The Phantom of the Opera, or Le Fantôme de l'Opéra in French, was published as a serial in 1909-10 by French author and journalist Gaston Leroux. It was translated into English in 1911. Initially, the novel sold very poorly and was even out of print several times during the twentieth century. Today, it is considered to be a classic of French literature, though it is overshadowed by its many subsequent adaptations.
Christine Daee is a pretty, talented, young singer at the Opera Garnier in France. They are watched by the Phantom of the Opera- a mysterious masked murderer and who harrasses the Opera's management and players
With the Phantom's help, Christine rises to become the Opera's star performer, but when the Phantom demands her heart in return,eternally, poor Christine is torn between gratitude and pity for her strange teacher, and love for her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. The Phantom kidnaps Christine, and lures her down to the cellars of the opera house. There he forces her to marry him or he will kill Raoul. Christines decision will change the Phantom forever. What will she choose?
The story starts with a prologue from the author concluding that because of his own research he has discovered and believes in the existence of the Phantom who once haunted the Palais Garnier in Paris. The prolgue helps tell the story before it happens. This pushes the reader to question how the events described in the prolgue occur.
After the prologue, you’re taken back to 1881, at the gala performance honoring the retirement of the two managers, M. Poligny and M. Debienne. The calm is disrupted by the announcement of one of the members of the corps-de-ballet that she has seen the opera ghost! Meg Giry and the other dancers are scared, as they state that they have seen deaths head on the shoulders of a well dressed man. The other workers scoff at the girl’s story and refuse to believe it. The chief scene-shifter, Joseph Buquet, tells them that he has seen the ghost. He describes him as having “death’s head” and wearing dress-clothes, as do the girls of the corps. He is later found dead, hanged, between the set-pieces under the stage, but his body and the rope vanish before anyone has a chance to cut him down. We find out later in the story how all of magic happens, and how the Opera Ghost manages to befuddle everyone.
The story then follows the Opera’s newest singer, Christine Daaé, a pretty Swedish girl, who has a night of triumph in Romeo and Juliet when the Palais’ diva La Carlotta is taken mysteriously ill. While Christine performs, the young Vicomte Raoul de Chagny and his older brother Count Philippe watch. Raoul is smitten with the young singer and, after Christine faints after her performance in Faust, he ventures backstage to her aid, recognizing her as the young girl he played with as a child and whose scarf he had once run out into the sea to fetch. Christine revives, and sends Raoul out of her room. Later, the Vicomte, listening at the door of her dressing-room, hears a man’s voice speaking to her, praising her fine work, and telling her that she “must love him." After Christine leaves, Raoul enters the room to find it empty. The party for the retiring managers is joined by the incoming managers, M. Armand Moncharmin and M. Firmin Richard. They begin introductions, and suddenly, the Phantom arrives. He walks through the crowd and sits down, saying nothing and accepting no food or drink. Glances go around between the two pairs of managers, each thinking the other had for some reason invited this unexpected guest. The Opera ghost tells them that Buquet is dead (they did not know it before).
After the gala, the old managers share with M. Moncharmin and M. Richard the Opera’s memorandum-book in which the Phantom had written in scratchy red lettering his “demands." He orders 20,000 francs a month as salary and the sole use of Box Five in the grand tier, never to be sold to other persons; neither the former nor the latter are honored by the two men.
The following day, the new managers receive a letter asking that they give Christine Daaé starring roles in the Opera’s productions. He is angry that they hold his box. He threatens them, saying, “ If you wish to live in peace, you must not begin by taking away my private box.” He signs it "Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant, OPERA GHOST."  Moncharmin and Richard believe that the letter was sent as a joke by M. Poligny and M. Debienne and dismiss it. The next performance goes smoothly and they receive a card from the Phantom, thanking them for the delightful evening and saying he will request it from them soon. It is signed "O.G." They also receive a letter from the previous owners, saying they cannot accept the men’s offer to give them Box Five for fear of angering the Opera ghost. Box Five is sold again, and this time the show is disrupted by cries of laughter coming from said box. They send an inspector, who reports that the people whom the box had been sold to heard a voice telling them that the box was taken. The box-keeper, Mme. Giry, the mother of one of the corps members, tells the frazzled managers that it is the Phantom and leaves it at that. They question her again and she tells them Opera ghost has played tricks on the audience members in his box by whispering in their ears. She also says that he has asked her for courtesy items such as a footstool. Mme. Giry says it is a man because “it is a man’s voice” and that he is always very kind and polite to her, his voice being “so soft and kind” that she hardly felt frightened of his presence, though she has never seen him. She hears his voice coming from one of the chairs on the edge of the box. He always leaves her two to five francs depending as a tip, and sometimes a box of English sweets, which she is fond of. Yet no one has seen the Opera ghost and the managers still do not totally believe the stories, and they fire Mme. Giry.
Meanwhile Christine Daaé has written a letter to Raoul, telling him she is journeying to Perros to visit her father’s grave. The Vicomte follows her to Perros, and while in the car of the Brittany express, reflects upon Christine’s past. She was born in Uppsala, her father being a peasant and a prolific violinist who impressed music upon his daughter at a very young age. Her mother died when she was six, whereafter M. Daaé began traveling around the country with his daughter, where he met a professor Valérius who helped Christine take to studying at the finest music schools. His wife became a second mother to the girl. The moved to a home in Brittany by the seaside. One day, while at the beach, Christine lost her red scarf in the water, and a young boy who was out walking with his aunt rushed into the sea and returned it to her. The two children became close friends and spent nearly every day together. They listened to M. Daaé’s stories of the North. He elaborate that every great artist is visited by the Angel of Music; sometimes as babies if they are lucky and some not till much later if they do not practice their lessons and learn their scales. Christine’s father promised her that when he died and was in Heaven, he would send the Angel to her. Professor Valérius died, and Raoul and his aunt left Perros. The young boy promised to never forget Christine. Her father had died within the last year and she was living with the widowed Mme. Valérius. The Vicomte finds Christine at a local inn, reprimanding her for not taking notice of him at the Opera He tells her of his eavesdropping to which she reacts anxiously. She confides to him that she has been visited by the Angel of Music, and that he has been giving her private lessons in her dressing-room. Raoul laughs at her to which she admonishes him and flees the room. Later, Raoul catches her leaving her room at near midnight to the graveyard where her father is buried.
