Master Poet and Story Teller Extraordinaire,
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents who were itinerant actors. His father David
Poe Jr. died probably in 1810 and his mother Elizabeth Hopkins Poe in 1811. Edgar was taken into the home of a Richmond merchant
John Allan and brought up partly in England (1815-20), where he attended Manor School at Stoke Newington. Never legally adopted,
Poe took Allan's name for his middle name.
Poe attended the University of Virginia (1826), but
was expelled for not paying his gambling debts. This led to a quarrel with Allan, who later disowned him. In 1827 Poe joined
the U.S. Army as a common soldier under assumed name and age. In 1830 Poe entered West Point and was dishonorably discharged
next year, for intentional neglect of his duties.
Little is known about his life in this time, but in
1833 he lived in Baltimore with his father's sister. After winning a prize of $50 for the short story "MS Found in a Bottle,"
he started a career as a staff member of various magazines, among others the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond
(1835-37), Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in Philadelphia (1839-40), and Graham's Magazine (1842-43). During
these years he wrote some of his best-known stories.
In 1836 Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia
Clemm, born August 15, 1822. She was said to have large
black eyes, and a pearly whiteness of complexion, which was a "perfect pallor". Her pale face, her brilliant eyes, and her
raven hair gave her an unearthly look. It was also said that "one felt that she was almost a disrobed spirit."
From all accounts Poe always treated his wife
kindly and bought her a piano so she could pursue her love of music. He kept her in relative comfort. It
is believed that she loved him very much.
She burst a blood vessel in 1842, and remained
a virtual invalid until her death from tuberculosis five years later. After the death of his wife, Poe began to lose
his struggle with drinking and drugs. He addressed the famous poem "Annabel Lee" (1849) to her.
Poe's first collection, Tales of the Grotesque
and Arabesque, appeared in 1840. It contained one of his most famous works, "The Fall of the House of Usher." During the
early 1840s Poe's best-selling work was The Conchologist's First Book (1839). The dark poem of lost love, "The Raven,"
brought Poe national fame, when it appeared in 1845. The Murders in the Rue Morgue(1841) and The Purloined Letter
are among Poe's most famous detective stories. Poe was also one of the most prolific literary journalists in American
Poe suffered from bouts of depression and madness,
and he attempted suicide in 1848. In September the following year he disappeared for three days after a drink at a birthday
party and on his way to visit his new fiancée in Richmond. He turned up in a delirious condition in Baltimore gutter and died
on October 7, 1849.
...or so it has been said.
Mystery Surrounding Poe's Death
Days after his death he was buried in an unmarked
grave in a Baltimore cemetery before many
of his friends and family had even heard he was dead.
Years later, his cousin Neilson ordered a tombstone
for Poe's grave, and an elaborate marker was created out of marble. Plans were made to move the gravestone to the Baltimore
cemetery. But misfortune followed Poe even after his death. The tombstone was destroyed when a train jumped its
tracks and demolished a number of tombstones, Poe's included. It would not be until 1875 that a marker would be placed
over Poe's remains, and later the remains of his wife Virginia and Maria Clemm were added to the site.
Poe's grave is also the location for yet another mystery.
On the night of Poe's birthday in 1949, a man entered the cemetery in the dark of night and left three roses and a half-full
bottle of cognac on Poe's tombstone and then vanished.
Many assumed that the three roses were in honor of Edgar, Virginia, and Maria but the cognac
was a mystery, and the Baltimore Poe Society has noted "the significance of cognac is uncertain as it does not feature in
Poe's works as would, for example, amontillado."
But 1949 was just the beginning: every year on the night
of January 19th, a hooded man has entered the cemetery in the dead of night and has left the same tribute of roses
and cognac at Poe's grave. Poe enthusiasts have gathered to watch the mysterious visitor, but nobody has ever tried to communicate
with the cloaked figure or to learn his identity. On January 19, 1993, along with the roses and liquor, the man left a note saying "the torch will
be passed," and it is believed that the first man passed the tradition onto another before his death, because the annual visitations
Scholars, historians, biographers, and the medical community
continue to present theories about what happened to Poe from September 28 to October 3, 1849, but nobody has conclusively
proven whether one of America's premier writers died by his own foolish behavior, by an illness, by a gang of political hooligans,
or at the hands of a cold-blooded killer.
The mystery continues. Poe would be delighted.
From Notorious Murders and Celebrity Crimes;
Below are a few links to some of Poe's work: His deliciously wicked short story, The Tell-Tale Heart,
and two poems -- The Raven, and a tribute to his wife, Virginia, Annabel Lee.
The Tell-Tale Heart