Poe's Unsolved Mystery
On September 28, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe arrived in Baltimore, Maryland to take a train to Philadelphia. What was supposed to be a brief stop over turned into an eternity. What caused the death of "the father of the detective story"? The possible scenarios surrounding the events that lead up to his death are the cause of many magazine articles, books, and even recent medical studies. Although no one really knows what happened to Edgar Alan Poe, there are over twenty different theories about what might have happened to him. I will discuss the four major theories of what Edgar Allan Poe's cause of death was.
First one needs to know some background information on Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was born in Boston, Massachutes, to David Poe and Elizabeth Arnold. He lost both his father, who abandoned the family, and his mother, who died of tuberculosis, at a very young age. He was taken in by John Allan, a wealthy business man. As Poe aged, he and his father relationship became very strained. In 1826, while attending the University of Virginia, Poe and his father had a falling out over his supposed drinking and his gambling debts. In 1827, Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army. After two years of service, his father helped him get accepted into West Point Military Academy. It was only a few months before Poe was expelled from school and disowned by his father. In 1832 he moved to Baltimore to live with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, and Cousin Virginia. Four years later Poe and his young cousin were married. She soon became very sick and suffered from repeated illness until she died in 1847.
In July of 1849, while on a lecture tour, Poe became reacquainted with a woman he had been very fond of as a young man. Her name was Elmira Shelton and she, like Poe, was recently widowed. "Had it not been for the interference of her parents, more than twenty years before, Elmira would have married...young Edgar Poe" (Walsh 7). They rekindled this old flame and before long the two were planning to be married. The one condition set by Elmira was that Poe could not drink any alcohol. He readily agreed to her conditions and even joined the Richmond temperance society, to prove his dedication to staying sober. The two set the date of the wedding for October 17th to give Poe time to go Philadelphia to conduct some business and then to New York to pick up his mother-in-law so she could attend the ceremony. He left Elmira's house on the night before his journey and promised to write her as soon as he reached New York. That was the last time she saw him. On September 27, Poe left Richmond, VA by boat to go to Baltimore where he would take a train to complete his journey. This is where the mystery begins. No one knows what happened to Poe from September 27 to October 3rd, the day he was found semiconscious and dressed in some else's clothing outside Gunner's Hall in Baltimore. After alerting his friend, Dr. Snodgrass, of his illness, Poe...