Edgar Allan Poe makes most tragic artists look well-adjusted by comparison. This master of the macabre lived a life filled with scandal, tragedy, and addiction—yet somehow, his mysterious death topped it all. So who was the man behind the myth? There was a very real darkness to this legendary figure. Dive into the twisted history of Edgar Allan Poe and find out for yourself.
1. His Parents Were Actors
Before he was Edgar Allan Poe, he was just Edgar Poe, the second child of two actors, born in Boston, Massachusetts. Had things gone according to plan, maybe young Edgar would have followed them into a life on the stage—but it wasn’t meant to be. No surprises here: The infamously dark and dreary writer’s life got off to a dark and dreary start.
2. His Name Probably Came From Shakespeare
There’s a very good chance that Poe got his name from the character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, which his parents were performing at the time of his birth. If that’s the case, then it’s fitting, because Edgar Allan Poe’s life story was definitely a tragedy.
3. He Was An Orphan By Age Two
Just a year after Poe’s birth, his father abandoned their family. Then, a year after that, consumption claimed his mother. If you’re hoping that his father stepped up and returned to support his orphaned children, you’re in for a disappointment: No one knows exactly what happened to him, but Poe’s father died the same year his mother did.
Little Edgar Poe and his older brother were left totally alone in the world—but Poe got help from a completely unexpected source.
4. A Wealthy Family Took Him In
Taking pity on the young boy, a wealthy merchant named John Allan took Edgar into his home in Richmond, Virginia. Allan gave Poe a place to live, a family like he’d never known, and a name: From then on, he went by Edgar Allan Poe. But while John Allan took the young boy in, this was no paradise. Life in the Allan home could be incredibly difficult.
5. His Foster Father Was Intense
Edgar Allan Poe had an extremely strange relationship with his foster father. While Allan could sometimes completely spoil Poe, he had a darker side as well. Whenever Poe stepped out of line, Allan’s discipline was swift and brutal. Their mercurial relationship was undoubtedly stressful—but it would only grow more and more fraught as Poe got older.
6. He Had A Surprisingly Happy Childhood
Though his later life would be marked by poverty, addiction, and mental illness, Edgar Allan Poe enjoyed a fairly charmed childhood. He moved to England with the Allans at six years old and got a fine education at expensive boarding schools across the country. Maybe, if the Allans had stayed in England, Poe would have been spared the life of suffering that lay ahead, but we’ll never know.
In 1820, the Allans set sail for America once more—totally unaware of what lay ahead of them.
7. His Rich Foster Family Got Even Richer
The Allans were already well-off, but in 1825, they hit the jackpot. Like most rich people, John Allan had an even richer uncle, and when he died, he left his nephew a massive inheritance in both cash and real estate. Life in the Allan household was better than ever—but no good thing lasts forever.
8. He Lived In A Creepy House
John Allan’s inheritance was the equivalent of $17 million today. That’s a big chunk of change, and Allan celebrated the occasion the way most of us would: He bought a house. But not just any house…Allan bought a sprawling two-story brick manor. You know it’s fancy because it even had a name: Moldavia.
If nothing else, the image of Edgar Allan Poe growing up in a cavernous mansion called Moldavia seems exactly on brand.
9. He Fell In Love At 16
Moldavia was where Poe met the first love of his life. Her name was Sarah Elmira Royster, and she lived next door. When Poe was 16 and Royster was 15, the two neighbors made their relationship something more—but sadly, their love was doomed from the start.
10. Her Father Did Not Approve
Edgar Allan Poe had a charmed childhood, but he was still an orphan. That made him a totally unacceptable match for Sarah in her father’s eyes. He made his feelings about Poe clear, but that didn’t stop the two young lovers. They carried on their affair in secret, and even got engaged around 1826—but Royster’s father would go to cruel lengths to make sure his daughter never married Poe.
11. He Broke The Young Lovers Apart
Shortly after Poe asked Royster to marry him, he enrolled at the University of Virginia. They separated, but Poe made sure to send love letters to his fiancee as often as possible. There was only one problem: Royster’s father made sure that she never saw a single one of them. He intercepted and destroyed every single letter Poe sent.
Heartbroken, Royster assumed that Poe had forgotten all about her. By the time Poe saw her next, she was already married to another man. But don’t worry—this isn’t the last that we’ll hear of Sarah Royster.