The narrative then turns into a question and answer session with the Vicomte. Raoul was found half-frozen upon the steps of the church altar in the town. He says that upon trailing the girl to the churchyard, covered in snow. He watches her kneel before her father’s grave and then suddenly hears the sound of violin music, The Resurrection of Lazarus, a familiar, favorite tune of M. Daaé. Raoul then hears chuckling coming from behind a pile of bones, who he expects to be the mysterious Angel. The pile of bones topples, rolling piece by piece, skull by skull, at the Vicomte’s feet. He follows a shadow into the church and grabs at its cloak. The shadow turns to face him; a creature with death’s head. He faints and is returned to the inn. Back in Paris the two managers examine Box Five closer and find nothing suspicious. While in it, they see a shape in the box and get the distinct feeling they are being watched. M. Moncharmin thinks he sees death’s head, while M. Richard the shape of an old woman resembling Mme. Giry. The run from the box and subsequently return, and finding no one, take it all as hallucination. The next day the managers receive a new letter from the ghost. “So, it is to be war between us?” he accuses. He demands his box be given back; he requests Christine be given the role of Margarita in Faust, telling them Carlotta will be ill. He wants Mme. Giry to be hired again, and he asks again for his salary. M. Richard and M. Moncharmin are growing weary of him, and learn that one of the stable-horses is missing, a white horse named Cesar. At the same time, Carlotta, the Spanish prima donna receives a letter from the Phantom, warning her she should not return to the theatre tonight, or else a great misfortune, “worse than death”, would befall her. She brushes it off and comes to the Opera to star in Faust. The managers are sitting in Box Five; so far they have gotten through the first act without trouble. The new woman proceeding Mme. Giry, a fat, “vulgar woman” is sitting in the front row. During Carlotta’s next song, the managers feel a queer draft around them; suddenly, a loud ‘Co-ak’ is emitted from her throat, like the croak of a toad. They feel a third person in the box with them; the Phantom is laughing madly, behind their backs at the diva’s predicament. They hear him shout,” “She is singing to-night bring the chandelier down!” The great crystal chandelier crashes to the floor, killing the new box-keeper and injuring many more. Christine disappears after the show and returns to Mamma Valérius. Raoul comes to her flat and speaks with the widow. She tells him Mmle. Daaé will not see him because she is with her “good genius”, the Angel of Music. Raoul is shocked, jealous. She tells him Christine could not marry because the Angel forbids her to, and says he will lave her if she does. The Angel promised to play The Resurrection of Lazarus at the graveyard on her father’s violin. The Vicomte asks where this Angel live, to which Mamma Valérius replies, “In Heaven!”. Raoul learns that Christine has been given singing lessons by him for three months. Upon returning him, he sees Christine and a figure in a dark cloak disappearing into a carriage. In the morning the Vicomte reads a letter from Christine asking to meet her at the masked ball at the Opera the night after next. She will meet him near midnight and if he loves her than he will not let himself be recognized. He buys a white domino mask as she requested in her letter He finds Christine dressed in a black domino mask, yet she won’t speak to him A man appears, dressed “all in scarlet, with a huge hat and feathers on the top of wonderful death’s head (A skull). From his shoulders hung an immense red-velvet cloak, which trailed along the floor like a kings train…” Dressed as the Masque of the Red Death from the Edgar Allen Poe story, this striking figure makes a grand entrance to the Opera masquerade. Raoul recognized him as the face from Perros. The figure chases the Vicomte and Christine to the second floor of the Palais. The girl runs into a room and shuts the door. Raoul, outside it sees a red foot, followed by another, coming up the stairs, and majestically, “the whole scarlet dress of Red Death…” Raoul wants to rush out and grab the figure, but Christine blocks the doorway. He tells her he knows the man is her Angel of Music. The girl begs him, in the name of their love he shall not pass. Raoul is shocked, thinking she did not care for him; but he dismisses her as simply saying such to buy the Red Death time. He accuses her of lying and tells her his hatred for her in her affection for this Angel who has taken advantage of her. Christine bursts into tears and leaves, saying she will never sing again. Raoul hurries to her dressing-room to look for the man’s voice. The girl enters, and the Vicomte hides. She lays her head upon her vanity and sobs, “Poor Erik!”. She lifts herself up and begins writing a letter. Suddenly, Christine, and Raoul, who is hiding behind a curtain, hear singing, coming from inside the walls. It was a “very beautiful, very soft, very captivating voice..” but still a male’s voice. Christine rose and addressed it, saying, “Here I am, Erik.” and telling the voice he is late. The voice kept singing, and the girl, moving toward the mirror against the wall and disappears. Raoul is left alone, wondering who is Erik? The news of the missing soprano spreads through the Opera. The young Vicomte pays Mme. Valérius a visit a few days later and finds Christine there. The girl now refuses to admit the existence of the Angel of Music, and appears angered when Raoul notices a wedding band upon her finger. He tells her of his spying upon her in her dressing room and her ecstasy at hearing the sound of her teacher’s voice. Christine tells Raoul to forget the man’s name and voice and that he will be allowed to visit with her when she wishes. Raoul meet Christine the next day at the Opera. She, knowing he will be leaving soon for the polar expedition, suggests that if he loves her that they should become secretly engaged. Raoul is delighted, and over the next few weeks they meet every day, until Christine disappears for two days, after which she returns, her voice renewed; ready to sing a the Opera again. La Carlotta had not been willing to return after the incident of the ‘toad’ so Christine was given top place as the Palais’ prima donna. After that night’s performance, Christine takes the Vicomte to every place in the Opera house, including up in the wings. Raoul wishes to see the undergrounds of the cellars, but she warns him never to go there, for everything below ground belongs to him. Raoul, still curious, closens to a trap-door in the floor, only to see it snapped shut before his eyes. He asks if it is he, but Christine insists that it cannot be, for he is working hard on something and cannot be bothered with shutting up doors. They run to the roof, haunted by the feeling they are being followed. Raoul demands to know why Christine feels the need to return to the Angel, the creature beneath the Opera, and she breaks down sobbing, saying that terrible things may happen if she does not. The Opera ghost told her that he loved her and cried at her feet. After hearing this, Raoul wants her to run away with him, but she says it would be too cruel to the Erik, the Phantom; it would break his heart, and that she will sing one more night for him before she agrees to go. At that moment, they both hear a sound behind them that sounds like sighing. Christine continues about Phantom. She says she first heard him for three months without seeing him. It sang to her, and spoke to her, with a “real man’s voice”, as beautiful “as the voice of an angel”. She believed it to be the Angel of Music, for her father was now in Heaven, and now she had been visited by the Angel. She asked the voice one day if it was the Angel of Music, and it said yes, so she asked if it would give her singing lessons. It agreed and began giving her punctual lessons in her dressing-room, which explained why her voice had suddenly become so beautiful. She said the voice was jealous of Raoul and refused to talk to her. She was worried it had gone for good. When she called for it, the Angel told her if she bestowed her heart upon earth, it would have to leave her. When she said she would not, he told her that at last it was time for her to share her voice with the world, and she could sing once again for the public. The Phantom followed her to Perros and played for her on her father’s violin. After the chandelier had come crashing down, she returned to her dressing-room. The Angel beckoned her, asking her to believe in him. She followed, and he took her through the mirror to a dark passage between the wall. He touches her, and Christine faints, and was revived by a face, a man, wearing a mask and black cloak. He lifted her onto a white horse, the missing Cesar, and took her deeper underground. The boarded a boat and set off upon a vast subterranean lake. His home was upon this lake, built of stone. Once there, he told her not to be frightened, and that she would be in no danger, as long as she did not touch his mask. There were candles around the lake and on the stone island which he took his house. The man fell at her feet, exclaiming he was no Angel, nor genius, nor ghost. He was Erik! At that moment, Christine was interrupted by a sad whisper of “Erik!” also behind her. Still she tries to continue. The Vicomte stops her, teller her he thinks they should leave immediately, for her own well-being. She says no, that it will break Erik’s heart; he loves her so dearly; and would commit murder for her. Christine will not allow Raoul to hunt him down, to which Raoul accuses her of loving the Phantom. She does not know how to answer such a question, and only says she cannot hate him as the Vicomte does. Erik blames himself for all the misfortunes around the Opera; implores her for forgiveness; and expresses his love for her in “an immense and tragic love…He has carried me off for love…imprisoned me with him, underground, for love” He is the most respectful and gentlemanly in his ways as a man could possibly be. He offered her freedom if she wished it. He told her to remember he was but a man, a mere mortal, and he sang to her, and she could not leave him. He set a bedroom for her which was all her own and cared for her as if she was his own wife, even going out and doing the shopping for the things which she might need. When he returns, he prepares a meal for her, still saying she shall never see his face. After they eat, he shows her to his bedroom, his bed a coffin. He presents her with his masterwork, Don Juan Triumphant. He takes Christine to his grand organ, where he composes his music. She asks him to play a piece from his opera, which he refuses. He plays other songs, and meanwhile, the girl is overtaken with curiosity and pulls his mask from his face, revealing him to be horribly disfigured. He curses her for not being content with hearing his voice, and that she can never be free, now that she has seen his face. He then complied to play her his Don Juan, which she found entrancingly beautiful. She is moved to tell him she does not fear his face, for she can see there is goodness inside. The Phantom softens and allows her to leave, making her promise she will visit him again soon. Back on the roof, Christine tells Raoul she is frightened of Erik; for his is mad with love and apt to do anything. Raoul kisses Christine and takes her back into the Opera House. Christine says they can leave together tomorrow; the Phantom will not know it, for he promised never to listen behind her dressing-room walls again. She will visit Erik one last time, by a passage outside, below the street. She shows Raoul a key he gave her to open the gate that leads to the catacombs. Suddenly, Christine becomes frantic. She realizes she has lost the wedding ring Erik gave her, and that he will be furious to know she does not have it. Raoul goes home, awoken in the night by a pair of eyes which he thinks is the Phantom, which he shoots at, only to find it is only a cat. The next morning, a piece appears in the newspaper, announcing the engagement between the young Vicomte and the soprano Christine Daaé. Raoul’s brother questions if this is true, but the Vicomte will not answer. Count Philippe says he will know how to stop the wedding going through, but Raoul has already left. Raoul spends the whole day preparing for the flight from town, arranging horses, carriage, and all other such things till late in the evening. Carriages pull up in front of the Opera; one of which a figure in a dark cloak and felt hat emerge from. The figure examines Raoul’s coach interestedly. Later that night, Christine performs in Faust. She is nervous to see the Vicomte in the theatre, but sings beautifully. As she gets to the final line, “Holy angel in Heaven blessed, My spirit lings with thee to rest,” the stage is engulfed in darkness and the girl disappears. The Opera goes into uproar; no one can fathom how she disappeared and where she had gone. The acting-manager is furious, and cannot locate the gas-man, who is in charge of lighting the lamps around the theatre. The managers are hiding in their offices, and one of the stage-men reports that M. Moncharmin was asking for a safety-pin, of all things! The managers were have seen to have been acting strange all through the evening; not allowing anyone to touch them; walking backward, and taking no interest in the vanished Mmle. Daaé. Mme. Giry was also seen to have disappeared. Everyone suspects the Opera ghost behind all this, but they cannot prove anything. Raoul is backstage, looking for Christine; he obviously did not take her, as they had fleetingly thought. Raoul suspects Erik of causing Christine’s disappearance. He runs madly through the Opera in search of her. He hurries to her dressing-room and tries to open the passage through the mirror, but it will not open. Raoul runs to the exterior passage on the Rue-Scribe. Not finding it, he returns to the Opera he is joined by the Police commissaire who wants to question him. They learn the managers have locked Mme. Giry and themselves into their office. The others force them to come out. At the same time, the Vicomte feels a hand on his shoulder, and someone whispering int his ear, “Erik’s secrets concern no one but himself!” Raoul turns around and sees the Persian, the man from the East seen wandering around backstage.
