Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where is Poe’s Ghost?

It appears Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost is one of the most prolific in history. If it is believed he haunts practically everywhere, he lived, visited or breathed. The challenge here is to sort through these various claims and figure out which have merit. 

I do believe in the old adage: “seeing is believing,” so I searched for witness accounts describing encounters with Poe’s ghost.

While alive Poe was a troubled genius who suffered from melancholia, today called depression. 

His life, which was mirrored in his poems and short stories reflect the tragedies he experienced. Poe was a heavy drinker and only lived for forty years.

Poe lost his parents before the age of three. He was raised by an indifferent guardian, John Allan, who disowned him while he was at the University of Virginia because of his drinking and irresponsible gambling. 

Poe tragically never could live up to Allan's expectations. When Allan died, he left Poe out of his will, which in effect put Poe into poverty for many years. 

He married his 13-year old cousin Virginia who died at a young age of tuberculosis. Virginia was Poe's one true love, so this loss left him devastated. The result-- his drinking worsened, and his behavior became more erratic.

Poe’s real-life informed his character’s lives. Almost all his work reflects the dark aspects of human nature. His characters often spiraled into madness triggered by love “The Raven” or hate “Tell-Tale Heart.” His work reflects an obsession with death because of his own losses. 

He wrote one of his most horrifying tales “Berenice” after Virginia’s death. In contrast, his story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” defined what a good psychological thriller--detective story-- should be. 

His prose literally turned the short story genre into an art form and he, of course, is also considered the father of modern horror fiction.

Ironically, the two literary genres Poe is best known for mysteries and horror; are also reflected in how he died. Poe was found in a Baltimore gutter nearly unconscious, he was passing through on his way to visit his fiancée's family. 

He was taken to a hospital where he died four days later. While in the hospital, he was incoherent and shook uncontrollably. When the doctors offered him liquor, he refused it for he had stopped drinking.

The cause of his death remains a mystery. Many theories have been put forth, including arsenic, alcoholism, pneumonia, rabies, or drugs.

One theory that I find intriguing is that Poe was a victim of “Cooping.” Cooping was done on election days in the 1800s. It involved gangs of men who would kidnap their male victims off the streets, and then confine them in small containers similar to chicken coops. 

These men would beat their victims and force them to drink to the point where they lost their senses, and then they would put them in different clothes, take them to the polls and force them to vote many times. 

This might have happened to Poe because he was found near a fourth ward poll in the gutter on an election day. He was not wearing his own clothes. Instead, he had a cheap suit and hat on. It is also known he was not drinking at the time, but he was taken to the hospital in an inebriated state.

Poe was buried in Old Western Burial Grounds in an unmarked grave in 1874—when a gravestone was finally placed it had a carved raven upon it. 

Later the Westminster Presbyterian Church was built over part of this cemetery. So some graves are now only accessible via the catacombs under the church. These catacombs are very haunted—several people committed suicide in them between 1890 and 1920. 

Even though Poe’s grave was moved to an area above ground, several witnesses have seen his ghost in these catacombs.

His ghost has also been seen in the hallways of the hospital where he died. He has been spotted on the street near the house in Baltimore where he once lived. The house is haunted, but by most accounts not by Poe, but by his grandmother.

In Fells Point there is a bar by the name of “The Horse You Came in On” it was supposedly one of Poe’s favorite places to drink. Poe’s ghost is considered a troublemaker here. The chandelier swings by itself, and the owner and employees alike have seen the cash register open and close without cause. 

Many witnesses claim that if a patron denies the presence of Poe’s ghost, their bar stool is pulled out from under them, and beer bottles drop to the floor. Regulars at the Horse, which is the oldest continuously running bar in North America (established in 1775) verify these stories.

If believed Poe’s ghost haunts several other places.

Fort Monroe is one place that has eyewitness accounts. Once Poe’s guardian disowned him, he could not afford to stay at the University of Virginia. He joined the army instead. Poe is said to haunt Fort Monroe where he was stationed during this time. 

He was not happy while he was in the army, but he did write a collection of verse, entitled Al Aaraaf in 1829. At Monroe, his ghost has been seen writing while sitting at a desk.

1 comment:

Leona Joan said...

Very interesting. I wasn't aware of cooping, but it sounds like Poe may have been a victim of this unsavory practice.