Today is the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s death in 1849. He’s such fascinating character and was such a great writer that we’re still obsessed with him and his tales and poems hundreds of years later! On October 3rd, 1849, a newspaper typesetter named Joseph W. Walker found Poe delirious and half-unconscious in a gutter on the streets of Baltimore. The author was wearing someone else’s clothes and was unable to explain how he had ended up in the street. Poe had left Richmond, Virginia, five days prior en route to Philadelphia and never explained how he came to be in Baltimore. He died in Washington College Hospital at 5am on October 7th, four days after being found. He was aged just 40.
There are a number of theories as to what caused Poe’s death. Some believe the poet was murdered; others blame alcohol (a rumor started by Poe’s rival, Joseph Snodgrass), rabies, cholera, or (perhaps most impressively) that he was a victim of cooping. “Cooping” refers to “a practice in the United States during the 19th century by which innocent people were coerced into voting, often several times, for a particular candidate in an election.” These people were often snatched unawares off the streets, “kept in a room, called the coop” and “given alcohol or drugs in order for them to follow orders. If they refused to cooperate, they would be beaten or even killed.” Victims were often forced to change clothes and were even “forced to wear wigs, fake beards, and mustaches as disguises so voting officials at polling stations wouldn’t recognize them.” This theory is highly plausible. Poe was, after all, found on Election Day outside Ryan’s Fourth Ward Polls, which was both a bar and a place for voting. To me, this is not only the most exciting theory but is also the one that stands out as the most probable, given the notoriously violent and corrupt nature of Baltimore elections at the time.
It is likely, though, that Poe’s death will remain a mystery, which is somewhat fitting for the man who is widely credited with creating the detective story.
Poe’s long-lasting appeal, however, is no mystery. Many of you would have read at least one thing by Poe – whether it be a short story such as ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ or ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, or one of his poems – most likely ‘The Raven’ or ‘Annabel Lee’. hundreds of years after his death, his macabre tales still fascinate us and this may because Poe was, in many ways, a pioneer of fiction: as well as being credited as the inventor of detective fiction, Poe made a significant contribution to the emerging genre of Sci-Fi fiction. He was also the first well-known American writer to attempt to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. It is his solitude and struggles which, I believe, intrigue us most.
You can find the complete writings of Mr. Poe here
I love “The Raven,” what about you? You can listen to some chilling readings of it from the master of horror, Vincent Price, the unforgettable James Earl Jones, or the unnerving version from Christopher Walken, or my personal favorite, Christopher Lee.
While you’re listening to why not make this amazing Raven Triptych altered art project! The step by step instructions can be found here
If reading Mr. Poe’s works, listening to his macabre poem read aloud, or creating artwork in his honor isn’t quite enough for you, there is always the action figure!
Perfect for hours of tormented enjoyment!
Thanks for stopping by everyone, let’s all raise a toast to Edgar Allen Poe. Without his writings, this world would indeed be a less interesting place!
(Post features affiliate links)