12. His School Was Chaos
Losing Sarah was a devastating blow for Poe—but at least he had plenty of distractions to take his mind off of it. He was studying at the University of Virginia which, at the time, made Animal House look like the Ivy League. The university was quite new when Poe attended, and it had an…ahem…unique approach to education: The students were put in charge of everything, from course selection to discipline.
The inmates were running the prison, so to speak—and Poe wasted no time in getting into all kinds of trouble.
13. He Loved The Dice
Poe lost his first love, but he found another while away at school: Gambling. Pretty soon, he was in deep to all sorts of shady characters. As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly impress his foster father, who happened to be paying for Poe’s education. Their relationship had always been somewhat strained—but as Poe became more and more of a hot mess, his foster father started running out of patience.
14. He Begged For Money
If you listened to Poe, he was the victim here. He claimed that Allan had him on a threadbare shoestring, and he didn’t have enough money to pay for classes, textbooks, and a room. Of course, he neglected to mention all the money he’d lost on all-night gambling binges. Against his better judgment, Allan ended up sending Poe more money—which Poe used to get even further into debt.
Yeah, this is going to end well…
15. He Blew It
What’s the opposite of having your cake and eating it too? After a year of drinking, gambling, and very little schoolwork, Poe decided university just wasn’t for him. He dropped out—but his constant begging for money had burned his bridge with the Allans. That, combined with the fact that he learned Sarah Royster had married another man, Poe knew he couldn’t return to Richmond.
With both school and Moldavia out of the picture, Poe decided to head back to his birthplace.
16. He Tried To Make It On His Own
In April 1827, Poe set out to make a life for himself in Boston, a town he hadn’t seen since he was an infant. He took whatever odd jobs he could find, working as a clerk, writing for newspapers, or whatever else would make ends meet. But, as you’ll learn, Poe wasn’t, uhh, great at holding down a job. Quickly, he found himself struggling—and he started to get desperate.
17. He Ran Out Of Options And Enlisted
Boston didn’t work out exactly as well as Poe planned, and soon enough, he was completely out of money. With no other options, he enlisted in the army—well, not exactly. Edgar A. Perry enlisted. Why the name change? Well, Poe’s application wasn’t quite on the level.
18. He Lied To Get In
There was just one problem with Poe’s plan to join the army and make something of himself: At just 18 years old, he was too young to enlist. But that wasn’t about to stop someone as desperate as Poe. Edgar Allan Poe changed names as often as other people change hats, and he became the 22-year-old Edgar A. Perry. His plan worked, and he got into the army—but his secret would come out eventually.
19. He Was An Enigma
Poe didn’t put all of his eggs in the army basket. That same year, he published his first book. Tamerlane and Other Poems was a 40-page collection of poetry, and its mysterious bylane simply said, “by a Bostonian.” So, did this punk-rock poetry book set the literary world aflame and make Poe an overnight sensation? Well…
20. His First Book Was A Disaster
Poe’s triumphant literary debut was…a total flop. He only managed to get 50 copies printed, and those 50 copies were basically ignored. No, Poe didn’t achieve fame and fortune quite that easily. At least he had the army to fall back on—but if we know anything about Poe by this point, it’s that he wasn’t the most stable guy. As you can imagine, his stint in the army didn’t go exactly as planned.
21. He Got Sick Of The Army
Surprisingly, Edgar Allan Poe was a perfectly fine member of the US Armed Forces. He served well for two years and even rose through the ranks, becoming a Sergeant Major for Artillery. If he’d kept at it, he probably could have had a decent, normal life. But Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t exactly decent or normal. After two years, he got itchy feet. He suddenly wanted out—and would you believe it, he had the perfect excuse.
22. He Had The Perfect Out
Remember how Poe lied on his enlistment form? Lucky for him, that gave him an easy out when he wanted to leave the army: He just revealed his real name and age to his commanding officer. He was sure he was scot-free—but nothing was ever that easy for Edgar Allan Poe. His commanding officer agreed to release him, on one condition. Unfortunately, that one condition was all but impossible…
23. His Foster Father Made His Life Difficult
Poe’s commanding officer told Poe he’d release him only if he made up with his foster father, John Allan. The problem was, Allan wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. Poe spent months sending letters to his Allan, begging for forgiveness. Allan ignored every one. That was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to Allan’s true betrayal.