The narrative switches and goes back in time, focusing on M. Moncharmin and M. Richard and their reasons for acting so strangely. It seems early one morning they had received a letter signed O.G. (presumably from the Phantom) asking them if they would pay him his 20,000 francs by way of putting it in two envelopes with 10,000 each and giving it to Mme. Giry. The managers complied, and watched, hidden, as she set the envelope on the ledge of box five. They did not take their eyes off it during the entire performance that night or even afterward, and then, after getting tired of waiting, opened the envelope. Upon breaking the seal( it had not been) they found counterfeit notes, upon which were written Bank of St. Farce! (Faux bills!) The managers are angry, but concede to win the next round with the Opera ghost. The suspect Mme. Giry of taking the francs, but cannot prove it. They receive a letter from the Opera ghost the next month, saying, “Do just as you did last time. It went very well. Put the twenty thousand in the envelope and hand it to our excellent Mme. Giry. The managers again comply with the Phantom’s wishes and put the bills in. Mme. Giry comes into the office. Moncharmin and Richard accuse her of being an accomplice to the Opera ghost. They ask her why she so easily assists him for the small tips he gives her and she tells them. She says one day, while delivering an envelope to ghost’s box, she found a letter of sorts from him, listing, with dates all the young dancers of the Parisian ballet who became great countesses and duchesses and the like. At the bottom of the list, was her daughter, Meg, Empress, in 1885. It was signed O.G. She took it as a prediction from him, and from that day forward, decided to help him in whatever he wished. Mme. Giry says she owes it to him that little Meg was promoted to leader of the row in the corps; she asked him to, and he agreed. She says M. Poligny never saw the Phantom, but believed in him, and would also comply to his wishes. The two present managers announce they are going to have Mme. Giry arrested, as a thief, for stealing the missing francs. She is mortified and slaps M. Richard, causing an envelope to fall from his pocket. It opens, revealing all 20,000 bank-notes, all genuine. Now it is Mme. Giry’s turn to accuse Richard of stealing. Moncharmin asks how this is possible, and suddenly the woman blurts out, because I put them there!. She finishes by saying, “May the ghost forgive me.” She explains that the envelope which she slipped into his pocket was the same in which she had been given to deliver to the Opera ghost. The one she took to the box was one the Phantom had given her beforehand. She takes it from her sleeve and shows it to the two men. It is once again the faux notes. They are astounded at the simplicity of the trick and learn the ghost told her to do all of this. Moncharmin and Richard tell Mme. Giry to perform the trick again, but as she heads toward the door, the ask her how she will once again slip the notes into Richard’s pocket. She says she will steal up behind him when he least expects it, behind the scenes. Richard accuses her of lying, for he did not go anywhere near her the last performance. She tells him she did not give the francs to him the last performance, but the one before; they had been there all that time. The managers wish to retrace their steps of the switching of the envelopes. Moncharmin would watch Richard’s tail-coat closely. Mme. Giry would rub up against M. Richard and give him the envelope. She then walked away, and according to instruction, be locked in the office, “making it impossible for her to communicate with the ghost”. M. Richard walked backward all the way through the backstage, as did M. Moncharmin, so they could watch each other from behind and watch for anyone from in front. They met no one, and would not allow anyone to touch them, so as to not take the francs. Once reaching their office, they lock themselves in, like they had the night before. Richard concludes, that, not being robbed in the Opera or in the carriage home he must have been robbed by Moncharmin. Moncharmin decides to safety-pin the francs to Richard’s pocket. Before placing them in, he checks them. They are all there and genuine. They wait a few minutes before leaving, while they wait, they have that feeling again of being watched. They get up to leave, and Richard feels his pocket. He feels the pin, but no notes! They look inside, to find the pocket empty, with only the pin left! Richard accuses Moncharmin of stealing; there is a knock on the door, and the Police commissaire enters. The bewildered manager hands him the safety-pin, which he has no longer use for. He asks where Christine Daaé is; they cannot answer her. Raoul joins them and tells them that the cause of the girl’s vanishment is Christine’s Angel of Music, or Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, or, to the managers, the Opera ghost. M. Moncharmin and M. Richard tell Commissaire Mifroid of the missing francs; he runs his fingers through his hair, bemused, and exclaims, “A ghost, who, on the same evening, carries off an opera-singer and steals twenty-thousand francs is a ghost who must have his hands full!”. Mifroid decides to find Mlle. Daaé first and questions the Vicomte if he has seen Erik. Raoul says he has, and tells them of his experience in the graveyard at Perros, leading the others to think he’s crazy. A man suddenly enters and informs the other men that the Vicomte was prepared to whisk Christine off that night. His carriage was no longer outside. Raoul fears to believe the fact that his brother may have done it to prevent him from marrying Mlle. Daaé. After the others leave, the Persian joins Raoul He asks if the Vicomte has betrayed Erik’s secret. He tells him if he wishes to rescue Christine, he needn’t go far; she is with Erik. The Persian knows that no one but the Opera ghost could contrive such a spectacular abduction. He will take the Vicomte to her, offering to risk his like to help him. Raoul asks if what the commissaire said was true, that his brother indeed took Christine away, but the Persian set it was false. He warns the Vicomte not to mention Erik’s name; he must refer to him as ‘he’ or ‘him’. He leads Raoul down many unknown passages of the Opera house. The Persian insists the Vicomte leave his top hat in Mlle. Daaé’s dressing-room; it would only be in the way where they are going. Once in the room, the Persian’s servant Darius brings them a case with two pistols which both Raoul and the Persian arm themselves with. The Persian searches for a button on the wall to release a counterbalance of the wall to turn it on it’s pivot and open the passage to the Phantom’s lair. The trick does not work; the mirror will not revolve, leading the two men to believe that Erik destroyed the mechanism. They force their way through the mirror and end up on the other side; the Persian instructs the Vicomte to “hold his hand high, ready to fire”, keep his hand at the level of his eyes, “as if you were fighting a duel and waiting for the word fire!”