191: Death of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe in 1849. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland.

Here are some facts you may not have known about Poe and his death.

Edgar Poe was born in 1809 in Boston. At the age of two, he was orphaned when his mother died of tuberculosis. He was taken in by John Allan and his family, who added their name to his without ever formally adopting him.

Poe attended the University of Virginia for a year and later attended the United States Military Academy at West Point before being dismissed a year later.

He worked for several magazines before publishing his only novel “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” in 1838. In 1845 his poem “The Raven” was published in the Evening Mirror, which made Poe a household name. He was paid nine dollars for the poem.

Poe’s wife died of tuberculosis in 1847 and many of his works from this period focus on the deaths of beautiful women. His last completed work was the poem “Annabel Lee.”

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found incapacitated on a street in Baltimore. He was taken to a hospital where he lingered for four days until dying on October 7. He never regained coherency during the time, thus was not able to explain what had happened to him.

Early theories as to the cause of Poe’s death included alcoholism and suicide. Later it was suggested that Poe was poisoned as part of a ballot-box-stuffing scheme called cooping, a theory that was widely accepted for decades. Other theorized causes of death included cholera and syphilis. In 1996 doctors at the University of Maryland said much of the available evidence points to rabies as the likely cause of death.

Between the 1930s and 1998, a man dressed in black would visit the original site of Poe’s grave on the night of Poe’s birthday, January 19th. He would pour a glass of cognac and toast Poe’s memory, then leave the unfinished bottle and three roses on the grave marker. After the original toaster died in 1998, another man continued the tradition until 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. He has not returned since.

Our question, in Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” where does the murderer hide his victim’s body?

Today is the birthday of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Russian president Vladimir Putin and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.


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