24. He Didn’t Get To Say Goodbye
John Allan was so fed up with his foster son that he didn’t even tell Poe that his wife—and Poe’s foster mother—was on her deathbed. By the time Poe finally found out, it was too late. He made it back to Richmond the day after her burial. But at least there was a silver lining to this whole sad affair…
25. His Dad Finally Relented
Maybe the loss of his wife softened his cold heart, because Allan finally buried the hatchet with his troubled foster son. With Allan’s support, Poe got his discharge from the army. It must have been bittersweet, but he was finally able to move on with his life. And, it seems like good things came in waves for Poe, because that wasn’t the only piece of good news he got around this time.
26. He Was Getting Noticed
Poe finally got the discharge he was looking for, but the next development was even better: The world-famous critic John Neal had read his poetry—and he liked it. A shoutout from Neal was huge in the tiny world of 19th-century American literature. For the first time, Poe had a reason to believe he kinda had a knack for this writing thing.
On top of all this good fortune, Poe’s love life even started looking up again—but I’ll let you decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
27. He Met His Young Cousin
Not long after he got out of the army, Poe met his seven-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. This event would completely alter the course of Poe’s life. Within six years, Poe would make Virginia his wife. Yes, you did that math right. Virginia Clemm would end up being the light of Poe’s life. She’s also one of the darkest stains on his legacy.
28. He Fought With His Father Constantly
Poe’s foster father wasted no time in moving on after the loss of his wife. Just a year and a half later, Allan married again—this time to Louisa Patterson. By now, Poe was a strapping young man of 21 years old, and apparently he’d grown something of a backbone. Maybe he was just bitter because Allan had remarried so quickly, but the two started arguing constantly.
But while Poe was usually the one in the wrong, this time, the shoe was on the other foot.
29. He Called His Father Out
For all of John Allan’s self-righteousness about Poe’s gambling, he was no saint himself. Across both of his marriages, he had several affairs, some of them even bearing children. Poe started calling his foster father out for these dalliances, and that was what finally pushed Allan over the edge. The two of them had been at odds for nearly Poe’s entire life, but this time, he’d gone too far. He disowned Poe for good.
30. He Was Court-Martialed
Poe had been attending West Point all this time, but everything going on—the loss of his foster mother and his falling out with Allan—made him turn his back on the army once and for all. He wanted out yet again, but this time his plan wasn’t quite so elegant. He just started breaking every rule in the book until they kicked him out. That’s one way to do it…
31. He Lost His Brother
From West Point, Poe headed to New York to try and finally make it as a writer—but before he could get his feet off the ground, a horrible tragedy struck at home. His elder brother, the only vestige of his immediate family, was seriously ill. Poe put his ambitions on hold and returned to Baltimore to be with his brother. At least this time, unlike with his foster mother, Poe managed to be there at the end.
Henry Poe had been a drinker like his brother, and it caught up with him. He died on August 1, 1831. He was only 24 years old.
32. The Cards Were Stacked Against Him
After the loss of his brother, Poe decided it was time to stop making excuses and start making a living as a full-time writer. But that was easier said than done. See, 19th-century American publishing was an absolute nightmare for writers. Without any international copyright law, publishers could just steal British works and publish them for free, so why pay an American?
Poe would very quickly learn that his chosen profession was anything but lucrative—and it drove him to disturbing places.
33. He Had To Beg For Scraps
If you did manage to get a publisher to release your writing, you had another problem: They might just flat out not pay you. As his career started taking off, the great Edgar Allan Poe often had to resort to begging his publishers for the money they’d promised him. It was a miserable existence—and even when Poe managed any small amount of success, he usually managed to screw it up for himself.
So when Poe actually landed a gig working as an editor at a literary magazine, you just know it was going to go up in flames.
34. He Got A Great Job…Then Blew It
One of the stories Poe had managed to get published caught the attention of a wealthy patron, who introduced Poe to the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe got hired as an assistant editor, and it finally looked like he was getting a foothold in the literary world—but Poe’s biggest obstacle was always…Poe. Almost immediately, Poe’s boss noticed he had a habit of coming into work loaded. Poe didn’t last a month.
But while his professional life was in the gutter, at least he had women to take his mind off of it.
35. He Fell In Love Again
The life of a flashy New York writer wasn’t really panning out, so Poe moved in with his aunt, uncle, and now-11-year-old cousin Virginia. He quickly fell for another neighbor, this time the beautiful Mary Devereaux. Adorably, the young Virginia acted as a go-between for the two star-crossed lovers. She couriered messages between them, and even once brought Poe a lock of Devereaux’s hair!
