A tortured artist and the inventor of the detective genre, Edgar Allan Poe was a romantic period writer well known for his gothic poetry and short stories such as The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher.
His works had a continuous focus on the inevitability of death and the power of fear, both of which he was well acquainted with after becoming an orphan at a young age and being a chronic alcoholic throughout his life.
But even compared to his own writings, Poe’s death and the events leading up to it are far more strange than even his own tales. Whilst travelling to New York for work on the twenty-seventh of September, 1849, Poe went missing and was not seen until the third of October in Baltimore.
He was found drunk and dazed outside of Gunners Hall tavern by a man called Joseph Walker who quickly wrote to J. E. Snodgrass, one of Poe’s associates, to inform him of the situation. Snodgrass sent Poe to Washington Medical College for treatment where he suffered from hallucinations and nonsense ramblings during his hospital stay. After four days of pain and agony, Poe died on the early morning of October 7th, 1849, the cause of his ailment unknown.
There have been many theories given to explain the bizarre circumstances.
One popular explanation is that Poe was kidnapped because of his fiancés high social standing. Since the passing of his wife Virginia, Poe sought to get married again and relentlessly searched for a new spouse in the final two years of his life. It was rumoured that he eventually became engaged to Sarah Shelton, the last woman he courted before his death and who belonged to a wealthy family.
The Shelton family may not have been not pleased at the prospect of Poe joining their family as he was financially undependable and eccentric, and decided to murder Poe during his journey to New York and prevent the marriage from occurring.
While this theory is an interesting one, there isn’t a lot of evidence to back it up, especially as Shelton and Poe weren’t officially confirmed to be engaged.
Another theory states that Poe died from Pneumonia. This could explain the delirium Poe experienced when he was hospitalised and the reason for his disappearance. But as Poe also had a lifelong drinking addiction, it’s impossible to rule out the chance his behaviour was due to its influence and that he died from alcohol poisoning.
With a lack of information and too many overlapping reasons, Edgar Allan Poe’s death is still as complex and mysterious as ever.
The one thing that can be deciphered is that Poe truly put a part of himself in each and every work he created, as his departure from this world is eerily similar to the macabre fates that his own characters encountered.
To read more about Poe please see a short introduction to Edgar Allen Poe