The story concerns the attempts by a prince and his followers to shield themselves from a terrible plague which is devastating the surrounding area and to carry on living lives of pleasure. Their attempts ultimately prove futile.
The Red Death is the name of the infectious disease which causes people to die within thirty minutes. Those who are infected bleed profusely from their skin, especially their faces, before they die.
Some six months after the arrival of Prince Prospero's guests, a masked ball is held for them. One room contains an ebony clock which makes a strange and frightening sound every time it strikes the hour. Each time that the clock strikes, the musicians stop playing and the guests stop dancing. After it has finished striking, all of those present laugh at themselves for being frightened by a clock. However, they react in the same way again when the next hour strikes.
When the clock strikes midnight, the twelve chimes make everyone pause for a longer time. They suddenly notice someone that they had not seen until that moment. Although many of the guests are wearing costumes which might shock, horrify or disgust many people, everyone is offended by the masked figure which they have just noticed. His mask looks exactly like the face of someone who has died from the Red Death. Arriving in the black room, the Prince grabs the masked figure and immediately falls down dead. The other guest rush towards the figure. They take off his mask but find that there is no face behind it. They realize that they are in the presence of the Red Death itself. All of the guests die, the clock stops and the fires in the braziers go out.