However, it would quickly become clear that this “adorable” situation was far more sinister than it appeared.
36. …But It Was With His Cousin…
Apparently, Mary Devereaux wasn’t quite what Poe was looking for, because in 1835, he got a license to marry…Virginia. He was 26 years old, and she was 13. Pretty messed up, right? Well, don’t worry—you’re not the only one to think so.
37. His Family Was Horrified
We’ve all heard the same line: “It was a different time back then!” Well, that doesn’t really work here. Even in 1835, marrying your 13-year-old cousin was a pretty disturbing thing to do. When another cousin, Neilson Poe, found out that Edgar wanted to marry Virginia, he tried everything to stop it from happening. And how did Edgar respond to his cousin’s meddling? Uhh, not well…
38. He Was A Cry Baby
Turns out, you shouldn’t get between Edgar Allan Poe and his 13-year-old cousin, or else you’ll face his wrath. And what did that wrath pertain? Ok, well, not that much. He called Neilson his “bitterest enemy” and tearfully wrote to Neilson’s wife begging her to stop him from interfering. Poe was a lot of things, but a manly man was not one of them.
But, weirdly enough, his whining and crying seem to have worked.
39. He Went Through With It
Edgar Allan Poe married Virginia Clemm on May 16, 1936. Again, to make it clear that this was not normal, they had to lie and claim that Virginia was 21. Despite everyone in the world thinking it was creepy at best and disturbing at worst, Poe had finally done it. He had married his 13-year-old cousin. But their relationship was even more twisted than it seemed…
40. He Gave Her An Awkward Nickname
You’d think that Poe would play down the fact that he was related to his teenage bride. Nope. He came up with an adorable pet name for his new wife: “Sis,” or “Sissy.” Jeez, Edgar, a little on the nose, isn’t it?
41. He Wanted Into Politics
While he wasn’t busy picking fruit off the family tree, Poe was trying to get into politics. The president’s son was a friend of a friend, and Poe figured that Washington was as good of a place as any to finally find stable work. But, as we’ve seen before, “stable work” and Edgar Allan Poe were like oil and water. Like so many jobs before, Poe managed to blow it…
42. He Blew That Too
The Washington gig seemed like a slam dunk. His friend straight up promised him a position, all Poe had to do was show up to a meeting. He couldn’t even do that. He claimed he was “sick,” but the friend knew Poe too well to believe him. It’s far more likely he was sauced in a gutter somewhere. Either way, he didn’t get the job.
And if that missed opportunity wasn’t bad enough, tragedy was about to rear its ugly head once again.
43. His Cousin-Wife Grew Terribly Ill
One night, Virginia Poe was singing and playing the piano for Poe when she had a frightening episode. Poe later described it as breaking a blood vessel in her throat, which I can’t imagine looks pretty. Up to that point, Virginia had been the picture of health, so the couple likely assumed it was nothing. Sadly, it was a dark sign of things to come.
44. She Was Never The Same Again
Virginia never fully recovered from her attack that night. She became weak and frail, a mere shadow of her past self. Now, Poe wasn’t the most together guy on the best of days, but the sight of his wife wasting away was too much for him to bear. If he liked his drink before, now it became like mother’s milk to him.
Poe lost himself to the bottle—and as you can imagine, it started to affect other areas of his life too.
45. He Made Enemies Left And Right
The best way to make it in the writing world is through connections, and that wasn’t exactly Poe’s strong suit. He made some very powerful enemies when he publicly accused the beloved Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism. It seemed like Poe couldn’t take two steps without self-sabotaging in one way or another.
But of course, there’s one sure-fire way to make it in the literary world: Write one of the most popular poems in the history of American literature. That would probably do it…
46. He Finally Hit It Big
When Poe’s poem “The Raven” appeared in the Evening Mirror, it was the equivalent of a viral sensation. The poem became an instant hit and journals all over the country clamored to publish it. Basically overnight, households all across America came to know the name “Edgar Allan Poe.” After decades of struggle and failure, Poe had finally arrived.
