An unnamed protagonist chooses to spend the night in an allegedly haunted room in Lorraine Castle. He intends to disprove the legends surrounding it. Despite vague warnings from the three infirm custodians who reside in the castle, the narrator ascends to "the Red Room" to begin his night's vigil.
Initially confident, the narrator becomes increasingly uneasy in the room. He attempts to conquer his fear by lighting candles, but keeping the candles lit in the draughty room becomes an ongoing battle. Each time a candle is snuffed out, the narrator's fear increases. He begins to imagine that the drafts are guided by a malevolent intelligence. As the narrator's fear reaches a crescendo, he stumbles onto a large piece of furniture (possibly the bed), and ricochets off the walls, in a blind panic; hitting his head and eventually falling unconscious. The caretakers, who find him in the morning, feel vindicated when the narrator agrees that the room is haunted. They are eager to hear a description of the phantom, but he surprises them by explaining that there is no ghost residing in the room. The room is haunted by fear itself.