The Phantom of the Opera , the best known of all of Leroux's works, is a horror romance published by the French publishing house Lafitte as Le Fantome de l'Opera . Mills and Boon of all people were responsible in the following year for the English version. Though much loved by readers and consistently popular the story was panned in its first New York Times review and has suffered from criticism elsewhere for being too populist. Leroux himself claimed in the opening of the novel that, "The Opera Ghost really existed. He was not, as was longed believed, a creature
of the imagination of the artists... Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade". Whether you believe this or not the story remains a compelling one. There is rumour at the Grand Paris Opera House of the existence of a ghost who has his own box at performances, and suspicion is turned to him when Joseph Buquet's death is reported. Viscount Raoul de Chagny then visits a performer Christine after her fine performance as a stand-in in "Faust". He hears mysterious voices in the dressing room but opens the door to find no one there. Panic ensues as after the Opera Ghost's written requests that the box be left for him the managers of the house sell it a strange voice is heard there telling them to leave. There is more mystery at a fancy dress party and with the disappearance of Christine and Raoul is drawn ever deeper inside the legend and the life of a certain Erik whose behaviour causes concern and suspicion.
"The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, the box-keepers, the cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade."