H. G. Wells

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What happens to the narrator in H.G. Wells' "The Red Room"?

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In H. G. Wells’s story “The Red Room,” the narrator is a skeptical man who spends a night in a room that is reputedly haunted. Several unexplained things occur during the night, during which he hits his head and passes out. The next morning, he insists that the only thing haunting the room is fear. Rather than coming to believe in spirits, he has grown confident that they are not present.

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The narrator of H. G. Wells’s “The Red Room” agrees to spend a night alone in a room that has the reputation of being haunted. Because he does not believe in spirits, he intends to prove that the room is not haunted. During the course of the night, numerous things occur that resist simple rational explanations. Because a candle will not stay lit, the room is dark. He stumbles, hits his head, and loses consciousness. The next morning, his waiting associates quiz him about what occurred. While he uses the word “haunted,” he claims that it is fear, not a ghost, that haunts the room.

The narrator initially discusses his plan in conversation with three elderly people who live in the castle where the room is located. They are sure that it is haunted, and he says that he has an “open mind” about the matter. With a revolver in his pocket and carrying a lit candle, he shuts himself into the room. Despite himself, he senses a disturbing “impalpable quality” that is only partly allayed by lighting a fire in the fireplace as well as seventeen candles in different parts of the room.

When the candles start going out, he becomes frightened and bangs into the furniture as he runs around the room relighting them. After the last candle goes out, he decides to leave the room but cannot find the door in the dark. Later he cannot be sure how he hit his head: "I...was either struck or struck myself against some other bulky furnishing.”

The next morning, he wakes up with a bandaged head among the elderly residents, who say his head was bleeding when they found him. He agrees with them that the room is haunted, but not by the spirit of a count or countess as they suggest. He insists that it was his own unreasonable fear that overwhelmed him.

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