In Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero invites a thousand of his aristocratic friends to barricade themselves inside his castellated abbey while a pestilence known as the Red Death wreaks havoc throughout the surrounding countryside. On the fifth or sixth month of their seclusion, Prince Prospero hosts a bizarre masquerade in his imperial suite, where he requires his wealthy guests to wear grotesque, fanciful costumes. Poe describes the party-goers as "dreams" traveling to and fro in the decorated rooms and depicts them as carefree revelers. Despite their pleasant, arrogant attitudes towards death, the masqueraders stop dancing and stand "frozen" every hour when the ominous ebony clock strikes, which reminds them of their mortality.
Once the clock strikes midnight, the personification of the Red Death enters the imperial suite and Prospero's guests are disturbed by the figure's horrifying appearance. When Prospero instructs the party-goers to stop the uninvited guest, they stand in awe and do not approach the spectral image. After Prince Prospero follows the Red Death into the seventh chamber and dies at its feet, the masqueraders summon "the wild courage of despair" and attack the phantom in the black apartment. One by one the revelers drop dead in the seventh apartment when they discover that the phantom's attire is "untenanted by any tangible form." In the end, Prince Prospero and his aristocratic friends could not outsmart or survive the Red Death.