But remember how I said the 19th century wasn’t exactly kind to writers? Well, Poe was about to learn the hard way that being a household name wasn’t everything…
47. But It Didn’t Change Anything
“The Raven” made Edgar Allan Poe a nationwide sensation, but just because he was famous, that doesn’t mean he was rich. The Evening Mirror paid Poe a whopping…$9 for the poem. He never saw another cent. When the poem became a hit, maybe he thought his troubles were over—but in reality, they were only beginning.
48. He Looked At Other Women
Nobody really knows the exact extent of Poe’s relationship with his teenaged wife Virginia. Some biographers have suggested they were something like a brother and sister, while others have claimed they were much more than that. In either case, Virginia didn’t stop Poe from looking at other women. In fact, she might have encouraged it (wouldn’t you?).
That’s how Poe began his tumultuous relationship with the poet Frances Sargent Osgood. To call it a mess would be an understatement.
49. Another Woman Became Obsessed
First, there was the fact that Osgood already had a husband. Not a great start. Next, there was Elizabeth F. Ellet, another poet who happened to be obsessed with Poe—and who utterly despised Osgood. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Because that’s exactly where this is going…
50. She Went For The Throat
The famously petty and vindictive Ellet seemed to be of the belief “If I can’t have him, no one can.” As far as anyone knew, Poe and Osgood hadn’t gone any further than flirtation—but Ellet knew their relationship would cause a huge scandal. She wrote to Osgood and told her to cut off contact with Poe, along with a not-so-subtle threat to reveal their flirtations if she didn’t.
The scene was turning into a Real Housewives situation—and the best was yet to come.
51. She Went Off The Deep End
When Poe heard about Ellet’s meddling, he was furious. He gathered up every letter of hers in his possession and dumped them all at her house. Apparently, Ellet couldn’t get enough of the drama, because her response was absolutely insane. She pretended he still had the letters and sent her brother, a Colonel, to go get them.
When Poe couldn’t produce the letters, Ellet’s brother threatened to kill him—and he meant it. The threat scared Poe enough that he borrowed a pistol from a friend, just in case.
52. She Blamed It All On Him
It was finally time for someone to put a stop to all this nonsense. Osgood’s husband threatened to sue Ellet unless she made a public apology for insinuating his wife and Poe were having an affair. Obviously, Ellet’s response was completely normal and not crazy at all: She said she hadn’t even written the letter in the first place! Even worse, she claimed it was Poe himself, who she noted was clearly going insane!
This woman was not someone to mess with—and Poe was going to pay the price.
53. His Reputation Suffered
The whole Poe-Osgood-Ellet affair was some seriously bad press for our boy. Gossip rags across the country picked up the story and reprinted Ellet’s accusations. Pretty soon, half the country believed Poe was a deranged adulterer. Granted, his erratic behavior didn’t exactly help matters, but Ellet’s lies would dog him for the rest of his life.
But while Ellet’s machinations damaged Poe’s reputation—he wasn’t nearly the worst victim of the whole affair.
54. His Wife Got The Worst Of It
Poe’s reputation was in tatters, but his wife took it even worse. People started sending her anonymous letters claiming her husband was having affairs. And by people, we mean “almost certainly Ellet.” Virginia was already frail, but the stress of the scandal eventually became too much. The end was near.
55. He Lost His Love
Poe moved his wife to a small cottage in what is now the Bronx in the hopes that she could recover, but he couldn’t save her. Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis at the cottage on January 30, 1847. On her deathbed, she claimed that “Mrs. E. had been her murderer.”
56. He Never Got Over It
Whatever Poe’s relationship with Virginia was, her loss left him utterly inconsolable. He couldn’t even bear to look at her face at her funeral, crying that he wanted only to remember her as she was. He regularly visited her grave for the rest of his life. Even in the dead of winter, friends would sometimes find him sitting next to her tomb, nearly frozen among the snowdrifts.
Edgar Allan Poe was always an emotionally fragile man—but after Virginia was gone, his behavior got even more disturbing.
57. He Wasn’t Exactly Smooth
Poe tried to move on after Virginia, but he was a total mess, so it didn’t exactly go smoothly. He tried to court a poet named Sarah Helen Whitman, but this failed spectacularly. Poe’s erratic temperament and rampant drinking were something of a turn-off. He tried his best, but eventually, both Whitman and her family cut him off completely.
Poe’s life was falling apart around him—and it brought him right back into the arms of his first love.
