Interesting Facts

Inside The Mysterious Death Of The Famed Gothic Writer Edgar Allan Poe

Hours before his death Edgar Allen Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore. He was incoherent, wearing another man’s clothes, and unable to explain how he got there. The cause of his death is an unsolved mystery.

The strange story of Edgar Allan Poe’s death sounds like a story of his own. 1849. A man was found delirious in the streets of a town where he did not live, wearing clothes that were not his, unable or unwilling to discuss the circumstances in which he came.

Within days, he died, paralyzed by hallucinations in his final hours, repeatedly calling out the name of a man no one knew.

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Though some say alcoholism was the underlying cause, no one knows for sure what caused Edgar Allan Poe’s death at the age of just 40. Photo Credit: Pixabay

And the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s death is not only as bizarre and haunting as his work itself, but it remains a mystery to this day. Although historians have studied the details for a century and a half, no one knows for sure what caused Edgar Allan Poe’s death in Baltimore on October 7, 1849.

What The Historical Record Tells Us About Edgar Allan Poe’s Death

Edgar Allan Poe vanished six days before he passed away and just before his wedding.

On September 27, 1849, he had left Richmond, Virginia, for Philadelphia in order to edit a book of poems for a friend. He was discovered on October 3rd, confused and only partially awake, outside a Baltimore bar. Poe never made it to Philadelphia, and no one had seen him in the six days since he departed, it was eventually revealed.

It was unclear how he had arrived to Baltimore. He either didn’t know where he was or didn’t want to say why.

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A daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, taken in the spring of 1849, just six months before he died. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

Poe was wearing obviously not his own highly filthy, tattered attire when he was discovered loitering outside a neighborhood tavern. Once more, he was either unable to or unwilling to give an explanation for his current situation.

He could only express one thing, though. Joseph Walker, a local typesetter for the Baltimore Sun, stated that Poe was only lucid long enough to give him a name: Joseph E. Snodgrass, an editor friend of Poe’s who also happened to have some medical expertise. Poe was discovered by Walker.

Fortunately, Walker was able to send a letter to Snodgrass.

Walker wrote: “I promise you, he is in need of immediate aid. There is a gentleman, somewhat the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes by the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe and who seems in considerable trouble.

In a short period of time, Snodgrass and Poe’s uncle showed there. They and Poe’s other family members were unable to provide an explanation for his actions or his disappearance. Poe had a blind fever while being taken to the Washington College Hospital by the two.

How Did Edgar Allan Poe Die?

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The home of Edgar Allan Poe in Virginia, where he had been living up until his mysterious appearance in Baltimore. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Poe suffered from fever nightmares and intense hallucinations for four days. Reynolds was constantly requested, despite the fact that neither Poe’s family nor friends knew anybody by that name and that historians have been unable to place a Reynolds in the author’s life.

While his first wife, Virginia, had passed away over a year earlier and he was still engaged to Sarah Elmira Royster, he also made mention of a wife in Richmond.

On October 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe finally passed away as a result of his illness. Phrenitis, or enlargement of the brain, was first given as his official cause of death. However, these records have since vanished, and many people question their veracity.

Each of the dismal ideas put out by historians is as valid as the last.

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A watercolor of Virginia Poe, Edgar Allan Poe’s first wife, done after her death in 1847. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

One of the most well-liked ideas, which Snodgrass himself endorsed, was that Poe drank himself to death. This accusation was repeated in the months that followed Poe’s passing by his enemies.

Others claim Poe was a “cooping” victim.

In order to commit voter fraud, gangs would abduct civilians, force-feed them booze, and then bring their inebriated victims to the polls where they would repeatedly cast ballots for the same candidate. To avoid suspicion, they regularly made their prisoners change their attire or put on disguises.

Poe already had a reputation for being a renowned lightweight, and many of his friends claimed it only took a glass of wine to make him sick, supporting the idea that he overindulged—whether on purpose or out of need.

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An 1857 cartoon from Harper Magazine depicting a voter being accosted on the street by a campaign team. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

A different doctor, who examined Poe’s postmortem hair samples, asserted that Poe had avoided almost all alcohol in the months before to his passing, which added fuel to the rumors.

Edgar Allan Poe’s corpse has undergone several exhumations and examinations since his passing. The majority of illnesses, including rabies and influenza, have been ruled out, although other researchers contend that it is hard to establish that either one caused his death.

Additional research on Poe’s post-mortem hair samples produced no evidence, disproving other ideas that include poisoning of any kind.

A New Theory About Poe’s Death Sparks Fresh Debate

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The original grave of Edgar Allan Poe before he was reburied. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Brain cancer is one notion that has gained popularity recently.

There was a small accident when Poe was exhumed in order to be transferred from his Baltimore cemetery to a much finer one. Poe’s skeleton and the casket it was in were significantly deteriorated structurally after spending 26 years below, and they both disintegrated.

Poe’s skull had a unique trait that one of the personnel entrusted with putting the pieces back together noticed: a little, hard item rolling around inside it.

The material was immediately seized upon by medical professionals who said it was proof of a brain tumor.

Last but not least, there are others who believe that foul play was involved, as is to be anticipated in the death of such a strange guy.

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A statue of Edgar Allan Poe in Boston, near his birthplace. Photo Credit: M.K. Feeney / Flickr

Poe was staying with his fiancée’s family in Richmond when he passed away, according to a theory put forth by Edgar Allan Poe scholar John Evangelist Walsh.

According to Walsh, Poe’s future wife’s parents didn’t want her to wed the writer, and after making threats against Poe failed to break them up, the family turned to murder.

It seems appropriate that 150 years after his passing, Edgar Allan Poe’s death is still shrouded in mystery. He created the detective story, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he left the world with a genuine mystery.

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