The Masque Of The Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842
The magic trick:
Inventiveness and imagination
Happy Halloween! I can think of no story that better recalls the scary, creepy Halloween autumns of my youth than “The Masque Of The Red Death.” Not because it recalls any similar experience. Thankfully, I wasn’t partying with the rich kids in creepy castles. I never even had a Goth phase. But I read this story at a young age, and it made a huge impact on me. Why? I think it was the sheer inventiveness of Poe. This is the one story, even among his batch of classics, that really stands out to me as a masterpiece of sinister imagination. The fire torches blazing through the colored windows into each room? Amazing. The death clock pausing the party every hour? Haunting. And I mean, come on, he even invented his own particularly nasty form of pestilence for the story. I don’t even much care about any allegorical implications. I just love the force of imagination. And that’s quite a trick on Poe’s part.
But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly lit the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or back chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.