Edgar Allan Poe’s Final Macabre Mystery: His Own Death
On Oct. 7, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. Alcoholism was listed as the cause of death, but what really killed him remains a mystery.
Imagine a 19th century mystery that begins with a man slipping in and out of consciousness in a Baltimore hospital bed in clothes that are not his own. While he has periods of semi-lucidity, he is more often wracked by delirium, incoherently babbling and shouting out the name “Reynolds” to the puzzlement of all around him. After a short period of recovery, he suddenly takes a turn for the worse, says “Lord, help my poor soul!” and dies.
This is the 19th century, so the cause of death is listed as alcoholism, because how else can you explain such strange symptoms. But in reality, no one knows. Nor do they know how the man came to be found unconscious in a city he wasn’t supposed to be in wearing someone else’s clothes after having disappeared for five days.
It would be the perfect case for Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Morse or, dare we say, C. Auguste Dupin, the first detective to appear in fiction. This last investigator would be fitting as the scene is ripped from the real life and real death of his creator, Edgar Allan Poe.
On Oct. 7, 1849, Poe died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. His life may have been short, but it was filled with drama and turbulence—literary brilliance, scandal, tragedy, and heartbreak, some of which was due to life circumstances, some to circumstances of his own making.
Poe set the standard for what horror could achieve in fiction and invented the mystery genre. Then, in death, he embraced that Oscar Wilde quote that life imitates art with a demise that was worthy of his most eerie of gothic horrors. Nearly 170 years after he took his last breath, people are still speculating about what actually happened to Edgar Allan Poe.