. He grabs a lantern for them to see by and leads Raoul deep into the underground cellars of the Opera, warning him to follow him, and “do all that I do”. As they come through the area behind the walls toward the lowers, they come upon three bodies in the adjoining room, the one that contains the “organ”, the “multiplicity” of hydrogen-filled pipes, which control the lights on the stage. It’s the gas-man and his two assistants. They’re unconscious, drugged; the acting-manager and Mifroid find them. Raoul and the Persian learn the gas-man was found asleep on the night of Carlotta’s “toad” as well. They leave, their hands still at the level of their eyes. Raoul tells the Persian his hand is getting tired and he “shan’t be able to aim with his left arm”. The Persian assures him it is all right, so long as he keeps his hands up, for it is a matter of life and death! They keep going deeper, the farther they go, the more nervous the young Vicomte’s guide becomes. Suddenly, there hear someone shout above them for all the door-shutters to come onstage to be questioned by the police. Raoul and the Persian hide, and are able to pass underneath unseen. But then the fire come again to make their rounds; they wait again. Suddenly, the Persian orders them to lay flat on their stomachs. A figure in a cloak with a soft felt hat passes over them. The man comes toward them, with no apparent body and a head of fire (really the rat-catcher who aims the torch at his face to lure the rats to him). The Vicomte and the Persian run, the rat-catcher hot on their heels. They are forced to back to the wall, the rats coursing over them in an army. The drop their hands to push the creatures off them, the face of fire saying, “ Don’t move! Don’t Move!…Whatever you do, don’t come after me! I am the rat-catcher….Let me pass with my rats!…” The rat-catcher disappears. Raoul becomes frantic and begs the Persian to take him to the house, to the lake, to Christine…The Persian shushes him, telling him the lake is well-guarded, an no one but Erik can get across without harm. There only chance of entrance is back where they were between two set-pieces. They return, and strike a spot on the wall, but hear nothing. They try another spot. The slip between the two pieces and, the Persian, pressing a stone in the wall, makes it give way to a hole big enough for them to squeeze through. The hole is so tight they are forced to remove their shoes. They drop into a dark opening. Wherever they are is dark; the hole has closed itself. Still holding the lantern, the Persian explores their new surrounding, and in horror finds the Punjab Lasso, the Phantom’s weapon of destruction, with which Joseph Buquet was hanged by. The lasso is hung on a curious metal tree; then there are many of them, all reflections; the room they are in has mirrors; they are in the Opera’ ghost’s torture chamber.
The story then changes to solely the Persian’s narrative of what conspired while he and Raoul were trapped in the chamber and the events leading up to it. He says he had heard of such a place, but never been in it; Erik would not let him. He tells of how he tried to secretly enter by rowing across the lake and was stopped by the “siren” under the water whose singing was “nearly fatal” to him. He leaned out of the boat to hear the singing and nearly drowned himself. He did nit believe it to be a real siren, for as he put it, his culture was “too fond of fantastic things to not know them well.” and supposed it a new invention of the Opera ghost’s, but was still entranced by the music. It was Erik. He was ready to pull the Persian down under, but he cried out, and the Phantom released him and swam him to the edge of the bank. Erik reprimanded him for being impudent, coming uninvited. The Persian wanted to know the trick of the siren, saying that Erik was “a regular child, vain and self-conceited, and there is nothing he loves so much, after astonishing people, as to prove the really miraculous ingenuity of his mind.” The Phantom shows him a long reed which he poked through the water, allowing him to breath and sing while under the water, a trick which he learned from the Tonkin pirates. The Persian is angry for his near-death experience and reminds Erik that he promised no more murders. The Opera ghost feigns innocence about it all, even the chandelier, which he laughingly says was very old and worn and would have fallen anyway. He tells the Persian, or as he calls him the daroga, (Persian for chief of police) to not enter his house again, for he would hate to dedicate his Requiem Mass to him. The Persian lived in fear of Erik and his “fancies” and shuddered every time those in the Opera said it was the Opera ghost with a smile, for “If they had known that the ghost existed in the flesh, I swear they would not have laughed!”. He said Erik had announced to him since meeting Christine and “being loved for himself”, he had become the most virtuous of men. The Persian said he would not have thought that Erik’s voice “which was a loud as thunder or soft as angels’ voices “ could have made her forget his ugliness. The Persian did not yet know that Christine had not seen him. The Persian discovered the trick of the hollow bricks behind her dressing-room, the pivoting wall, and the secret corridor between the wall and his underground lair. He spotted Christine and Erik together, Erik reviving the girl after her faint. The Phantom was angered at the daroga seeing him with Christine and gave him a blow to the head. When he came to, both the Opera ghost, Christine, and the white horse had gone. He knew that Christine must be at Erik’s house on the lake, and, not wanting to endanger himself, lay in wait for the Opera ghost. He watched the lake until Erik came up to the bank. The Phantom said he was annoyed by the Persian’s insistence and warns him it will all end badly, that he must learn to take a hint, and that his secrets must stay secrets. The Persian said he was not after the Opera ghost, but Mlle. Daaé; the Phantom becomes angry again and asks that the daroga promise if he can prove to him that Christine loves him, then the daroga will cease to meddle in his affairs. The Persian promises, and the Phantom tells him that the girl promises to return to him, because she wishes to return, because she loves him. He tells the Persian that he will take Christine to the masked ball, and after which she will return to her dressing-room, and be delighted to return with him to his underground lair. The Persian, who was dubious, did indeed see Christine Daaé come and return several times to Erik without fear. The Persian did not make an attempt to return to the lake, but followed the Phantom secretly and discovered the spot of the secret entrance. He spied on Erik; heard him playing his Don Juan. The Persian was dismayed of the announcement in the newspaper of Christine and the Vicomte’s engagement, lest Erik’s horrible jealousy be roused. When Mmle, Daaé was abducted, he knew it could be none other than the Opera ghost, the “prince of conjurers.” The daroga decides to get the young Vicomte to help rescue Christine. He recounts his reasoning for getting the