The Masque of the Red Death is
a famous short story by Edgar Allen Poe written in 1842. Since
our sťance illusion takes its name from the title of the story,
you should read the story to know what its about, even
though our illusion takes a somewhat different approach. A copy
of that story is included with the article.
The Wizard, dressed in long robes of black
or dark red velvet, takes his seat in the ornate throne-like
chair at the sťance table. Those invited to sit at the table
fill in the other seats around the table.
This scene can be presented on a stage for
a much larger audience to watch, or in a parlor-like room where
the only audience consists of those seated at the table.
To the right and left of the Wizard stand
two apprentices, dressed in plain black monk-like robes, but
decorated with symbols of wizardry and magik. Each has a curved
scimitar in his belt, and each carries a large wooden staff. The
Wizard holds out his hand and an apprentice hands him the Red
This Masque was involved in a murder.
It is stained red with the blood of its victim. Her name was
Penelope, and she was a princess who lived long ago. It is
dangerous to bring back the spirit of a person who has been
murdered in the prime of life. They tend to be very angry
spirits, hence the need for extra protection tonight, for I
intend to summon her spirit to talk to us.
In a louder voice, the Wizard
asks the company to hold hands around the sťance circle. His own
hands are held by the persons on his right and left.
Do not let go. We must
not let the demons of the night into our circle, so no matter how
frightening this becomes, DO NOT LET GO. Keep the circle formed
at all times.
Pause. We wish to speak
to Princess Penelope of the house of Prospero.
Pause. During life, she
lived in San Prospero in Italy. She was the sister of Prince
Paolo Prospero. She died in 1798. We wish to speak to Princess
Penelope of the house of Prospero.
Suddenly he is interrupted by
a young womans voice. She speaks with a heavy Italian
accent. Who seeks me? I am Princess Penelope of the domed
house of Prospero from that cursed kingdom of San Prospero. Why
can I not see you. Something is covering my face. Remove it at
An apprentice steps forward to
remove the red masque. He lays it on the table. We now see that
the Wizards face has been replaced by the face of a young
woman. She sees the masque on the table before her.
That masque! Destroy it at once! It is
cursed! It is because of the masque that my own brother murdered
me! He did not recognize me. She goes on to recount the
story of her death at the hands of her brother.
At the end of her story, the womans face
is transformed with blood coming from her eyes and the sides of
her mouth, and red pock marks over her cheeks and brow. At this,
the apprentice returns the masque to the face of the young woman
and we hear her parting words through the masque:
My brother had murdered me, his own
sister, and all the party guests with his horrible jest. If you
want to hear the story from him, you will have to open the gates
of hell, for thats where you will find him!
The Wizards voice returns to him just in
time. No! Do not venture into hell! Turn up the lights and
end the sťance!
The apprentices turn up the lights and remove
the masque to reveal that the Wizards face has returned to
his body. He rises and concludes the sťance quickly.
How to accomplish this in a parlor or on a stage
is explained within the article, along with the full text of the