The Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe
A Forlorn Writer
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most well-known American writers of the past two centuries. His short stories and poems were known to be some of the most disturbing and macabre of the nineteenth century and have carried their popularity with them into the twenty-first century. Poe was one of the first writers in the United States to rely solely on his writing to make a living. Some of his more popular works include The Telltale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Premature Burial. In addition to writing creatively, Poe also earned through editing, publishing, and teaching. He is considered a writer in the horror genre, but he also wrote and published one of the first American detective stories and left his mark on science fiction.
What most people don't realize is Poe's life was riddled with instability, anger, and death. His life was not a normal life and because of this, Poe's ghost is believed to wander his old haunts to this day. Read about Poe's forlorn life, his untimely death, and his spectral appearances. Then you decide whether Edgar Allan Poe is a ghost or not.
Poe's Life Riddled with Tragedy and Death
Edgar Allan Poe lived in the nineteenth century, a time when death was a normal part of daily life. There were no antibiotics and western medicine had not advanced, so often people died at young ages and because of minor illnesses that could be cured easily today. Because Poe was a writer, and writers are affected by their experiences and surroundings, death became a central theme to Poe's work.
Poe's first experience with death, historically, came at a very young age. Poe was one year old when his father abandoned the family, and a year later at the age of two, Poe's mother died from tuberculosis. Following this loss, Poe was sent to live with the Allan family who essentially adopted him (without the legal paperwork done). It was said that John Allan would go back and forth between spoiling Poe and disciplining him severely. With a childhood such as this, along with losing his mother and father, it's no wonder Poe grew up to be a disturbed man.
Before going to college, Poe became engaged with a girl named Sarah Royster. Unfortunately he lost touch during his college years and when he came back to find Sarah, she had already married another. This undoubtedly caused pain within Poe that he most likely used to fuel and inspire some of his works. After college, Poe couldn't support himself so he enlisted in the US army, and during his time in the army his foster mother Frances Allan died.
Poe suffered another heart-breaking family situation when his foster father John Allan officially disowned him after marrying his second wife. Following this devastating blow, in 1831, Poe's brother Henry died from what was believed to be alcohol-induced illness or disease. This situation potentially fueled Poe to push himself further towards his writing career goals.
As if these tragedies weren't enough, in 1842, Poe's wife also died of tuberculosis. Their marriage was one of great controversy—Poe married his first cousin who was 13 years old at the time of the wedding. Regardless of the moral compass of his marriage, a loss of a significant other is traumatic and Poe went into mourning following Virginia's passing.
Poe's Strange and Untimely Death
Not too many years after Virginia's death, on October 3, 1849, Poe was found wandering the streets of Baltimore in a state of delirium. A man named Joseph Walker found him and took him to a local hospital where six days later Edgar Allan Poe died. Unfortunately, the death certificate has been lost or destroyed, so the official cause of his untimely death is unknown. There are theories that it could have been encephalitis, syphilis, delirium tremens, meningitis, heart disease, etc. Poe was said to have been a raging alcoholic, while others claimed he was a drug addict (which was later proven as false), so alcoholic disease is highly likely to have contributed to his death at forty years old. An odd discovery—when Poe was found wandering the streets, he couldn't explain what had happened to him and he was wearing clothes that were not his own mumbling "Reynolds". No one in Poe's close life knew what or who "Reynolds" might have been.
After Poe's death, his rival Rufus Griswold, slandered Poe's name via the written word (also called libel). Griswold wrote a biography of Poe's life that portrayed Poe as an alcoholic, idiotic, drug-addicted, and evil. Poe's family members and friends were outraged by the accusations and claimed Griswold's biography was nothing more than a smear campaign written by a jealous enemy.
To this day, no one knows how Poe died and why he was found in such a stupor. Was he in a drunken stupor and looking for his long-dead wife Virginia? Perhaps his sorrow from the deaths of his loved ones and other tragedies in his life could no longer be contained and overwhelmed him—body, mind, and soul. Because of the strange occurrences surrounding Poe's death, people have seen and experienced Poe's ghost on a number of occasions.
The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?— Edgar Allan Poe
The Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe
The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe haunts not just one place. The most famous of his hauntings is of Poe's gravesite in the Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, MD. A man wearing all black, with a black fedora hat and black scarf wrapped around his face, has been seen in the cemetery for over half a century. They say he appears every January, and no one knows his identity but many believe he is the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. He has been seen near Poe's grave site on numerous occasions. Once a letter was found on Poe's grave that said, "Edgar, I haven't forgotten you." It is surmised this was written by the wife Poe never met to marry. When he was found in the streets of Baltimore, he was supposed to be on a trip to meet his soon-to-be wife. There is also thoughts as to whether Poe was actually poisoned and murdered by a rival or other enemy, as he was wearing clothes that weren't his and supposedly was found with a walking stick that also wasn't his.
The ghost of Poe has also been said to haunt his Baltimore home now ran as a museum. While there is some speculation and debate as to whether the ghosts in the house include Poe's ghost, one thing is for sure—the house is definitely haunted by more than one ghost. An older woman's ghost has been seen on various occasions, along with unexplained cold drafts, shoulders being touched or grabbed, and more. In addition to potentially haunting his Baltimore home, there have been reports of his ghost seen at a pub known as The Horse You Rode In On pub in Baltimore. His ghost has been blamed for moving chandeliers and malfunctioning cash registers there.
Poe's ghost is thought to haunt a home in New York City where he lived with one of his love interests, following the death of his wife Virginia. Another place he's said to haunt is the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia. Visitors have seen him in the garden and halls and he's popped up in photos during tours of the house. They say his ghost is specifically attached to the infamous walking stick and his wife's hand mirror.
These aren't the only places the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe has been seen and felt. It seems he has unfinished business and moves from one place to another in search of a way to complete it. Was his tragic, mysterious death the cause for his soul to wander between the worlds? Was it really murder and not a mere "alcoholic stupor" that took him? We may never know the answers, but if we want to visit Poe's ghost we have more than one place to choose.
© 2017 Nicole Canfield