The Bizarre Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe is a Halloween Story Of Its Own

More than 150 years ago, Edgar Allen Poe, literary icon and father of gothic horror, died a dark and untimely death. His demise is shrouded in so much mystery, the story could easily be plucked from the pages of one of his books.

(Cue thunder and lightning.)

Edgar Allen Poe is a name synonymous with suspense and dark romance. His poem “The Raven” is a classic that still appears in modern pop culture, and yes, a football team named themselves after it. Without his book “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the world’s very first detective story, we very well might not have the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. His beloved moody aesthetic has even inspired other prolific cultural icons such as Salvador Dali and Alfred Hitchcock, according to Biography.

And with the recent news that Mike Flanagan, creator of Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” will be adapting “The Fall of the House of Usher” into a series, Poe’s name is buzzing around yet again.

Though many of us can recite a famous morbid line or two, not everyone knows about the tragic life and utterly bizarre death of the Master of Macabre.

It seems Poe was destined to become well acquainted with melancholy, and even some scandal. Born to transient, alcoholic actors—both who died within a few days of each other—Edgar was sent off to a foster home when he was just 2 years old. Later, at age 27, he secretly married his cousin Virginia … who was 13. To be fair, we’re still not sure if this was indeed a romantic relationship. It’s certainly a conversation starter in cultural relativism circles though. Oh, did I mention that the controversial relationship was also cut short by death, when Virginia was overcome with tuberculosis? Are you surprised? Me neither.

Edgar Allen Poe’s child bride Virginiaupload.wikimedia.org

During his life, Poe was the poster boy for “starving artist.” Struggling to make any sort of money from his work, he resorted to gambling to pay off debts. Spoiler alert: It led to more debt … We’re talking burning your furniture to stay warm kind of poor. Not a good look. It eventually led him to joining the army to escape his creditors.

“The Raven” was Poe’s first worldwide success. Other works like “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” began gaining popularity and critical acclaim. At long last, the writing career he had pursued since the age of 13 was finally coming to fruition.

And then….DEATH! Behold, I’ll tell the tale.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poeupload.wikimedia.org

Once upon a midnight dreary … it was a rainy night in Baltimore, 1849. Election Day (more on that later), a man was found addled, immovable and in the shabby clothes of a stranger. That man was none other than Poe. He spent the next three days in delirium, flowing in and out of hallucinations and calling the name “Reynolds,” who to this day, is unidentified. The great poet’s last words ever uttered were said to be: “Lord help my poor soul.”

Though an official record states the cause of death as “brain swelling,” it has sparked much speculation and alternative theories.

There’s the good ol’ fashioned “beating by ruffians” theory, thought to have happened after friends left Poe in a drunken stupor. Or, for something a bit more sensational, the gang fight could have been instigated by a woman who “considered herself injured” by Poe. Seeing as Poe had a reputation for tumultuous romances, this is entirely plausible.

Then there’s a possible “cooping.” Don’t know what “cooping” is? I didn’t either. But Smithsonian Magazine defines it as “a method of voter fraud practiced by gangs in the 19th century where an unsuspecting victim would be kidnapped, disguised, and forced to vote for a specific candidate multiple times under multiple disguised identities.” It added that before Prohibition, alcohol was often given as a reward for voting. So basically, Poe could have been voted to death. You really can die from anything.

One doctor has hypothesized that rabies was to blame. This theory has a few reported kinks to it, however, as there was no evidence of hydrophobia. Yeah, apparently a common side effect of rabies is a fear of water!

A more modern theory developed when Poe’s grave was dug up and, inside his skull, an unidentified mass was found. A mass that studies now show could have been a lethal brain tumor. I, for one, could see a mind like Edgar Allan Poe’s eating him slowly from the inside in silent agony. And they say that you don’t have to be pained to be creative.

There are still other theories of carbon monoxide poisoning, heavy metal poisoning, and, yes, alcohol poisoning. Though that last one is a tad boring.

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poeupload.wikimedia.org

No matter which theory ends up being true, the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe is one that continues to bewilder, inspire, disturb and delight us. In a way, he is the absolute epitome of transfiguring the grotesque into the beautiful, both in life and in art. And his romantic, yet sorrowful spirit lives on in our retellings of his beloved classics.

