In September of 1849, a man left for Philadelphia from his home in Boston, Massachusetts. On October 3, he was found on the streets of Baltimore in great anguish. He was taken to Washington College Hospital where he breathed his last. The American literature had lost its darkness. It was the occult poet, Edgar Allan Poe who had vanished from the material sight of the world. In his writings, he is still very much alive.
The archangel of short storytelling was disparately, like in his words and his life, shrouded in a conundrum in his demise. The father of ‘ratiocination’, he was the first to assert logical reasoning into his characters. He contrived mystique and supernatural fascination in his poetry. And brought detective fiction and gothic genre to the foray of literary circles in America. Thus giving American literature a subtle uniqueness, a curious spookiness. It was his devotion to darkness and noir which made him a mainstay in the popular culture we consume today. Here is a list of Poe’s lesser known but harrowing works which will sting you to the marrow:
Berenice is Poe’s favorite anatomy of beautiful woman’s death named Berenice. The tale traces a delusional Egaeus’s obsession with her beloved’s teeth! He is demented, disoriented and petrified after Berenice’s death and cannot but fall into cataleptic fits. With the progression of time, it is revealed that Berenice was buried alive and her coffin was subject to ‘indignities of grave-digging’. On Egaeus’s bedside lie thirty-two bloodied teeth and a poem on visiting beloved’s grave. If you thought Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange was repulsive, then you have no clues what riding with Poe is like!
The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841
The Murders in the Rue Morgue was first published in Graham’s Magazine in 1841. It is world’s first story on modern detective fiction. Set in Paris, it explores the homicide case Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter, murdered in their posh Parisian apartment and then barbarously stuffed inside a chimney chute. The unnamed narrator follows his roommate, Dupin, over the details of the case, using his eccentric albeit brilliant methods. And it is nothing your dear Sherlock!
The Imp of the Perverse, 1845
Idiosyncratic, supernatural and frighteningly phantasmagorical, The Imp of the Perverse is a philosophical discourse about man’s perversity. The narrator murders a man for his estate. Unsuspected for his hideous crime, he goes on to describe how he is agonized by his ‘capability to confess’ and make it a tale on debilitating effect of a guilty conscience.
The Purloined Letter, 1844
The Purloined Letter is Poe’s most famous example of ‘ratiocination’. A detective mystery featuring Dupin, the story unveils a letter containing compromising information. A work of endless debate and study, it is notable for its intentionally foregone factual relevance and its far-reaching deductions.
The Oblong Box, 1844
The Oblong box combines Poe’s most prevalent elements: an oblong box (coffin) and a disastrous sea voyage. A suspicious family of Wyatt’s embarks on a mysterious sea journey. Narrated in utter ignorance, the tale is fundamentally macabre of the presence of a dead body inside a coffin but rather annotates it as a ‘peculiar shaped box’ with ‘odd odor’. If you want to delve into the fabric of dark humor and psychological terror of totality, this one is for you.
The Cask of Amontillado, 1846
Set in an unnamed Italian city, The Cask of Amontillado tells the tale of the murderous narrator, Montresor, in his vengeance quest against Fortunato over an unspecified injury to the narrator’s reputation. The story is the first of its kind to provide a popular taste for live entombment in horror fiction, a topic of interest to the people of the Victorian era. Today, the story stands mostly as a historical piece attributed to its time, laden with macabre themes, temperance values, and a distinct, secretive story-telling style.