American brief story author, poet, and critic Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), circa 1840. (MPI/Getty Photos)
The tales of Edgar Allan Poe are crammed with improbable terrors and macabre wonders, however out of all his sordid tales, maybe none is so mysterious and disturbing because the real-life story of the illustrious poet’s demise. Although Poe skilled his fair share of tragedy in his life, together with the dying of his spouse two years earlier and a lifelong wrestle with alcoholism, he seemed to be on the upswing in 1849. He had change into reacquainted with and engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster, and he was believed to have been on the wagon after receiving quite a few warnings from his physician in regards to the deterioration of his well being attributable to his heavy consuming.
Poe’s Fateful Journey
On September 27, he left his dwelling in New York Metropolis to rearrange a potential publishing gig in Philadelphia, however he by no means made it there. Nobody heard from him for the following week. On October 3, he was present in his hometown of Baltimore, mendacity unconscious in a gutter subsequent to a polling location on Election Day. He was sporting torn, ill-fitting clothes and a peculiar straw hat, a notably totally different aesthetic from his normally darkish, reserved, and tailor-made fashion.
John Tenniel illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” (John Tenniel/Wikimedia Commons)
Joseph Walker, a author on the Baltimore Solar, acknowledged Poe and contacted his relations. They took him to Washington Medical School, the place he appeared trapped in a hallucinatory haze, unable to speak or reply questions. His solely verbal expression was muttering the identify “Reynolds” time and again. Nobody has ever decided who or what Reynolds was or what they may must do with Poe’s disappearance.
Edgar Allan Poe died after 4 days on the hospital of phrenitis, or swelling of the mind, a sort of catch-all prognosis that was generally used as a code for alcohol-related deaths. It’s potential that alcoholism killed Poe, both by overdose or the shock of going chilly turkey, which may end in seizures and dying. Certainly, Poe gave the impression to be unusually sensitive to the stuff, contemplating his fondness for it, generally showing stumbling drunk after just one glass of wine. Nevertheless, this does not clarify his weird clothes, the mysterious Reynolds, or how he wound up on the street in entrance of a polling location in Baltimore on Election Day.
Edgar Allan Poe’s monument/headstone in Westminster Corridor and Burying Floor, July 2, 2010. (Andrew Horne/Wikimedia Commons)
Theories About Poe’s Demise
One principle about Poe’s unusual habits previous to his dying is that he was affected by a mind tumor, which may have led him to do issues he usually would not and ultimately manifested because the hallucinations he skilled within the hospital. This principle is supported by testimony from 1875, when his unmarked grave was exhumed by the College of Virginia to provide the well-known poet a extra applicable burial, however in true Poe style, the coffin broke and the scribe’s cranium disconnected from his physique. His mind was reported to have “rattled around inside [the skull] just like a lump of mud,” however the human mind is normally one of many first components of the physique to decompose, main later forensic pathologists to theorize that the sound heard was not his mind however the calcified stays of a reasonably sizable tumor, which was more likely to have survived 20 years after his dying.
A extra fascinating principle, referred to as the “cooping principle,” is that Poe was kidnapped by corrupt “election gangs” and left on the street to die after the scheme was executed. Again within the 1800s, voter intimidation and election violence was rampant, and a few activists weren’t above kidnapping people and forcing them to vote for a sure candidate a number of instances at totally different venues, typically altering their garments in between. These victims have been first “cooped up” in an undisclosed location, the place they have been generally crushed, drugged, or compelled to drink to render them compliant. It was additionally a standard observe on the time to supply voters a celebratory shot of liquor in lieu of in the present day’s significantly much less enjoyable stickers, which can clarify Poe’s horrible state, given his light-weight disposition, in addition to the placement the place he was discovered. We could by no means know for certain: Regardless of intensive investigations by quite a few historians over time, we nonetheless do not know all of the details behinds this legendary storyteller’s demise, however no less than he’d in all probability be joyful to have left behind another morbid thriller.