The Castle of Otranto


Horace Walpole

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Tonight, for our 600th episode, and the next in our October spooky sleep story series, we’ll read an excerpt from “The Castle of Otranto”, a novel by Horace Walpole. First published in 1764, it is generally regarded as the first gothic novel. Set in a haunted castle, the novel produced a new style that has endured ever since, and has shaped the modern-day aesthetic of the goth subculture.

Although in later editions of this novel’s publication the author acknowledged his authorship, in the first publication the story was purported to be a recently discovered ancient manuscript from the time of the Crusades.

Many years later it was discovered that the main character, Manfred, was inspired by the real medieval King of Sicily by that name. This historic Manfred is remembered for being noble, handsome and intellectual, along with being ex-communicated by three different popes.

This excerpt opens on a scene where Princess Isabella is fleeing through the castle from the wicked Manfred. He had recently asked her to marry him on the same evening her own fiance, Manfred’s own son, died by a giant helmet falling from the sky upon him.