October brings to mind all things that are spooky, scary and go bump in the night. Despite all of the amusement park’s haunted houses and the scary Hollywood horror flicks, nothing can raise the hairs on the back of your neck quite like the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.
Best known for his eerie poems and short story tales of horror and mystery, his most famous short story works include “The Tell Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and who can forget the haunting words of his poem “The Raven” or “The Bells.”
Poe is credited with starting not only the “Detective Mystery” fiction genre, but his work was also a contributing factor in starting the popular “Science Fiction” genre.
This renowned American author’s life was also shadowed by his reputation for being overly opinionated, drinking, womanizing, and somewhat erratic behavior. Many believe the tortured characters in his writings were often based on his own personal feelings and experiences.
Because of Poe’s somewhat unstable lifestyle, he traveled the country looking for work for most of his career, but Poe was born right here in Boston, and has many ties to the Massachusetts area.
Edgar Poe was born in Boston on Jan. 19, 1809 at 62 Charles St. South (previously called 62 Carver St.) to actors Eliza and David Poe. Abandoned by his father in 1810, his mother died soon after.
Poe was then fostered by the family of John Allan, a wealthy merchant from Richmond, Virginia. Although Allan never formally adopted Poe, he did give him the Allan name as a middle name, hence, Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe lived in the Virginia area until, after quarreling with his foster father about money, he dropped out of the University of Virginia and returned to Boston in 1827.
Unable to support himself, Poe enlisted in the army and served at Fort Independence on Castle Island in Boston. His time on Castle Island is thought to be Poe’s inspiration for his work “Cask of Amontillado.”
Upon reconciling with his foster family, Poe moved back to Virginia for a time, where he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm in 1835. He was 26 and she was 13. They traveled to several areas of the country including Philadelphia and New York City, but often returned to Boston in the pursuit of work.
The Frog Pond in Boston Common held great meaning for Poe. He associated the Frog Pond with the Boston’s literary establishment because of what Poe considered the establishments “croaking” opinions, which differed from his own opinions on literature. Thus, his animosity towards them caused Poe to refer to the members as “Frogpondians.”
Despite disagreements with the literary establishment, Poe’s most famous literary piece, “The Tell Tale Heart,” was published by the literary magazine “The Pioneer” in 1843, which was located at 67 Washington St. in Boston (which is now known as 1 Boston Place).
In 1847, Poe’s wife Virginia died from tuberculosis. The stress from Virginia’s illness and death caused Poe to begin to drink more heavily and his behavior became more erratic.
1 Beacon St. (previously known as 41 Tremont Row) was the location of the Pavillion Hotel where Poe often stayed when in Boston for work. It is rumored to be the sight of an unsuccessful suicide attempt in 1848 after relationship problems with several local women.
24/26 Tremont St. in Boston was the former home of “The Flag of Our Union” newspaper, the only publication that would print Poe’s work in the last year of his life.
Poe also had ties to the city of Lowell in the last few months of his life, where it was rumored that he was having an affair with the wife of a paper mill owner, Nancy “Annie” Richmond.
Many speculated that Poe was planning to move to the Lowell area to be closer to his “Annie,” despite the fact that he had proposed marriage to two other women during that same time frame.
Rumors have also circled around Lowell’s famous Worthen House that Poe had stayed there when it was a boarding house.
Built in 1834, it is of the time and place for this to have occurred during one of Poe’s visits to Lowell, and the fact that the Old Worthen has a reputation for being actively haunted certainly brings to mind the likes of Edgar Allan Poe. However, there is no concrete evidence that shows a visit from Poe actually took place at the Worthen House.
Poe died a short time after his visits to Lowell in 1849. He was found on the street in Baltimore, MD, incoherent and stressed wearing someone else’s clothes. Newspapers at the time reported his death to be alcohol related.
There have been many speculations as to the cause of his death including heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis and rabies. The actual causes of Poe’s death remains a mystery as do many aspects of his life.
The City of Boston has paid tribute to this talented author by creating Edgar Allan Poe Square. This was originally at the site of Charles Street South and Broadway from 1913 to 1924, when it was changed to a WWI memorial.
The new Boston home of the Edgar Allan Poe Square is the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South. The Square was dedicated in 2009 by then Mayor Thomas Menino during the Poe Bicentennial.
If you haven't read any of Poe’s horror masterpieces, be sure to check one out at the public library. Then, take a train ride into Boston to visit the Edgar Allan Poe Square (you can read Poe on the train to get you in the proper spooky mood!). From the Poe Square, it is a short walk to many of the significant Boston address regarding Poe’s life, including the Frog Pond.
With Halloween just around the corner, you may decide to curl up with a good Edgar Allan Poe story on a dark and stormy October night. Be forewarned, you may need to sleep with the lights on that night.