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Honoring Edgar Allan Poe

09/28/2008 by Hauntmistress

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe and October 7, 2009, marks the 160th anniversary of his death.

Poe, the poet and author of chilling works such as The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Tell-Tale Heart, died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Details of Poe’s death are vague.  On September 28, 1849, he traveled from Richmond, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. There is very little known today about what he did when he got there, until five days later when he was found in or near a tavern (of note is that the tavern was also serving as a polling place because it was election day) by a printer, Joseph Walker, who said Poe looked distressed and sent for Poe’s friend J.E. Snodgrass.

Snodgrass and his uncle Henry Herring met Poe in the tavern and thought he was drunk. They also noticed that his clothes were dirty and ill-fitting; like they weren’t really his clothes. They took Poe to Washington College Hospital (now Church Hospital) where he was kept in the ward where intoxicated patients were kept.

Poe slipped in and out of consciousness for the next four days. When he was conscious and was asked questions, the answers were incomprehensible. At one point he became combative and had to be restrained. He died the morning of October 7, 1849.

Questions remain about what was really wrong with Poe.  It seems that there was a medical issue, rather than him simply being drunk. Theories include meningitis, infectious disease, heart condition, blood disorder, and myriad other diseases.  It is also theorized that he may have been beaten (suffering a head injury) and robbed (this would explain the clothing).

But in 1996, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center said they believe Poe may have died from rabies. The analysis said that Poe had stopped drinking six month prior to his death and there was no evidence of alcohol when he was admitted to the hospital. His symptoms were similar to those of someone with rabies, and the length of survival after the onset of serious rabies symptoms is four days, which is the number of days Poe was hospitalized before his death. In addition, Poe had many pets that could have transmitted the disease to him (people can have rabies for up to a year without major symptoms).

Even Poe’s burial is controversial.  He was buried without a headstone on the grounds of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore (now part of the University of Maryland School of Law) but was later reburied elsewhere on the grounds, this time with a headstone. Some question whether the right body was moved.

Although Poe’s death leaves a million questions unanswered, would anyone expect less intrigue from one of the world’s greatest mystery authors?


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