Today is the 205th birthday of one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe. For today’s blog, I decided to revisit some of the stories written by Poe that I have loved for three decades.
I remember reading The Tell-Tale Heart; a story whose protagonist goes insane thinking he hears the heartbeat of the man he murdered and stored under the floorboards. My heart thumped hard against my chest. I could experience criminal madness from the safety of my chair. This is creepy, I thought, I love this!
Please don’t misunderstand me: I am a chicken. I am often afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. I have no fantasies about actually being involved in a horror story. I do not romanticize the idea of having someone stalk me and plot my murder out of a hatred for my very existence. But to read an enthralling tale of horror like the kinds written by Edgar Allen Poe has been one of my favorite ways to pass the time.
Another of Poe’s tales involve madness and murder that I love is The Cask of Amontillado; a story where the protagonist lures the man who has wronged him, Fortunato (a bit of irony there, wouldn’t you say?), down to his wine chambers to be bricked up in a wall while offering opportunities to turn back, all of which are declined. The cold and calculating nature of the murderer ignited a fear deep in my stomach, the building suspense made me jitter in my seat, and fed my appetite for scary, thrilling stories.
In Poe’s poem The Bells, his word choice to describe the way the bells sound (tinkling, clanging, etc.) builds the sense of hearing bells get increasing loud in your head. I remember seeing my 12th grade advanced English teacher Mr. Frenzke walk back and forth in the front of the classroom, reading softly about tinkling bells to reading loudly about clanging ones. I wanted to hold my hands over my ears and yell, Make it stop!.
In The Raven, Poe’s word choices and repetition of Lenore and Nevermore lets the narrator build the sense of self-flagellation. Because the narrator knows the Raven will only answer in limited ways, it allows him to build a story of denial from the woman he loves in his mind until he is overwrought with emotional pain at his dilemma. After reading The Raven, I began to love black birds because they reminded me of the story and the author.
Reading Poe’s tales ignited a desire to read and write thrilling horror stories myself. I loved how his stories included elements of the mind (madness or murderous intent), the heart (emotional pain), and the body (physical suffering).
My desire to write my own tales of horror, also stirred by reading books by Stephen King and stories by H.P. Lovecraft, faded long ago due to my lack of consistent writing and my struggles with finding my purpose in life.
Maybe I need to reread my favorite writers. Maybe I will rediscover my love for tales of horror and my imagination. Maybe I need to write my own tale of horror. Maybe…
[Correction: I updated the anniversary date from 105 to 205 as Poe was born in 1813, not 1913.]