58. He Rekindled An Old Flame
Edgar Allan Poe did what most people do when things fall apart: He moved back home. And who did he find when he returned but his first flame, Sarah Elmira Royster. The notably-single Sarah Elmira Royster. It seemed like fate—they’d missed each other in their youth, but here was a second chance. So, did they live happily ever after?
Come on, this is Edgar Allan Poe we’re talking about. Meeting Royster again ended up being the final nail in his coffin.
59. Her Family Wasn’t Pleased
At first, it was like Poe and Royster were teenagers again. They rekindled their relationship and quickly started discussing marriage. Not everyone was happy for them, though. The idea of marrying Poe absolutely horrified Royster’s kids. First, there was the fact that Poe was an infamously insane wino. Even worse, her deceased husband’s will ensured that she’d lose three-quarters of her inheritance if she remarried.
Still, Poe ignored the haters and asked for her hand. Royster needed some time to think about it—but by the time she was ready to give her answer, it was too late.
60. He Was A Mess The Last Time He Saw Her
The last time Sarah Royster ever saw Edgar Allan Poe, he looked like a terror. He came to her house shortly before leaving for a trip to New York City. Insanely depressed and complaining of sickness, Poe was a shell of his former self. His appearance worried Royster so much that she ran to check on him the next morning, but he’d already left.
She’d never get another chance.
61. He Disappeared For A Week
Edgar Allan Poe left Richmond headed for New York on September 27, 1849. Nearly a week later, Joseph W. Walker found a tattered and delirious man in a gutter outside a tavern in Baltimore. That man was Poe, who’d been missing that whole time. Walker pressed him for information—but as Poe started talking, the story just got weirder and weirder.
62. He Couldn’t Remember A Thing
Poe could barely string together a sentence. He didn’t know what had happened to him—he barely knew who he was. The one thing he managed to get out was a name: Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass. Snodgrass was a friend of his who lived in Baltimore. Walker wrote to Snodgrass immediately, asking for help. When the man did arrive, what he saw let him completely stunned.
63. He Was A Chilling Sight
Snodgrass had one word for Poe when he saw him: Repulsive. Poe’s hair was a mess, his face was unwashed, and his eyes stared off vacantly into the distance. Normally, Poe liked to dress well, but now, his clothes were torn, dirty, and oddly out of place. They didn’t quite fit him properly—clearly, these were not the clothes he’d been wearing when he set out from Richmond.
Snodgrass set about learning what had happened—but as he started pressing Poe, the mystery only deepened.
64. He Ended Up In A Cell
Of course, doctors treated Edgar Allan Poe, respected poet, with dignity and respect, right? Nope. Poe already had a reputation as a drunkard on good days and a lunatic on bad days, and he certainly looked the part of a deranged madman. Local authorities tossed him in a prison-like cell at Washington College Hospital, reserved for addicts and the insane.
The room was bare, the floors were hard, and there were bars on the windows. Not exactly the Ritz—but I doubt Poe even noticed. He could barely speak, let alone complain about the accommodations.
65. He Had Dark Thoughts
Snodgrass couldn’t get a single comprehensible word out of Poe. The man had absolutely no memory of what had happened to him—or maybe, he didn’t want to remember. When his doctor tried to cheer him up by saying soon enough he’d be back hanging out with his friends, Poe grimly replied, “The best thing [my] friend could do would be to blow out [my] brains with a pistol.”
66. He Called Out For His Wife
Poe didn’t say much in those delirious days—but what he did say was utterly tragic. He kept calling out for his wife back in Richmond. He never mentioned a name, so that means one of two things: He meant Virginia and had forgotten he’d lost her, or he meant Sarah, unaware that she hadn’t accepted his marriage proposal. Either way, it was heartbreaking.
67. Only One Man Saw To Him
For whatever reason, the hospital refused to allow anyone to visit Poe in his final days. That means almost everything we know about those last moments comes from his doctor, John Joseph Moran. However, it soon became clear that Moran was hiding something.
68. The Doctor Seemed To Be Hiding Something
Dr. Moran’s inconsistent accounts only deepen the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling demise. For instance, he didn’t actually tell Poe’s family that he had passed for nearly a month, though he would later lie and claim he told them immediately. Clearly, the good doctor had something to hide—but that’s not even the strangest part.
69. No Records Remain
Every single piece of medical documentation about Edgar Allan Poe’s final days, including his death certificate, have been lost. They may have never existed at all. Whatever happened to Poe in those grim moments, we may never know for sure—but modern historians have some dark theories.
