Edgar Allan Poe is one of America’s favorite poets and authors of several short stories. He is best known for his dark romantic works. However, he was also one of the most mysterious authors, who was surrounded by problems. He lived and died in a strange way.

The breadth of Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on our culture is incalculable. He invented the detective story, contributed to the development of both science fiction and the horror genre, and wrote about the only American poem anybody knows—certainly the only one popular enough to have an NFL team named after it. His aesthetic and themes have influenced such cultural figures as Salvador Dali, Charles Baudelaire, and Alfred Hitchcock, who credited Poe’s works with inspiring him to make suspense films. A century and a half after his death, Poe still makes appearances on television shows like The Following and South Park as well as movies The Tell-Tale Heart starring Rose McGowan and Stonehearst Asylum with Kate Beckinsale and Michael Caine. In addition to numerous Poe societies (including ones in Denmark and the Czech Republic), there are museums devoted to him in Richmond, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Bronx. Opened in 1922, the Poe Museum in Richmond boasts the world’s largest collection of Poe’s personal items and memorabilia.

Edgar Allan Poe lived for only 40 years, and throughout his adult life, he was known for his gambling and wayward lifestyle. His father abandoned his family when he was only 3 years old and his mother died immediately thereafter. He grew up with foster parents in Virginia. Poe married his younger cousin called Virginia, but she died at a young age. Poe was considered mysterious because of his works and the dark and chilling nature.

Poe went to the University of Virginia and dropped out due to the lack of money. He had a gambling addiction and always got into debts. His father bailed him out several times and eventually gave up.

When Poe joined the army, he did not tell the truth about his age. He was dismissed later by court martial.

Poe died in 1849, but his grave was unmarked. A stone was ordered for him, but it got destroyed in the train it was arriving in. There was a lot of gossip about him before and after he died. A few days before he died he was found on the streets of Baltimore in a delirious state.

His death was as enigmatic as his work

In 1849, Poe (pictured right in 1848) went missing for five days and was found “worse for the wear” and delirious in Baltimore. He was taken to the hospital where he died soon after at the age of 40. No autopsy was performed, the cause of death was listed as a vague “congestion of the brain” and he was buried two days later. Experts and scholars have proposed everything from murder and rabies to dipsomania and carbon monoxide poisoning as the reason for his demise, but to this day the cause of Edgar Allan Poe’s death remains a mystery. Could there be a more befitting legacy?

After Poe’s Death

In the 1860s, the medium Lizzie Doten published some poetry she claimed had been dictated to her by Poe’s ghost. His fiancée Sarah Helen Whitman (after his first wife’s death but before his engagement to Elmira Shelton) hired a medium to move in with her because she thought Poe’s spirit was trying to communicate with her, too.

Even today we find a bottle of cognac and some roses left on Poe’s grave. People have always wondered who left these things and why.


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