On a dark, cold night at the Laburnum Villa, the White family is awaiting a visitor. Mr. White and his son Herbert are playing chess while Mrs. White knits by the fire. Sergeant Major Morris arrives and regales the family with tales from his 21 years of traveling to vast and exotic places in his tenure as a soldier.
Mr. White reminds Morris of a story he was telling him recently regarding a strange monkey’s paw he acquired in India. It supposedly was bewitched by an old fakir to grant three separate men three wishes. Mr. White wants the paw, but Morris is reluctant, saying it causes trouble.
Morris throws the paw into the fire and Mr. White rescues it. Mr. White makes his first wish: he wishes for a sum of two hundred pounds (£200). There’s a loud crashing noise and the paw moves. The next day, the Whites receive word that Herbert was caught in the machinery at work and killed. The company compensates the Whites with a check for £200.
The Whites are shaken by how their wish came true and filled with grief from losing their only son. Mrs. White persuades Mr. White to wish that Herbert was alive again. Mr. White finds the paw and makes the wish; all of a sudden, there is a quiet, persistent knocking at the door.
The knocking becomes louder. Mrs. White wants to run to the door, frantic to let Herbert in, but Mr. White holds her back because knows the wickedness of the paw and is afraid of what kind of “state” Herbert might be in. She breaks free and runs to the door, but she can’t reach the bolt. Mr. White searches hurriedly for the paw.
Just as his wife gets a chair, climbs up, and slides back the bolt, Mr. White finds the paw and makes his final wish. The knocking suddenly stops. Mrs. White opens the door, but there is no one outside.