70. Everyone Has A Theory
Many biographers have attempted to explain Poe’s demise, and they’ve come up with every explanation under the sun. They range from the relatively boring—was it hypoglycemia?—to the utterly scandalous—was it…murder? In truth, it was likely neither of those, but that doesn’t mean it was anything good.
71. He Had A Drug Problem
Just a year before his end, Poe nearly succumbed to an overdose on laudanum, a powerful opiate. It stands to reason that if it happened once, it could happen again, so maybe laudanum finally did him in? However, if you ask Snodgrass, Poe’s only friend at the end, the explanation is a lot more obvious—if still tragic.
72. His Friend Said It Was The Drink
Snodgrass claimed Poe’s addiction to the bottle was what caused his terrible end. After all, Poe’s struggles with drinking were infamous by this point, and it’s hard to say he didn’t look like a drunkard at the end. However, while it seems like a good explanation, there are some major flaws in Snodgrass’s theory. It turns out, Snodgrass may have had an ulterior motive…
73. His Friend’s Story Doesn’t Quite Add Up
While Snodgrass spent years claiming that Poe’s addiction finally did him in, he was a little bit biased. Snodgrass was an outspoken member of the temperance movement, and the famous poet Poe made for an extremely convenient cautionary tale. There’s just one problem with the story: Many close to Poe said that his days of uncontrollable binges were behind him.
Poe even joined the temperance movement himself in an effort to show Sarah Royster that he’d changed. It seems like we can’t blame drinking for Poe’s death—but the bottle didn’t do him in, then what did?
74. He Passed Before The Truth Came Out
Was Edgar Allan Poe a victim of his own addiction? Did someone rob him? Did he catch cholera? Was it simply a psychotic episode? What really happened in the week between when he left Richmond and turned up in the gutter? We will almost certainly never know. If Poe did ever become lucid enough to tell Dr. Moran what had happened to him, Moran kept it completely under wraps.
Whatever it was, on October 7, 1849, four days after Walker found him, Edgar Allan Poe passed away in the moments before dawn.
75. His Last Words Were Chilling
While Moran was suspiciously withholding about whatever happened in Poe’s final days, he did reveal that Poe uttered five chilling words as he gasped his last breath: “Lord, help my poor soul.”
76. Few People Attended His Funeral
Poe’s funeral took place two days later on a cold, dreary October day—fitting for a man like him. Though he was a household name, the ceremony was a small, forgotten affair. So few people showed up, the reverend didn’t even bother reading a sermon. Poe’s family only sprung for the cheapest possible coffin: No handles, no lining, not even a cushion for Poe’s head.
So Poe was laid to rest in a stark wooden box with few people to bear witness. But even with the small crowd, one specific absence loomed larger than the rest.
77. His Love Pretended He Didn’t Exist
Sarah Royster immediately distanced herself from Poe after he passed. She would claim that she had absolutely no plans of ever marrying him—but her letters suggest otherwise. She called Poe, “the dearest object on earth” to her, and wrote Poe’s mother-in-law to tell her she was ready to join their family. It really seems like Royster was prepared to accept Poe’s offer of marriage—but his disturbing end changed everything.
78. She Never Spoke Of Him
Maybe Royster truly loved Poe, or maybe she was just leading him on. Either way, we’ll never know: From the moment he passed, Royster absolutely refused to talk about him ever again. She ignored all questions on the topic and became something of a recluse, avoiding any reporters who sought to stir up scandal.
79. She Changed Her Story
Finally, nearly 30 years after Poe’s funeral, Royster finally gave an interview about him. In it, she passionately denied having ever been engaged to him, and just downplayed their relationship overall. That should have put an end to it—but of course, with Edgar Allan Poe, there’s always another layer of intrigue.
A decade after the interview, Royster met with Dr. Moran, Poe’s tight-lipped doctor. Allegedly, she finally admitted to him that she had indeed accepted Poe’s offer, and they had been engaged when he passed. So, the one question that remains: Why all the secrecy?
80. He Cried Out A Single Word Over And Over
We haven’t even mentioned the strangest part of Edgar Allan Poe’s twisted end. As he lay dying, he kept shouting a single word: “Reynolds.” To this day, we still have no idea who he was talking about. Did this “Reynolds” have something to do with how Poe ended up in his gruesome state? This is probably one of those mysteries that will just have to remain unsolved.