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.
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