Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Edgar Allan Poe’s poems and short stories are regarded by many as some of the best examples of American literature ever written.  His gothic style is easily recognized and revered.  In almost all of his works he discusses death in one way or another, and it is his own death, ironically, one still surrounded in mystery, that seems as if he himself was the author.

On October 3, 1849 Edgar Allan Poe was found outside of Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore by Joseph W. Walker.  Alive, but delirious and dressed in soiled clothing, he was barely conscious and unable to move.  Mr. Walker didn’t recognize him at the time, but as he began to help this man he realized it was the famous writer.  Through much effort Poe was able to tell Walker to get in touch with a Joseph E Snodgrass, an editor he was familiar with who had some medical training.

Walker wrote to Snodgrass and took Poe to Washington College Hospital.  Several days later, on Sunday October 7th, Edgar Allan Poe died.  One of the more discouraging aspects of Poe’s death, to Mr. Walker and to the attending physicians, was that he never became coherent enough to explain how he came to be in the condition he was discovered in.


A week before Poe was found outside Gunner’s Hall, he had left from Richmond Virginia in route to Philadelphia to edit a collection of poems for a fellow American poet.  He never made it to Philadelphia and when he was found in Baltimore, it was the first time anyone had seen him since his departure.

So what happened to Poe between the time he left from Virginia and when he was found in Baltimore in disarray and in someone else’s clothes?  There is speculation to this day as to the events that may have taken place.  Perhaps it was cholera, suicide, murder, or the flu.  Poe had been painted as a drunkard by many who disliked him; often by envious writers who did not share his fame.

Whatever the cause it is likely that Edgar Allan Poe himself may not have been fully aware of the series of events that would eventually lead to his demise; given the state in which he was found.  His death is dark, mysterious, and captivating.  It had all the elements he used in his many tales.

As a great fan of his work, I can’t help but think that his death was the one that suited him.  A final haunting irony for the world to consider.


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