Corman: The Masque of the Red Death

Walpurgisnacht 2020: The Masque of Covid-19

Being in the midst of a global pandemic arouses a keen awareness of the fragility of our civilization and the ephemerality of human life. People regularly die from varied causes, at rates that most ignore during the pursuit of their personal goals. But news of additional demises beyond the normal tally should jog us into a rude awareness: One can lose the precious gift of living in ways that otherwise might be avoided when an infectious disease is making the rounds. We Satanists do not believe in any form of afterlife—no after life mints for anyone! We generally do all that we can to remain at the party of living for as long as we can manage. Thus, we take note when risks are on the rise towards fatal consequences for our actions.

Covid-19 has cast an unwanted gloom over the globe for the time being, and it has become wise to follow “social distancing” to avoid contagion, since currently there is no vaccine nor any widely effective palliative treatment for the stricken. “Sheltering-in-place” has been mandated by governments who have at last made some effort to look to past history, wherein evidence abounds for similar situations and how they were handled. Most recently, the 1918 flu pandemic infected about one third of the world’s populace and may have killed somewhere between 17 and 100 million people. The Black Death of 1346 lasted for about 7 years and expunged somewhere between 75 and 200 million. The current situation is nothing new, and our complacency as a species left the peoples of Earth unprepared to meet this recent challenge to the continuation of our species. As the foolish pray to their non-existing deities while gathering to self-contaminate, scientists and medical researchers are rushing the typical glacial efforts to produce some vaccine or other means of diminishing the effects of this rampant virus—and healthcare professionals risk their lives daily to care for those suffering. It is a sobering time, and we naturally misanthropic Satanists find yet more reasons to avoid the herd than usual.

Of course, writers find stimulus in such times. Boccaccio penned his Decameron in 1353, a tale about 10 people sheltering in a villa outside of Florence while The Black Death voraciously harvests the populace. They tell stories to pass the time and these are presented inside the framing story of these plague-sheltering youths. Our current social media presents blogs and videos telling stories, often live, to share amongst those who do stay home and hunger for virtual connection with their peers and idols. Save for technology, humans remain the same. Edger Allan Poe wrote The Masque of the Red Death in 1842 which may have been inspired by Boccaccio’s tale. Wealthy aesthete Prince Prospero, once his lands are depopulated by half, invites “a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court” to shelter from The Red Death (a fictional plague) in a remote and elaborate gothic abbey. Sadly, he didn’t have a Dr. Fauci or his colleagues to explain that having a large-scale indoor gathering was a no-no. As one might expect with today’s understanding, somebody in that sealed-in throng infected the entire crowd. And they were decimated, just as if they were on a cruise ship—though their accommodations were surely much better. The result was not a surprise:

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

Maverick director Roger Corman was inspired by this tale in 1964 to craft one of his most potent and picturesque films, which you can view here: Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death as presented by New Castle After Dark. In this film, Prince Prospero—played by the exquisite Vincent Price—is depicted as being a disciple of Satan, who has his ritual chamber in the red-lit black-draped room. He has forcibly brought a village girl, Francesca—as well as her lover and her father, into his castle to amuse himself and his wealthy guests. There are some diabolical lines of dialogue:


“Believe? If you believe you are gullible. Can you look around this world and believe in the goodness of a God who rules it? Famine, Pestilence, War, Disease and Death—they rule this world.”


“There is also love and life and hope.”


“Very little hope, I assure you. No. If a god of love and life ever did exist…he is long since dead. Someone…something, rules in his place.”

But when the personified Red Death appears at this shindig, Prospero confronts his red-tinged doppelgänger who imparts this final bit of wisdom:


“But I made a pact with Satan!”

Man in Red:

“He alone does not rule the universe.”


“No! There is no other ruler, God is dead!”

Man in Red:

“Man creates his own God, his own Devil, his own Heaven and his own Hell. This is your Hell.”

Thus, a Satanist corrects a devil worshipper. Surely this film left a strong impression on Dr. LaVey as he was codifying Satanism as a religion for the first time in history.

So, on this 54th anniversary of the founding of the Church of Satan, we shall individually celebrate our own “Masque of Covid-19.” But, don’t be a “Prospero”—one who misses the point about how to sensibly shelter-in-place. In whatever form of “castellated abbey” serves you in this time of deep seclusion, may you all remain healthy, strong, and wise. We salute our founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, who was always ahead of the curve. His tightly-shuttered Black House was a bastion against the outside world, and only a well-chosen few were allowed through its portals. He would have been ready for what now has befallen our societies—as we are. Our philosophy has prepared us for keeping ourselves well by keeping the herd at bay. 

Perhaps some reforms in health care and advances in means to prevent or combat future plagues will be a resultant gift to ourselves and those who might be our descendants? Regardless, as we contemplate the evolving global debacle, we can still celebrate ourselves—the splendidly conscious body of The Devil’s Fane. Here’s to our good health, and to Doktor Anton Szandor LaVey, whose wisdom continues to serve us well! 

Hail Magus LaVey! Hail the Church of Satan!

As a Walpurgisnacht gift, your High Priestess, Magistra Peggy Nadramia, has expanded her article about the writing of THE SATANIC BIBLE to include the proliferation of editions and translations of this most diabolical of books. You may read it here.

—Magus Peter H. Gilmore