“The Masque of the Red Death”/”The Pit and the Pendulum”, Edgar Allan Poe



I feel like perhaps the first thing I should do is provide one GIANT spoiler alert for this post. I always try not to give away too many spoilers, but I’ve found over time that this gets next to impossible with short stories. So consider yourself warned!

I feel like I’m just plowing away on the short stories for Carl’s R.I.P Challenge and Future-Mr. Book Maven’s recent obsession with Call of Duty: Black Ops has given me the perfect opportunity to read two greats from a legend of horror – Mr. Edgar Allan Poe himself.

Both “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” are considered to be classic example of Poe’s ice-cold and bone chilling horror writing. The former tells of a lavish masque party gone awry while being held in a sequestered monastery during a plague called the Red Death; the latter the tale of man convicted during the Inquisition and subjected to one of the most horrifying (to me) deaths imaginable. Both are great examples of a challenging short story that will scare the piss out of you if allowed to take hold.

I have to say that while I personally find “The Pit and the Pendulum” to be the scarier of the two stories, I think that “Masque of the Red Death” is far more beautiful to read. To begin with, I find the description of the lighting – different colored rooms lit only by back lit windows – to be appealing both to the color freak as well as the creepiness lover within me. Second, just the general setting of a lavish, un-class conscious ball held during so much decay and death is just hilarious in a kind of sick way. If there is one issue I have issue with, it’s the ending. I mean, come on Poe? A ghost? Really? I would have enjoyed it much more, I think, had the man in the mask been, I don’t know, a zombie or recently infected party goer (somehow). It was scary, but it wasn’t terrifying. Unlike…

“The Pit and the Pendulum” scared the shit out of me. Seriously. I have often thought that being buried alive would be an absolutely horrible way to die. Add to that the panic I feel when I contemplate what it would be like to slowly watch my inevitable death approaching..damn. Well done, Mr. Poe. I’m not sure what else there is to say! I believe that the horror of a good horror story lies in the environment and surroundings, and no one does that better than Poe. The descriptions of everything from the slimy pit walls to the starving, red-eyed rats was terrifying. Of the two, if you’re only going to read one, I’d definitely have to say go with “The Pit and the Pendulum”!

In other reading news, I’m making decent headway on China Mieville’s The Kraken, although I usually find myself making the ” what the fuck is happening” face more often than not (people who have already read it – this is normal, right?!) but I’m enjoying it regardless! I’m also just starting to dabble in some H.P. Lovecraft short stories, and I’m thinking of picking up Daphne DuMarier’s Rebecca for the Labor Day weekend. We’ll just have to see though! No matter what you’ve got on the front and back burners, I wish you happy reading!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anna D.
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 13:53:40

    I feel really bad saying this, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Poe. I used to have a huge collection of his works, but it disappeared long ago. I blame it on my natural tendency to balk at reading anything considered a “classic.”
    Maybe I should pick up a copy of his short stories and read some soon.


  2. Andi (Estella's Revenge)
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 14:40:19

    “The Masque of the Red Death” is one of my all-time favorite short stories. Sadly (and I can hardly believe it myself), I have not read “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Maybe part of my RIP VI self-challenge will be reading more of Poe’s stories. 🙂


  3. Carl V.
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 19:30:05

    If you haven’t, please be sure to post links to your reviews on the Book Review site.

    I love both of these stories. Masque of the Red Death will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first Poe story I ever read. It was assigned for junior high lit and it just sucked me right in.

    I think the point of the story is that it isn’t so much a ghost in the end as it is the disease itself, making its way into the party despite all the protection they thought they had.

    Pit and the Pendulum is eerie, especially if you think too much about what it would be like to be strapped down with that blade swinging back and forth and inching its way down. *Shiver* I’m kind of a sucker for these old stories with torture chambers in the basement, dungeons and the like. This is a fun story.


  4. Kailana
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 03:33:44

    I really want to read some Poe before the end of October. Hopefully I will be able to fit some in!


  5. wolfshowl
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 15:44:37

    The Pit and the Pendulum will always be my favorite Poe story!


  6. Richard
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 14:32:25

    I’m hoping to read a Poe short story or two for R.I.P. VI myself, Chelsea, but in the meantime you’ve whet my appetite with talk about these two titles (both read long ago but little remembered until now). Like how you point out that one was scarier but the other was maybe more nicely written; it seems like there’s always something to appreciate in his stories. My favorite one is still “The Cask of Amontillado” after all these years. Cheers!


    • Chelsea
      Sep 17, 2011 @ 15:51:27

      I’ve never read “The Cask of Amontillado”, but I’m hoping to before the RIP Challenge is over!


  7. bookworm
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 16:53:41

    Nice post, I adore Poe and his creepy writing. ‘The Pit and the Pendulum” scared the shit out of me'<-perfectly said, it scared me too.
    I read The Masque of the Red Death in grade school, but I dont really remember much of it. I've been reading Poe for R.I.P. as well.


  8. Trackback: The R.I.P. VI Challenge: A Wrap-Up « Book Maven’s Blog
  9. ashraf
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 15:11:58

    nice one i love it thanks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: