotion overtakes him. She also notes that because of his vast wealth he believes that he can get away with anything.
Frederick constantly accuses Annabelle of being unfaithful to him, and this is later revealed to be true. He is also convinced that she tried to murder him at one point, as some arsenic found its way into a glass he was drinking from and he nearly died. Annabelle clearly loathes him and wants him dead, but in her defense, her fear and hatred of him could very well be justified, as his previous wives died under rather mysterious circumstances. Annabelle is his fourth wife; as she tells Lance Schroder: "The first simply disappeared, the other two died." Loren's doctors testified that the two who were found dead had both died of heart attacks, even though they were both in their twenties.
Haunted House Party Edit
At Annabelle's suggestion, Frederick decides to hold a "haunted house party" at the House on Haunted Hill, a decrepit old mansion that has been the site of several grisly murders and is supposedly haunted by the spirits of the victims. Frederick embellishes the original idea by deciding to invite a houseful of guests to spend the night with them, with an offer of $10,000.00 each if they can survive the entire night in the house. The guests are seemingly chosen at random: Nora Manning, a young woman who works for one of his companies and who is in desperate need of money to help support her family. Lance Schroder, a test pilot. David Trent, a psychiatrist who is conducting research on hysteria. Ruth Bridges, a newspaper columnist. And Watson Pritchett, an alcoholic who owns the house and who was almost killed there years earlier.
Things take an ominous turn almost from the beginning when Nora is nearly crushed to death underneath a falling chandelier. Frederick and Annabelle argue about her decision not to attend the party after he invited his guests. Frederick introduces himself to his guests and lays the ground rules for the evening, which are thus: The house's caretakers will leave at midnight and lock the door behind them until they return at 8 o'clock the following morning. Once the house's only door is locked there will be no way for them to escape, and since there is no phone they will be unable to call for help if anything happens, so if anyone decides not to stay they must leave with the caretakers...which means that they will forfeit the $10,000.00.