Though he himself is nevermore, his poetic style will remain timeless forevermore.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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The Briddler

“What do you call a black man flying a plane?

“I don’t know.”

“A pilot! What are you, racist?”

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I spend a lot of time outside in the nightlife scene of Philadelphia. If you’ve been here for any period of time you realize the homeless situation here.

You’ll see it in Philadelphia, just as you’ll see it in Detroit and Los Angeles and D.C. That omnipresence can make it easy to perceive homelessness as a thing that just exists — a problem cities have that they all treat the same way.

But the way the city of Philadelphia approaches homelessness is different than the way it’s approached in Detroit and Los Angeles and D.C. The root commonality in fighting homelessness across U.S. cities is that they all get funding from HUD. It’s the way those funds are deployed that differs from city to city.

Here’s a glimpse at homelessness in Philadelphia, and how it’s being approached.

First, let’s put things into perspective. Of 1.6 million people living in the city of Philadelphia, 400,000 were found to be living below the poverty line in 2015. Compare that to the city of Los Angeles where, out of 3.9 million people living in that city,  approximately 873,600 are living in poverty.

Yet in Los Angeles, 21,338 homeless individuals were counted as not having shelter earlier this month. Philadelphia’s 2016 Point in Time count registered 705 unsheltered homeless individuals inside the city, according to Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh.

As of 2014, OSH tallied 3,644 beds across emergency, transitional and permanent housing facilities. Still, there are concerns that that number just isn’t enough.

“We don’t have enough,” said Misty Sparks, director of entry-level programs at nonprofit Bethesda Project. “I don’t think anyone should ever have to sleep outside, but if every homeless individual wanted to come into shelter on a given night, we would not have enough beds.

“I’m a firm believer that we always have 700 to probably 1,500 homeless in and outside of the city. In the winter the homeless count is much lower. In the summer it’s much higher.”

The homeless do get turned away when facilities are full — even youth.

It’s pretty sad and I am looking into some things I can do around the city to help solve this situation. The best one can do is to volunteer to help at one of the local shelters or for the publication One Step Away published by Resources for Human Development.

One Step Away is a newspaper that is written by homeless people and former homeless and contributing journalists. I may even write a piece for them.

But out of all of the homeless people I encounter on a daily basis, there is this one guy who always seems to pop up whenever I step out of a bar for a smoke. He’s sweet and articulate, and always has a joke for me. He normally does two or three and always has new material. As I said before, I don’t give money to the homeless people on the street. It doesn’t solve the problem. I’ll give food however, because food can solve an immediate need.

But this slight black man is different. He’s not panhandling like the rest of them. He’s making me think and making me laugh. So it’s not begging, I see it more as “street performance.”

There’s a difference. He does his bits, makes me laugh, I hand him a couple of bucks and he always tells me about the special at MacDonald’s that he’s going to spend his loot on.

I don’t even know his name. I really should ask him. Right now I refer to him as the Briddler. (the Black Riddler)

I saw The Briddler last weekend around Square 1682. He rolls up and opens with:  “What do you call a black man flying a plane?

“I don’t know.”

“A pilot! What are you, racist?”

Oh, and then he always smiles and sings a little tune: “doo doo do doo doo.” After each punchline.

“How do you know if Will Smith has been walking through the snow?”

“I don’t know. How?”

“Fresh prints!”  “doo doo do doo doo.”

“What did one testicle say to the other testicle?”

“What?””

Ya know, just between you and me, that guy’s a dick.”

So that’s a couple of his bits. They’re cute and funny. But the other day he approached my buddy Church and I and did a different kind of riddle.

“What goes through water but doesn’t get wet?”

We both thought for a minute but couldn’t come up with an answer between the two of us.

“Light.” doo doo do doo doo.

“Good one, dude.”

“What lies on water but doesn’t get wet?”

This time I had an answer. “Oil. Because that creates and emulsion.”

“Or a shadow… doo doo do doo doo.”

“You’re killing me today with the science riddles, dude.”

“What did Cinderella say when she got to the ball?”

“No clue.”

(He just starts gagging)

*That’s a fellatio joke for those of you that are a bit behind.

The Briddler is not a panhandler. He’s a street performer.

Apparently the owners of the popular nightclub, Rumor paid a years rent for him in an apartment. That’s incredibly generous, and will keep a roof over his head for a while.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am EST.

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