The Masque of the Red Death

Good ghost stories are rare, this is one of my favourites. The Masque of the Red Death is a fantastic Gothic story by Edgar Allan Poe. It is about a Prince trying to protect himself and his court from a plague. It is a great ghost story because the ghost has a purpose; is there to illustrate the futility of trying to escape death. Storytellers often use supernatural beings in a very arbitrary fashion. They wheel out a ghost or vampire if they want to scare us. But the better class of ghost has some kind of philosophical point to make. In The Ruins of the Abbey of Fitz-Martin (Anon.) the ghostly nun is there to remind the villain of his guilt. She is a physical manifestation of the crimes that are locked in his memory. Ghosts are about conscience, maybe this is why they appear so often in Christian cultures, in spite of the fact that we are not supposed to believe in them. They are about how we cannot run from truth, Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth is another example, especially as only the guilty Macbeth can actually see him.

There is a passage about ghosts in the Old Testament (First Samuel 28:3-25). It is a controversial story; The Witch of En-dor summons the ghost of King Samuel to give advice to King Saul. The passage is about gaining knowledge through some supernatural source, Saul is unable to discern the best tactic in his war. It is a difficult passage as Christians are not supposed to believe in, let alone encourage, either witches or ghosts.

Maybe we all have a ghost somewhere in our conscience, waiting to make itself visible.

Time for bed in my creaky building with few working lights.


One thought on “The Masque of the Red Death

  1. Pingback: Analysing Stories « Thrin

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