Friday, October 12, 2012

Terror by Red Death--My First Horror

Edgar Allan Poe was a brilliant and possibly mad poet and writer.

The genre of horror cannot be mentioned without including him in the conversation. He may have been depressed, alcoholic, and lovelorn--all of which provide fertile ground for all sorts of terrors. He also happened to be a master of words, and the combination makes for gorgeous and horrible tales.

When I was in third grade our teacher told us we were going read Masque of the Red Death in her class, and I was ecstatic, not because I was a fan of Poe and that young age, but because we were going to read something that had the word 'death' in it.

I considered myself a ghost story and horror fan at that age, but my interest leaned more to Tales from the Crypt comics from Oh! Johnnies, a store that sold everything from magazines to fountain sodas, and Dracula with Bella Lugosi. But then Mrs. Walsh, my third grade teacher that had a plastic peace sign on the chimney
of her house, gave us a thin books of Poe's stories right before lunch on an overcast spring day.

I read the first page and was astounded there was this kind of writing in the world. It resonated with something dark in me, even at eight years old. I walked home for lunch with my nose in the book, and told my mother all about it over a bowl of macaroni and cheese. She listened carefully as I told her of the colored rooms and how the matching glass windows infused the rooms with gorgeous light. I told her of the black room with the blood red window, and she told me she did not like that, and wrinkled her nose.  This tickled me.

By the weekend I had enlisted my poor five year old sister to be a victim in my Off-Broadway edition off the book. Being the director, I had to tell her a little bit about the plot, but she was not old enough to process the details, and heard only--blood, death, and monsters. She basically had a fit and cried for the next hour, and I got into a bit of trouble. All this drama somehow made the whole scenario more delectable to me, and I have never been the same. I ponder why I love the fear, the nerve-wracking tension, and the constant search for a book or movie that will actually scare me.

I read the story at least three more times before the teacher made us turn in the books. I went to the library to look up other stories from Poe, and although I liked others, especially The Black Cat, none affected me like dark tale of Prince Prospero, his opulent surroundings, and eventual demise because of the Red Death.

I considered doing a similar color theme as the chambers of Prince Prospero's castle to the bedrooms in my previous home, but there was something just a tick too dark for even me to live with, and the stained glass windows would certainly be tough to recreate.

Although I have read endless horror books, poems, and stories, The Red Death was my first love, and remains one on my favorite pieces of literature--and a clock chiming at the midnight hour will forever send a chill down my spine.

I wonder if it has anything to do with my love of short stories--and germ-phobia...

Please read the short but terrifying tale below.

My short and bloody tale Absorbed on Amazon.


  1. The Tell Tale Heart is the one that got to me, although now I'm realizing that every room in my house is painted a different color and I'm wondering if The Masque of the Red Death didn't sink in a bit deeper than I thought... ;)


  2. Oh WOW I would love to see that!
    Yeah--Tell Tale got me too, but not until I was a bit older. I don't think it sunk in until I re-read wicked.
    I love it when stories don't scare you THAT much at first but then give you that kick like certain chilly peppers...not until you swallow and it's too late does the burning start.
    I think Poe would be one of the 6 at my dinner of dream or dead, oh and of course Jimmy Page and Jack White and you Aniko, because if Jack was there and I didn't tell you that would be IT.

  3. Great post! I have never read much horror, but I do love Stephen King, especially his early books. I love Salem's Lot, The Shining, and The Stand. Maybe not horror, but Salem's Lot is the scariest book that I have ever read. I think something inside me wants to branch out a bit more and Poe may be where to start.

    Paul R. Hewlett

  4. Great place to start if you like dark.
    Spephen King manages to do horror in a contemporary and somehow upbeat kind of way.
    Poe is a dismal, dark-hearted soul--I looove that.
    And Salem's Lot is one of the scariest things I have ever read too.
    That boy scratching at the window is enough to kill me...:)

  5. Poe has meaningful dark stories. It's not for those who like dark, it's for good literature lovers! :)

  6. My daughter and I (re)watched The Fellowship of the Ring last night, and I told her about seeing it with her older cousins when they were her age, and how one of them thought it was scary. She said, "It's not scary. It's intense, but not scary."

    We had a bit of a discussion about that. I happen to think the LOTR has some pretty scary moment, both on film and the books. She said no. So I asked, well, what *is* scary for you, then. She said, "There's this story I listened to when I was younger, where a guy is lying on a table or something, and this blade keeps swinging back and forth, getting closer and closer. Now THAT was scary."

    She was talking, of course, about The Pit and the Pendulum. Proof that it doesn't take special effects and fountains of blood to be scary.

    1. Wow Marie, I love that story :)
      And ya know what, she's right, that is @#$ing scary!
      And I really think that scary is different for everyone.
      I think that the scariest moment of LOTR is when Smeagle morphs into the scary Gollum. Creepy.

  7. Pretty bold choice for your 3rd grade teacher. Back when education was allowed a little more cojones :)

    And I love that you attempted an "Off Broadway" version with your sister.

    I teach "The Cask of Amontillado" every year to my freshmen. I like it because it's a little lesser known but follows suit with Poe's fear of premature burial.

    Fun post.

    Paul D. Dail

    1. Thanks Paul! So glad you are back!
      You know I knew in third grade it was a bold move--I was so happy I had Mrs. Walsh :)
      I think my sister is still traumatized from trying to figure out how we could bleed from our POORS--we had no idea what a pore was.
      She then locked me in the basement for the next ten years everytime she wanted a toy...payback's a bitch.
      I like Cask--ah--I like them all--but I bet that class is great.


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