The Siren

The Mystery Finally Explained?

Someone (or something) referred to as "the siren" is mentioned multiple times in Leroux's book. While Daroga and Raoul travel down through the cellars, to the catacombs, they see numerous other "residents" living in this dark domain of the Phantom. Is the Siren one of them?

Erik habitually speaks of the siren as though it were some other entity. At one point, the daroga hears music from the water while he is in a boat going through the haunted catacombs. As he stoops to listen, a pair of hands reaches up and pulls him into the water. Erik jumps out of the water and warns the daroga to beware the siren. Erik also makes the comment that he cannot always be around to help if the siren attacks.

Raoul's older brother Philippe makes an attempt to travel through the catacombs. The only time this is dramatized on film or in theatre is on the silent movie starring Lon Chaney. Philippe is killed and Erik insists that it is the Siren's fault, although he is clearly soaking wet.

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I recall asking about this at a popular phantom forum and the discussion lit up like a gigantic Christmas tree. I think it became the largest thread that ever existed on that busy message board. Yet I could not find a fully satisfying answer. It was frustrating.

One of the closest attempts I could see at an interpretation is in the silent movie with Lon Chaney, in which the siren is a tiny statue that plays chimes whenever someone is close to his House. I am not sure how the wiring works, but that is what it does.

While it is interesting, it is not fully satisfactory either. I finally came to my own conclusion that worked for the time being. As I state in The Mad Reader, Erik refers to everything so metaphorically. Why not this Siren? It became a dark outlet for me, a creepy fan fiction charactor that is a homicidal lunatic who does not talk but will "sing" beautifully in the form of whistles, wailings, moans, and humming. Enough said about her; she weirds me out. I'll still be making my poor attempt at fiction with that one later on. Pardon the digression.

Recently, I read a footnote in an annotated copy of The Essential Phantom of the Opera by Leonard Wolf. This footnote at long last provided a most helpful answer to this question.

It seems Erik is not only well-learned in the classics, he also keeps up well with contemporary writings. The siren Erik speaks of is a mythological creature, but not of ancient Greece. It is a creature from another one of Leroux's novels, and consists a beautiful voice from the waters and a ghostly pair of hands that grabs its victims into a drowning death.

I rolled my eyes and chuckled at Leroux's shameless pluggery.

EDITOR'S NOTE 4/17/2012: When I first typed this page back in 2008, I SWEAR I saw this in Leonard Wolf's book! I wanted to go back and specify which page, only to learn I cannot find it anywhere. In any case, there is a similar bizarre story about a siren with origins in the 1840's in, of all places, the United States - North Carolina to be exact. It is titled "the Siren of the French Broad." You can read all about it here. Sooo... Erik also had a gift for staying current on American fiction as well?

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