Just finished the book. In it, there's not as much mystery about Billy. He truly believes in his wife's supernatural abilities, although she's only been able to read other peoples' minds, not contact the dead.
I think in the movie, Billy is reinforcing the idea that it's all in Myra's head, with Arthur and her "gift." There is no Arthur in the book. The two of them actually get along very well, but have resentments as the plan begins to fall apart.
In the final seance scene, Billy knows the jig is up, and is very nervous. The police officer the superintendent sent outside was the one following him after taking him the money--Billy recognizes his hat. The little girl is dead, accidentally smothered by Billy while he was trying to keep her quiet (when Mrs. Clayton was in the next room). Billy feels tremendous guilt, which turns to fear for his own safety.
When he left the body in the woods, Billy struggled with the scout master trying to get away, which brought on a terrible asthma attack. He barely made it back home, knowing he had been seen by the scout master and the scouts, who found the body. But Myra still wanted her publicity to make her a famous medium, and made a phone call to Mr. Clayton telling him he could find his daughter by a certain tree in the woods.
During that final seance, (Mr. Clayton is there too), Myra does contact the little girl's spirit, who tells about the nurse and doctor (Myra hit the little girl and threatened her with more beatings).
The superintendent asks Billy where the money is and Billy tells him, then feels great relief. Myra comes out of her trance, and asks Billy if she really did it (contact the dead). He smiles and says she did.
WOW! The little girl dies in the book! I wonder whether the outcome in the film had to be changed in order to please the sensors. Thank You for replying with all this great detail. BTW, one of the last filmed novels I read was "The Haunting Of Hill House", the basis for "The Haunting" (1963). I found the film to be far more compelling than the book. Cheers!
It took a while for my reply so you may not see this, but wasn't Julie Harris wonderful in The Haunting of Hill House? My favorite of her film roles was in Member of the Wedding. Oh my goodness, what a movie (and that one I'd say the book and movie were equally good).
Thanks for the book synopsis. It makes a lot more sense than the movie does.
I don't think it makes more sense than the movie. Sweeties, to constantly just say "the book was better" is not only about the most cliche, unthinking attempt to sound superior, but also just blatantly not true. For the most part, the book and the movie are identical here.
Thanks for the information, I liked the movie version because the little girl lives but it does make sense that he killed her.
I'm feeling much better.