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The Masque of the Red Death in popular culture

Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 short story "The Masque of the Red Death" has been depicted and referenced numerous times in popular culture.



  • Stephen King's novel The Shining contains several allusions to the story. For example, the line "and the red death held sway over all" seems to reference the final line of Poe's story. It is alluded to more directly in volume six of his "Dark Tower" series.
  • In Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, this story is referenced by an elderly British author in a speech given at a socialite's party.
  • In Neil Gaiman's 1996 novel Neverwhere, a minor character briefly mentions the story "The Masque of the Red Death" when describing a fancy event at a museum.
  • Death in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels references the story a couple of times; in Maskerade (which pastiches Phantom of the Opera, see below), he wears a Red Death costume at the book's climax. In The Light Fantastic, Death consoles himself after being summoned from an enjoyable party, noting that it was going to go downhill at midnight – as that's when everyone would have expected him to take his mask off.
  • The Chuck Palahniuk novel Haunted begins with a quote from "The Masque of the Red Death". Also, several of the rooms are colored with themes that reflect the story.
  • In the Dan Simmons novel The Terror, an elaborate Carnivale and masque is staged outdoors by the crew of two ice-locked ships. The crew builds a series of multi-colored compartments for the event out on the ice using the ships' rigging and different colored paints. A crew member thinks of this idea from incompletely remembering a story by Poe he read in a magazine.
  • The last chapter of Valerio Evangelisti's novel Il corpo e il sangue di Eymerich (The Body and the Blood of Eymerich) shares the story's title and retells its plot almost literally in the context of the book.
  • The second installment of the limited comic series Rocket Raccoon, "The Masque of the Red Breath", featured an insidious red cloud, the Red Breath, which attacked a masquerade and "erased" its victims from existence.
  • White Wolf's trilogy Masquerade of the Red Death is named and has some elements based on this story.
  • Masque of the Red Death — an erotic, science-fiction "decadent" re-telling of the original Poe story first in webcomic format, followed by graphic novel publication, by Wendy Pini
  • In Tom Clancy's 2002 novel Red Rabbit, the CIA formulates a long-term plan to destabilize Communism in the Soviet Union and hasten the end of the Cold War, codenamed "Masque of the Red Death".

Stage and screenEdit

  • A horror film called The Masque of the Red Death was shot in 1964 by Roger Corman. It incorporates a sub-plot based on another Poe tale, "Hop-Frog." The film stars Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher and Patrick Magee. The film had a 1989 remake starring Adrian Paul.
  • In Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, Erik, the Phantom, attends a ball dressed as the Red Death with the inscription "Je suis la Mort Rouge qui passe!" ("I am the Red Death that passes") embroidered on his cloak in gold. The Red Death costume shows up in both the 1925 version, 1986 musical and 2004 film of the same name, though the 1925 movie and stage production are somewhat more accurate regarding his appearance, as he bears a large feathered hat and lengthy cloak as described in the novel (although both stage and screen costume bear skull masks). Neither appearance, however, shows the inscription. The 1987 animated film also shows the Red Death scene. In the 1989 film, starring Robert Englund, Erik is also dressed as the Red Death. On the cover of Sam Siciliano's The Angel of the Opera, Erik is dressed as the Red Death.
The Phantom of the Opera dressed as the Red Death in the 1925 film.


