“Quoth the raven, Nevermore.”
Are you triggered? I know sometimes hearing any quote from The Raven brings up memories of high school. And the first time you read it, you were young and bored out of your mind. But read it again. Really read it. It’s pretty amazing. Then read all his other stuff. There isn’t an author dead or alive that can convey the feeling of going insane better than Edgar Allan Poe (except maybe 2020).
A lot of Poe’s work was inspired by his life. His parents died when he was very young and he was taken in by John and Frances Allan. Allan wasn’t his middle name, he added it in their honor. They moved around several times while Edgar was young. They raised him and paid for his education, but Edgar gambled with any money the Allans sent him. They eventually took him out of school and they slowly grew apart and stopped talking to each other. He moved to New York next, and then to Baltimore. That’s where his story really begins.
Poe started writing again, got married, and got a job as an editor at a newspaper called the Southern Literary Messenger. He got fired for drinking and moved to New York, then Philadelphia. Lucky for him he got a job as the co editor of Burton’s Gentleman’s Quarterly. He published two stories in it: WIlliam Wilson and The Fall of The House of Usher. Both got people’s attention and his writing career took off.
He published a book titled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Soon magazines were publishing his stories and poems, like The Gold Bug and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. But it was when he published The Raven that he got his fame across the country. His knack for writing about madness wasn’t something that people had read before. Things like going insane and/or dying were things that people didn’t fully understand and it scared them. The differences between his poems about love and his obsession with madness both confused and intrigued people.
When it comes to reading Poe today, you either love it or you hate it. He can be hard to read just because of the old fashioned language he uses, and he is definitely very wordy. But if you can let yourself get lost in the story, his descriptions will make you feel like the story is about you. Pay extra attention to the way he describes the houses. As far as I’m concerned, that is the blueprint for any haunted house you’ve ever seen in a movie.
If you’d rather watch a movie instead of read, these are some of my favorite Poe movies:
- Tales of Terror (1962) – First of all – Vincent Price! I admit that this is number one on my list because it scared the crap out of me when I saw it. I don’t know how old I was. Its three of Poe’s stories: Morella, The Black Cat, and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. It stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone. If you’re a fan of old movies, you know how amazing that is!
- The Raven (1963) – This isn’t the poem at all. This is an entirely different story based on the poem. I liked the changes though. There is no mysterious raven. It’s a battle between magicians. Again it stars Vincent Price and Peter Lorre and this time Bela Lugosi joins the cast. How can you pass up those three wizards?
- The Masque of the Red Death (1964) – Spoiled rich people trying to avoid the plague by behaving like spoiled rich people. What could possibly go wrong? Since we’re talking about Poe….a lot! And of course – Vincent Price!
- The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) – The Spanish Inquisition. We all took history and learned about what a lunatic Torquemada was. But this is where I’m torn. The 1991 movie has Lance Henricksen (Pumpkinhead) as Torquemada, and he is absolutely amazing in it! There’s also a 1961 version of The Pit and the Pendulum that stars Vincent Price again. Both versions are worth the watch!
- The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) – A man’s wife dies and he never gets over it. After all, she promised him that she would never die. Even after he remarries, all he can think about is Ligeia. His new wife is trying to make him forget Ligeia as he slowly goes insane. But Poe and Vincent Price don’t make for a happy ending.
- Extraordinary Tales (2013) – This is an animated anthology of five Poe stories. Some of the characters are voiced by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Guillermo del Toro. If you’re a fan of animation, check this one out.
Now after all that, and in honor of his birthday, I’m going to go make a cake and eat the entire thing while I binge watch some Edgar Allan Poe movies. Join me?