Burning Question #18: Was It murder?

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We will agree that we all know who Edgar Allan Poe was and are familiar with some of his work. I’ll have a reading list at the end for reference.

Don’t run off before you answer the poll below. It is fast and easy and the reason we’re here today. Just scroll down (but read the amazing story too.)

Welcome to the Next Great True Crime Mystery

In October of 1849, ten years before I was born, my parents were arriving in California with a baby boy and a group of Vampires who’d come out West to start a new life.

In the meantime, across the country on October 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker who found him. Poe later died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say that Poe’s final words were “Lord help my poor soul”.

All medical records and Poe’s death certificate were conveniently lost. 

Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, To translate that means he died of the overuse of alcohol. To this day the actual cause of death remains a mystery. Speculation has included a multitude of dire conditions including delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera, and rabies. 

The day that Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in The New York Post signed “Ludwig”. It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.”

“Ludwig” was soon identified an asshole named Rufus Wilmot Griswold an editor, critic, and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor (no doubt through lies and bribes)and attempted to destroy Poe’s reputation after his death.

The story was fabricated by Griswold, and it was denounced by those who had known Poe, including Sarah Helen Whitman, Charles Frederick Briggs, and George Rex Graham. This account became popularly accepted, in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted. It also remained popular because many readers assumed that Poe was similar to his fictional characters and were thrilled at the thought of reading the works of an “evil” man.

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Nevermore

A more accurate biography of Poe did not appear until of 1875 (Ingram). But once a lie is out it is difficult to retract it. Many writers used Poe as a cautionary tale against alcohol and drugs.  In 1941, Arthur Hobson Quinn presented evidence that Griswold had forged and re-written a number of Poe’s letters that were included in his “Memoir of the Author”. By then, Griswold’s depiction of Poe was entrenched in the mind of the public, both in America and around the world, and this distorted image of the author has become part of the Poe legend despite attempts to dispel it.

The very fact that Poe, a snappy and fashionable man was found in worn out clothing in a gutter went against the nature of the man. I believe he suffered from depression, of course, but I also believe that the notion of him drinking himself to death is wrong.

In the 19th Century, in America, people, especially man, all drank copious amounts of alcohol. The temperance movement in the United States was well founded due to the amount of alcohol most people consumed. Drink did not agree with Edgar Poe. So we he drank it went right to his head in extreme ways, but yet, if he had passed up a drink that would have gone against the social norms.

A few months before his death Edgar Allan Poe became engaged to his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster. There were rumors that her brothers, who were against the union, had Poe murdered.

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Sarah Elmira Royster Poe’s Love Interest at the time of he is death.

Poe’s friend Sarah Helen Whitman, a poet, and woman of good standing always insisted he did not die a dishonorable man.

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Sarah Helen Whitman Poet and Friend of Poe

He did die a brilliant story teller and the father of the modern murder mystery, and modern horror.

If you get a chance look up the different stories about Poe. You’ll be amazed at what is out there.

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Or, on the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe might still be with us, having come aboard the ship to California with the rest of the Vampires.

Burning Question #18: Was Edgar Allan Poe Murdered?

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The Black Cat Illustrated by Gris Grimly

 

When I was a child my brother’s and I used to read Poe around a candle at night. Well, they’d read. As the youngest child I’d just let them scare the jeebers out of me. Later I read the stories on my own. And of course we’ve all seen (much later) the Vincent Price movies.

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Poe by Harry Clarke

Some of the Works of Poe:

Other works

Also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

The Poe Shadow
by Daniel Pearl
Yes it is one of my favorite books. You must read it.

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So your project for this summer is to read everything you can by Edgar Allan Poe, or about Edgar Allan Poe, and SOLVE THE MYSTERY.

Your next project is to keep checking back here on Saturday mornings for the next BURNING QUESTION.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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7 thoughts on “Burning Question #18: Was It murder?

    • A few years ago I heard that there were theories that he’d been murdered. It was all so strange. It also made sense in a lot of ways. It is indeed a mysterious mystery.

    • His cottage/home is in the Bronx. There might be a monument or something there for him. Interesting.

      Poe’s body is in Westminster Church in Baltimore. He was first buried in an unmarked grave in the back and later moved to the front. In 1885 his wife Virginia’s body was moved and buried with him in Baltimore.

      For years a mysterious man in black visited his grave. This is from Wikipedia. I’ve always thought it was really interesting:

      Poe Toaster is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified person (or more probably two persons in succession, possibly father and son) who, for over seven decades, paid an annual tribute to American author Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the cenotaph marking his original grave in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of January 19, Poe’s birthday. The shadowy figure, dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, would pour himself a glass of cognac and raise a toast to Poe’s memory, then vanish into the night, leaving three roses in a distinctive arrangement and the unfinished bottle of cognac. Onlookers gathered annually in hopes of glimpsing the elusive Toaster, who did not seek publicity and was rarely seen or photographed.

      According to eyewitness reports and notes accompanying offerings in later years, the original Toaster made the annual visitation from sometime in the 1930s (though no report appeared in print until 1950) until his death in 1998, after which the tradition was passed to “a son”. Controversial statements were made in some notes left by the post-1998 Toaster, and in 2006 an unsuccessful attempt was made by several onlookers to detain and identify him. In 2010 there was no visit by the Toaster, nor has he appeared any year since, signaling an end to the 75-year tradition.

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