pistols; he feared Erik preparing the Punjab lasso for them, for as well as being the prince of conjurors he was also the prince of stranglers, having lived in India and used the lasso as entertainment for the sultana, usually locking himself in with a warrior who was condemned to death, whom Erik would strangle before the warrior knew what happened; The Persian was intent on keeping both he and Raoul safe; he did not know if the Phantom would show himself, but he could always strangle them. He instructs Raoul to keep his hand at the level of his eyes, (for with the hands at that position, it is impossible for the lasso to be tightened around the neck), traveling through the passage; meeting the rat-catcher, and finally making it into the torture chamber. The chamber contains a Punjab lasso at the foot of the iron tree for those who have had enough and wish to “end it”. The room itself is six-sided, completely mirrored. Raoul shouts to Christine that they are there to rescue her. From the other side of the wall they hear Erik ordering Christine to make her choice; the wedding march or the requiem mass. He is not aware of anyone in the chamber. Erik continues talking to Christine, telling her that his Don Juan Triumphant is finished, and he wants to “live like everybody else” again. He wants to have a wife, “that he can take out on Sundays”; that will sing with him- and live a regular life. The Vicomte and the Persian hear moans of sadness; the Opera ghost is sobbing at Christine’s feet, begging now, repeating over and over that she “doesn’t love” him, and that’s why she will not answer. Erik is upset to see Christine crying and urges her to stop, for he cannot stand to see her cry. Suddenly, his doorbell rings; he leaves to go answer it. Christine is now alone. Raoul keeps calling to her to unlock the door that is on the other side and let them out. The girl replies she is bound and cannot move. Erik said he will kill himself and everyone in the Opera house, that they will be “dead and buried”, if she does not consent to be his wife by 11 o’clock that night. Christine tells them that she thinks Erik is out of the house, but cannot be sure. She thinks the key to the door is in a small bag by his organ which he called “the bag of life and death”. Christine implores them to escape some other way before the Phantom returns. The Persian tells her to ask Erik if he will set her loose from her bonds, say they are hurting her; he will surely let her go. Fuming over the person who rang at his door, the Opera ghost returns. Christine cries out, alerting him. He asks her why, initially thinking he had frightened her. She tells him she is in pain. She implores him to loosen her bonds; he says no, for she will try to kill herself again. The girl promises not to. Erik lets her go; he says it will not matter, for if she refuses, they will die together. He curses himself for injuring her wrists, being as kind and gentle as can be. He plays a requiem for the dead one at the door, and then notices that his bag with the keys in it is missing. The Phantom rounds on Christine; she tells him she only wants the key to look in the other room, which he would not let her see, the torture chamber room. He takes the bag from her, causing the foolish Vicomte on the other side to cry out, revealing their position. Erik, realizes the chamber is not empty, insists on taking Christine to see who is in it. The girl cries that she doesn’t need to see it; is was just a woman’s curiosity, but still she goes up to peer in the hidden window. She lies to the Opera ghost, saying it is empty. At this point, Erik expresses how tired he is of living underground, like “a mole in a burrow.” He wants to live in a normal flat with no torture chamber and light and windows and a wife inside it, “like everybody else” whom he could love and take out on Sundays and “keep amused on week-days”. He shows her some of his card tricks and exhibits his ventriloquism abilities, throwing his voice all over the room, and even into the torture chamber (such is explained Carlotta’s “toad” and his ghostly voice all around the theatre). Christine tells him to stop with his tricks; the room is getting very hot. The Phantom tells her such is true, for, when he released the black curtain within the torture chamber, it brought in light from electric lamps put into the ceiling and is heating it, made only hotter because of the mirrored walls. He calls it his “African” forest! Raoul meanwhile his banging his head against the wall, the level-minded Persian trying to keep himself calm. The Persian describes the conditions within the chamber; the walls are on rollers and rotate, to change the scene of the painted along the walls; there is nothing to grab hold of; the heat, due to the electric heaters in the ceiling makes the temperature stiflingly hot; so, all in all, whoever is unfortunate enough to be entrapped in it get the illusion of being in an actual African forest under a blazing sun. The heat and mirror-images get to them, particularly Raoul. The Persian is intent on keeping a clear mind and find a way to escape. He thinks of returning the way they came, but the hole was far too high to reach, even of the two men were to stand on each other’s shoulders. The only opening was the door through Christine’s room on the other side. The Persian tries to help the Vicomte not fall prey to the illusion, showing him the forest is but a faux tree reflected in the many mirrors around them; that they are just in a room, and that they shall leave as soon as they find a door out. The Persian feels all the mirrors around them, searching for a weak point or button which might open a secret panel. He searches for over half-an-hour; Raoul is still growing mad with the heat. The two men take off their coats, but were still sweltering. Their throats are dry, and before they know it, it is “night: in the “forest”; the sun is no longer shining, but a bluish moon is; it was still hot, and presently hear what sounds like the roaring of a lion. It is only the Phantom, employing various sound-effects, but Raoul fires, smashing a mirror. The scene is different the next morning; a vast desert. In a last-ditch attempt, aware that he must know that they are inside, the Persian begins calling Erik’s name. No answer. They have been in the chamber for hours. The Vicomte and the Persian see a mirage of an oasis in the distance. The Persian warns Raoul not to go forward, telling it is but a trick of the mirrors, but the Vicomte won’t listen. Just as he goes forward they hear water. They do not see any; they now hear rain. It is another of Erik’s tricks. Raoul contemplates ending it all by use of his revolver, but the Persian stops him. The room rotates again, bringing the iron tree closer to them. The Persian suddenly notices a black-headed nail beside the Punjab lasso. The spring! He depresses it, and a cellar-flap opens in the floor. The air below is cool; they follow a stone staircase down below and find themselves in a roomful of barrels, where the Opera ghost keeps his wine and drinking water. They examine them thoroughly, and, the