Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories are filled with cryptic death scenes, so it was only fitting that the master of the macabre would meet a similarly mysterious end.
One-hundred-sixty-two years ago today, Poe was found drunk, broke and delirious on a street in Maryland in unusually cheap and tattered clothes, and taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died shortly after. Poe was never coherent enough to explain what had happened to him.
Most of the information available about Poe’s last days came from his physician, John Joseph Moran, who issued a series of inconsistent statements, possibly because he was senile.
Today, historians still don’t know how Poe died, although a strong explanation is that he was drugged and fed with liquor by a gang of political thugs who took him around to vote as a repeater.
Others believe Poe indulged himself to excess. The theory is believed to have come from one of Poe’s biggest adversaries, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who described Poe in an obituary as a depraved, drunk and drug-fueled madman. His friends denounced the account.
Poe himself once said: “I was never really insane, except on occasions where my heart was touched.”
Other possible explanations of his death include cholera, rabies, syphilis and influenza, none of which his doctor was able to confirm.
In honor of the anniversary of Poe’s demise, a trailer for the movie “The Raven,” a fictionalized version of the last days of Poe’s death starring John Cusack, was released today. Watch the new trailer here.
On Twitter, the ghost of Poe appeared Friday, writing in his usual lyrical fashion: