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An Introduction to Phantom of the Opera

Originally, The Phantom of the Opera was a book by the name of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by the French writer, Gaston Leroux. Published originally in the year of 1911, the book sold quite poorly, and was removed from print on several occasions due to its lack of public appeal. Within this book, Leroux claims that Erik (better known as The Opera Ghost, The Phantom of the Opera, or simply The Phantom (which is also shortened to just Phantom)) was a real person. He insisted that this fact was true until his death in Nice, France (how ironic) on April 15, 1927 (he died of a urinary tract infection...doesn't that sound pleasant!?).  It wasn't until 1925 that The Phantom of the Opera was finally recognized as something which could hold literary and cultural value by the film director Rupert Julian, who produced the first ever Phantom film. Since then, there have been countless versions of the book produced; this includes several analytical books, a myriad of films, a horde of spin-offs, countless conspiracy theories, and several musicals. All of these will be detailed within this section.
The Phantom of the Opera, 1920 edition, by Gaston Leroux

Who was The Phantom?

According to Gaston Leroux, The Phantom was a deformed man who was raised and lived in the Opera Garnier (also known as the Paris Opera House), and went by the guise of Erik. The man's deformities and their impact have been twisted and distorted through years of spin-offs and countless reinterpretations of the book. The man wore a mask, and as with the deformities, this has been revised and changed in appearance through the countless appearances.

We'll launch deeper into this, but let's start out with Gaston Leroux's description of Erik's face. This is a collection of quotes, due to the fact that I had to dig through the book to find them, but they're pretty descriptive...actually, terribly so. If you're squeemish, impressionable, or easily disgusted, don't read the following quotes, m'kay? I'm not liable for the nightmares you have tonight.

In the picture to the left, you see Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of Erik. Well...at least the version fromThe Phantom of the Opera (2004), which was directed by Joel Shumaucher, and featured music from Webber's musical. As you'll soon tell, Erik was, unfortunately, not exactly as sexy as Gerard Butler's portrayal. According to Leroux, his Erik had "...terrible dead flesh", "was built from head to foot like a corpse" in his appearance, and had yellow eyes. So, all in all, he probably looked more like a monster than a dude that countless woman want to make out with.

The Man Behind the Mask: The Conspiracy

As stated, Erik is backed by countless conspiracy theories, all of which direct back to the main question of...who was the Phantom, and was he real? These all have things to back them up, however, just to make it interesting, I think I'll just say the facts that support Phantom's Existence. Court is now in session!

The Opera House: As described in Leroux's novel, Erik lived in a hidden area beneath the opera house, within the underground lake. Well, recently, a team of researchers have uncovered clues to the existence of many of the main characters of the story. For one thing, Christine Daae, the young woman that Erik falls in love with, does indeed appear to have existed. Why? Well, there actually is a Daae mausoleum, so that gives us a nice chunk of evidence, right? Carlotta, the pompous singer that hogs the spotlight, is honored with a plaque somewhere within the massive opera house, and the initials of Raoul have been found carved into the walls of the underground lake. Not to mention the fact that there are constant reports of ghosts within the opera house, and the staff have hordes of superstitious practices to ward off "Erik". This includes hanging a horseshoe above the entrance to the undergrounds, and even sprinkling salt around the area!

The recent discovery: Just recently, researchers uncovered a hidden apartment-like structure within the underground lake. The apartment was walled  with bricks, and within the apartment were records reported stolen by the opera ghost, along with the skeletal remains of a man with an asymmetrical face, who bore a ring with the initials CD (Christine Daae) engraved on the inside. This evidence supports the theory that Erik not only was not killed by the brother he never had, but also the theory that he did exist, and that he committed suicide after letting Christine go. Sorry, romance phans, he didn't die of a broken heart...technically.

Along with these are many more conspiracy theories, some of which I've detailed below.
What did Erik look like? This is a well-argued point, and I think this horse has been beaten dead, reincarnated as a zombie, beaten dead again, and then reincarnated and is now being beaten profusely. It's an age-old riddle dating back to the book's appearance, and it has been speculated within countless works of art.

Who was Erik? This was detailed above, but it's the argument of who Erik really was.

How did Erik die? Yes, this one is quite interesting. Theories from the walling in of himself seen above, to being murdered by his inexistent older brother, to even more radical theories, have surfaced in this case... So, let's leave this with you wanting more information...Court adjourned!

The masks, the face, and the fame...

This article is continued here...

The spin-offs and lookalikes...

This article is continued here...
A special article on Phantom of the Paradise is located here...