Persian, pulling the bung out of one, discovers its contents: Gun-powder! Now they finally understand the meaning of the Phantom’s saying they will all be dead and buried. He was planning to blow up the Opera House if Christine would not marry him! They scramble to find the time, yelling like madmen, up the stairs, back into the torture chamber. The call to Christine, to Erik, the Persian reminding him that he saved his life. No answer. The chamber is now dark as the cellar below. Raoul breaks the face of his watch and feels the hands. It appears to be just eleven o’clock! The Persian hopes it is only eleven o’ clock in the afternoon; they call to Christine. She told them Erik was still waiting for her to answer “yes” to him, and it was but five minutes before “the eleven o’clock to decide life and death!” He had given her the bag with the keys, telling her that one of them opened two ebony caskets on the mantle in her room, inside of which were bronze figures of a scorpion and a grasshopper: if she turned the scorpion, it would mean yes, and if she turned the grasshopper, it would mean no. She begged him to let her see the torture-chamber, but he refused. Before he left, he warned her not to touch the grasshopper, for it does not turn; it hops, and “hops jolly high!” It was the source of the detonator to blow up the Opera house. The Persian warns the girl not to touch the scorpion yet either; lest Erik had made the it the detonator and was misleading her. The Phantom returns, and the Persian calls out to him. The Opera ghost seems unruffled, and tells him to be quiet. Christine has to choose. He tells her that the grasshopper will indeed blow them all up; that there is “enough gunpowder under our feet to blow up a quarter of Paris”. If she touches the scorpion, however, water will soak it, drowning its explosiveness. He says if she does not choose, he will turn the grasshopper, and it all will be over for everyone. On the other side, The Vicomte is silently praying. Just before Erik turns it, Christine makes him promise that the scorpion is the one to turn. The Phantom cannot lie to her, so he says yes, and Christine turns it. There is the guzzling sound of water. It rises into the torture-chamber, which the two prisoners lap up gratefully, but suddenly, there is too much. Erik has not turned off the tap. The water comes up higher and higher; the Persian calls out to the Opera ghost that he saved his life; he must spare his now, but there is no answer. Raoul and the Persian cling to the top of the iron tree, the water level is so high; they are almost at the ceiling, going unconscious, drowning, in the deep water…
Here, the daroga’s narrative breaks off, and the author concludes all following was gained from personally meet the Persian in his flat in the Rue de Rivoli and questioning him about the events which followed his accounts. The Persian says that when he regained his consciousness, he found himself in a bed; dry and warm. The Vicomte was on a sofa, and both Christine and the Phantom were there. The Phantom asked the daroga if he was all right; Christine brought him a cup of hot tea. Raoul was still sleeping. Erik told him had come to earlier and was quite well. Erik explained that as soon as they were both well and revived he would return them to the surface, to please his dear wife. Here the Persian fell asleep again, and when he woke was in his own room, nursed by his servant, Darius, who told him that he had found his master propped up against the door of the house, where he had been brought by a stranger who had rung the bell. The Persian enquired after the Vicomte to find that the boy had not been seen and his brother Philippe was dead, his body found on the bank of the Opera lake; on the Rue-Scribe side. So he had been the poor wretch whom Erik had sung the Requiem mass to! Thinking that his brother Raoul had run away with Mmle. Daaé, and followed him. Failing to find either of the, he returned to the Opera, where he attempted to navigate the maze of the underground passages after the Vicomte and his rival, Erik. The Persian wrote to the police, but they did not want his evidence, so he published his observations in the paper. The Phantom visits the daroga at his home, panting, pale, and out of breath. The Persian demands to know of Christine and Raoul, and accuses him of murdering Count Philippe. Erik insists that it was an accident; the man was already drowned by the time he found him, and proceeds to tell the daroga that he is going to die…of love. He had kissed her, he had kissed Christine, the first time a woman had let him: “I am dying…of love….That is how it is…I loved her so!…And I love her still…daroga…and I am dying of love for her, I…I tell you!…If you knew how beautiful she was…when she let me kiss her…It was the first… time, daroga, the first…time I ever kissed a woman…….I kissed her just like that, on her forehead…and she did not draw back her forehead from my lips!…Oh, she is a good girl!…” He says she is alive, in good health, and that she is a “good, honest girl,” and was responsible for saving the Vicomte and the Persian’s lives. When the water was filling the chamber, Christine came to him with “her beautiful blue eyes” and told him she consented to be his living wife. Not in death, but in life. The Phantom returned the water to the lake. He could no return Raoul because he was a “hostage”. He put him in one of the deserted cellars of the Opera, and then returned to Christine. She was there, waiting for him, He tells of how she “did not run away…no, no…she stayed...” and was not afraid of him. There was when he kissed her on the forehead. His own mother would never let him kiss her…she would throw him his mask-Erik begins sobbing, continuing with his story: Christine had begun to cry for him; he could feel her tears on his face; he took of his mask “as not to lose one of her tears…and she did not run away!” He finishes by saying that in that one moment of crying together, they “tasted all the happiness the world has to offer!” Christine held his hand as he lay sobbing at her feet. The Opera ghost slipped the gold wedding-ring which she had lost and he had found, onto her finger, saying it was a “wedding-present” for she and Raoul, for he knew she loved the boy. He told her, still tearfully, that he loved her, but that she should be able to marry whoever she pleased, because she had cried with him, and “mingled her tears with mine!”. He released the Vicomte, and before they left, begged her to return when he was dead, and bury him, with her gold ring upon his finger. Christine then kissed Erik on the forehead, and promised to come back soon to see him. Before the Phantom left the Persian’s house, he told him when he felt the end very near; he would send him all of Mmle. Daaé’s letters which she had written “for Raoul’s benefit, and left with Erik, along with several of her personal belongings. He asked the Persian, that as soon as he received said items and papers, to publish in the Epoque to inform the young couple of his death. Three weeks later, the Epoque published this advertisement: “Erik is dead.”
