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Norman Spencer

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Dr. Norman Spencer is the hidden main antagonist in the 2000 horror film What Lies Beneath.

He is portrayed by Harrison Ford.


Norman is a renowned scientist and the husband of Claire Spencer, whom he lives with in Vermont. A year previously, Claire had been involved in a serious car accident that leaves gaps in her memory. Combined with her daughter Caitlin's departure for college, this leaves Claire profoundly affected. The Spencers — who have moved into the former home of Norman's father — live next door to the Feurs, who have just moved in and frequently engage in loud sex sessions as well as loud arguments. Overhearing Mary Feur sobbing one day, Claire becomes concerned. When she sees Mary's husband Warren seemingly dragging something that resembles a body bag in the middle of the night and putting it in the trunk of the car, she suspects that Mary has been murdered. Claire decides to investigate, and after nobody answers the door, she walks around the side of the house and discovers a woman's sandal with a dark stain on it. She steals the sandal as evidence. Back on the doorstep, she is surprised by Warren, whose surly behavior further arouses her suspicion. Claire begins spying on Warren with the help of her best friend Jody. However, Claire soon witnesses strange occurrences when she is alone in the house — pictures fall, doors open, and a shadowy reflection is seen in her bathwater. Claire becomes convinced that Mary is dead and haunting her.

Desperate for closure, and facing little sympathy from Norman, Claire invites Jody to join her for a séance in her bathroom, where she seems to be able to communicate with Mary's ghost. Claire produces the sandal for the ritual; after it starts, the dial on the Ouija board starts to move slowly from "M" to "F". However, the séance is cut short after being interrupted by Cooper, their Saint Bernard dog. Claire and Jody initially assume the séance has been a nonsensical exercise; however, after Jody leaves, Claire returns to the bathroom to find the tub filled. This time she sees the ghost in the mirror, Claire asks the ghost what it wants. It replies with a message on a clouded mirror: "YOU KNOW". Later, her computer also displays the letters "MEF" being typed over and over.

An anxious Claire goes to Norman's office to inform him of the séance. While traveling through Norman's campus, Claire encounters Warren and hysterically accuses him of killing his wife. But Warren responds with confusion before Mary—very much alive—joins him. When Mary speaks with Claire later, she explains that she had left Warren and that he had been packing her belongings when Claire saw him.

The Spencers assume that the ordeal is over, but later a picture breaks in Norman's study. Picking it up, Claire notices a newspaper clipping about a missing girl named Madison Elizabeth Frank. She learns that Madison attended the university where Norman was a lecturer. While visiting Madison's mother she steals a braid of Madison's hair. Reading from a book on the supernatural given to her by Jody, Claire uses the hair to perform a ritual that allows Madison to possess her and seduce Norman. But Claire morphs into Madison during the tryst, causing Norman to push her away. Claire's memory returns, and she remembers that she had caught Norman and Madison together the night of her car accident. Outraged by Norman's infidelity, Claire spends the night with Jody, who confirms to Claire her suspicion of Norman's affair after having seen him and Madison together in a small cafe in the town of Adamant; unseen by Norman, Jody keeps this information to herself until she confesses to Claire.

Norman eventually confesses; he had a brief relationship with Madison, but realized that he loved Claire too much to leave her, causing the unstable Madison to threaten to kill Claire. He states Madison came to the house and he finds her dead of an overdose. He pushed Madison's car (with Madison inside) into the lake. Claire urges Norman to contact the authorities, and he agrees to do so. He speaks with the police on the phone, and then leaves to take a shower. Suspicious of her husband, Claire redials the phone and discovers that he had not really called the police. Norman suddenly grabs her from behind and sedates her. He drags her to the bathtub, which is still running, and places her in the rising water.

Norman explains to Claire that Madison was planning on going to the college's Dean about their affair, and he could not let that happen, so he killed her and pushed Madison's car and body into the lake. Norman then tells Claire he hopes her death will bring him closer to Caitlin who looks so much like her. Norman leans over Claire's paralyzed body to give her one final kiss. While doing so, he notices that she is wearing a pendant around her neck. When he picks up Claire's head to adjust it her face suddenly morphs into the corpse-like face of Madison. He is startled and jumps back, slipping on the wet floor, and hitting his head on the sink; he is left bloodied and unconscious on the floor.

Claire, recovering from the sedative, looks over the edge of the bathtub to see that Norman has crawled away while she was struggling to drain the water. Having recovered from the sedative, she crawls out of the bathtub, eventually regaining enough strength to walk down the stairs. The phone has been disconnected, so she tries to drive somewhere that will have cell phone reception. Norman, only stunned at the bottom of the stairs, chases her and jumps into the back of the truck. A ghostlike figure appears in the road, which Claire swerves to avoid, and she drives off the bridge into the same lake into which Norman pushed Madison's car. Underwater, Norman tried to drown her and grabs Claire's leg as she escapes out the window, but Madison's decaying body, disturbed by debris falling from the car, floats up, grabs Norman, and forces him to release Claire's leg so she can swim to the surface. A horrified Norman then drowns whilst staring into the face of Madison's corpse.



  • This is not the first time Harrison Ford has played a villain role. The first time was in American Graffiti as Bob Falfa.

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