  • Avant-Garde musical artist Diamanda Galás adopted "Masque of the Red Death" as the collective name for a trilogy of work consisting of the albums Saint of the Pit, The Divine Punishment and You Must Be Certain of the Devil.
  • The German metal band Stormwitch has a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1985 album "Tales Of Terror".
  • The American metal band Manilla Road made a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1987 album Mystification.
  • The American metal band Crimson Glory made a song called "Masque of the Red Death" on their 1988 album Transcendence.
  • On the Norwegian gothic metal group Theatre of Tragedy's 1996 album Velvet Darkness They Fear, the fifth track, "And When He Falleth" includes several sections of Jane Asher and Vincent Price's dialogues from the 1964 film of The Masque of the Red Death.
  • The lyrics in Eros Ramazzotti's song "Lettera al futuro" ("Letter to the future"), included on his 1996 album Dove c'è musica, tell the story's plot in a simplified form and compare Poe's plague to AIDS and various 'plagues' affecting today's world.
  • The 2002 Thrice album The Illusion of Safety features a song titled "The Red Death", an interpretation of the story.
  • Musician Ann Danielewski received her nickname, and later stage name, "Poe" after wearing a Red Death costume to a childhood Halloween party.
  • The Swiss black metal band Samael made a song called "Mask of the Red Death" on their album Ceremony of Opposites.
  • On the American band Tourniquet's album Vanishing Lessons, the equally named track quotes a passage from this story.
  • Producer Winnie Waldron produced a version of Masque of the Red Death for the American radio drama series Radio Tales on National Public Radio; the program featured a full-length musical score by Winifred Phillips, who also narrated the story. In their Fall 1997 Quarterly Edition publication, NPR wrote, "Things get underway on an elegantly macabre note as Winifred Phillips performs Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" to her original music score."[5] In describing the program Benjamin H. Cheever of AudioFile Magazine wrote, "The music of Poe's text is amplified and clarified with sound effects and an original score."[6]
  • American singer Hana Pestle has a song entitled "The Red Death Ball" which contains a lyrical story that was inspired by the events that occur within The Masque of the Red Death.
  • Nox Arcana has a song on their 2007 album Shadow of the Raven entitled "Masque of the Red Death", which is an organ and chorus themed musical interpretation of the Edgar Allan Poe story.
  • New York shoegaze band Highspire references The Red Death in their song "Joke's On You" on their 2010 album "Aquatic."
  • The song Deadly Masquerade by the Japanese visual kei band Sadie tells the story from the perspective of the guests at the ball.
  • The French impressionist composer André Caplet composed Etude symphonique pour harpe chromatique principale and orchestra (1908) based upon Masque of the Red Death and revised it in 1923 to Conte fantastique d'après "Le Masque de la Mort Rouge" d'Edgar Allan Poe pour Harpe and string quartet.
  • The 2011 orchestral composition Prospero's Rooms by the American composer Christopher Rouse depicts the narrative of the story musically.[7][8]
  • American funeral doom metal band Bell Witch wrote a song for their 2012 album Longing titled "Beneath the Mask", which uses sound clips from the 1964 film The Masque of the Red Death.
  • American composer/violinist Edward W. Hardy composed a classical string quartet piece called "A Fantasy" inspired by The Masque of the Red Death.[9]

Other mediaEdit

  • The 1994 computer game Under a Killing Moon featured interludes in which text slides containing lines of The Masque of the Red Death were narrated by James Earl Jones.
  • In 1994 a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game campaign setting was published under the name Masque of the Red Death as an offshoot of Ravenloft taking place on a version of earth in the year 1890 with many elements from gothic fiction.
  • The 1995 computer game The Dark Eye featured an abstract slide-show segment accompanying a reading of "The Masque of the Red Death" performed by William S. Burroughs.
  • The Paizo Pathfinder Adventure Path Curse of the Crimson Throne second module, Seven Days to the Grave features a disease called blood veil that shares many features with the Red Death, most notably the sweating of blood, furthermore, later in that same module, a plot of infecting nobles that had isolated themselves inside a manor seems heavily inspired on the plot of Masque of the Red Death.
  • The October 20, 2008 issue of The New Yorker featured a Red Death character looming over stock traders in the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting has the story of the Masque of the Red Death occurring in the city of Mousillon in Bretonnia.
  • In the series Beetlejuice, the fourth-season episode "Poe Pourri" has Beetlejuice encountering "The Mask of Dead Breath" a giant floating face mask who coughs upon Beetlejuice, but instead of red death he just suffers a terrible cold.
  • The mission Lady Boyle's Last Party in the 2012 video game Dishonored is loosely based on The Masque of the Red Death.
  • The 2013 Doctor Who episode The Crimson Horror features a chemical substance which seems to produce the same effects within humans as that of the actual disease, while it was in fact produced by an alien parasite within the episode.
  • The 2014 video game Destiny features a weapon called The Red Death.
  • The 2017 video game Persona 5 features a song titled "Beneath the Mask" containing the lyric "I'm a shape shifter, at Poe's masquerade", a reference to the story.
  • In one of the comics from the video game Overwatch, heavily making a reference to the novel, the character Reaper wears the Red Death costume.
  • In 2018, IDW Games released a board game titled "Masque of the Red Death" designed by Adam Wyse with art by Gris Grimsley based on Poe's story. In the game players are guests at the masquerade trying to discover which rooms the Red Death will visit during the midnight hour, and trying to avoid the Red Death when it arrives.[10]


  1. ^ Hammond, J. R. An Edgar Allan Poe Companion: A Guide to the Short Stories, Romances and Essays. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1981: 78. ISBN 978-1-349-05027-7
  2. ^ "Classic Monsters References in Burton's Batman".
  3. ^ Jordan Raup, "Unfilmed Akira Kurosawa script the mask of the black death will be produced in china" /[1]
  4. ^ "Party At Ground Zero - Music Video Database". Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  5. ^ National Public Radio: "NPR Quarterly Edition Fall 1997". NPR Marketing, Vol. III, No. IV
  6. ^ " The Masque of the Red Death" Accessed July 17, 2008.
  7. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (April 18, 2013). "Nimbly Chasing That Winged Target". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Levere, Jane (April 17, 2013). "New York Philharmonic To Perform All-American Program With Joshua Bell And Christopher Rouse Premiere". Forbes. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  9. ^ News, BWW. "From THE WOODSMAN To New Music Inspired By Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart". BWW News Desk.
  10. ^ "Masque of the Red Death". BoardGameGeek.