The epilogue finishes up the loose ends of the story; the author still insisting the Phantom really lived, citing many facts of the matter, which are still visible “today”(1911). The press presented Christine as being between the rivalry of the two brothers. The Persian was the sole surviving person who knew the truth of the story, guiding M. Leroux where to look, who to question, and generally where to get at all the facts. He finds that M. Moncharmin and M. Richard’s case of vanishing francs was a simple one; the Phantom merely extracted the envelope, straight from the men’s coat pocket from inside their office, by way of a trap-door hidden in the floor. The author says though he has explored the Opera Garnier thoroughly, he never was able to discover the house on the lake, for Erik had blocked up all the secret entrances, and that his score for Don Juan Triumphant was yet to be found. In the communist’s dungeon, he found inscribed along the walls the initials R. C., presumably Raoul de Chagny. The large column in Box Five was found to be hollow, quite an easy place for the Opera ghost to hide. The Persian saw Erik’s tricks as a way for him to get back at his fellow men; Erik felt that because he was not regarded as a member of humanity, he could get away with having no scruples and subject others to his pranks by way of his quick mind and great talents. According to the Persian, The Phantom was born in a small town near Rouen, the son of a mason. Erik was a “subject of horror and terror” to his parents. He ran away as a child and was exhibited in fairs, where the showmen promoted him as the “living corpse”. He made his way to Europe, where he learned his trick of magic and art from the Gypsies. He was found at a fair, singing, with his beautiful voice, and displaying all his ventriloquist talents, by a fur-trader, who took him to the Shah of Persia’s daughter, the little sultana, who was “boring herself to death”. Erik was used for more than a few political assassinations, due to his recent aptitude for the deadly Punjab lasso. He was also a master architect helped design a grand palace for the Shah, full of secret rooms and passages, so the Shah could travel through it without being seen. The Shah, not wanting the secret of his palace to be divulged, orders Erik executed. The daroga, or Police chief, helped Erik to escape. A body was discovered on the shore of the Caspian sea, fortunately for both the Opera ghost and the Persian, was taken to be Erik, for he had dressed it in Erik’s clothes, so the daroga was let off scot-free and eventually came to Paris. As for Erik, he went to Constantinople and worked for the Sultan, building trick-boxes and the like. Again, he was forced to flee because he knew too much. He returned to France and wanting to live “like everybody else” became a contractor and built “ordinary houses with ordinary bricks.” He won the bid to build the Palais and built himself essentially a playground, full of all the tricks and chambers his imagination could contrive, a place where he could hide from man’s cruelty toward his abhorrent face.
The final passage I copy verbatim from M. Leroux’s text.
“The reader knows and guesses the rest. It is all in keeping with this incredible and veracious story. Poor, unhappy Erik! Shall we pity him? Shall we curse him? He only asked to be “some one”, like everybody else. But he was too ugly! And he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must need pity the Opera ghost. I have prayed over his mortal remains, that God might show him mercy notwithstanding his crimes. Yes, I am quite sure that I prayed beside his body, the other day, when they took it from the spot where they were burying the phonographic records. It was his skeleton. I did not recognize it by the ugliness of the head, for all men are ugly when they have been dead as long as that, but by the plain gold ring which he wore and which Christine Daaé had certainly slipped on his finger, when she came to bury him in accordance with her promise. The skeleton was lying near the little well, in the place where the Angel of Music first held Christine Daaé, fainting, in his trembling arms, on the night when he carried her down to the cellars of the Opera house. And, now, what do they mean to do with that skeleton? Surely they will not bury it in the common grave!…I say that the place of the skeleton of the Opera ghost is in the archives of the National Academy of Music. It is no ordinary skeleton.”
Leroux: The Author
Gaston Leroux (1868-1927) was a French journalist and author of "Le Fantome de l'Opera." He worked as a court reporter and drama critic. Leroux also wrote mystery, adventure and horror fiction, inspired by similar stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and Stendhal. l. Leroux died at the age of 59 in Nice, France.
Fact and Legend
In the prologue of his novel, Leroux claimed that "the Opera ghost really existed." In 1896, he wrote an article about the death of a construction worker at the Paris Opera House. The man was killed when one of the chandelier's counterweights fell, an event that would later show up in Leroux's novel. Some people believe that a lake exists under the building because of Leroux's description of the Phantom's underground lair. It is true that the building was constructed atop a source of water, but nothing lies beneath but a huge, stone water tank where Paris firefighters go to practice swimming in the dark.