Literature History | The Mysterious Death Of Edgar Allan Poe

The father of the detective story left everyone with the greatest mystery of all. What was behind his untimely demise? Edgar Allan Poe is known as being a literary master. His ability to intrigue, awe, and entertain readers leaves inspiration for new writers.

Poe wrote magnificent poems and short stories that will forever be remembered. He had a talent and a knack for spinning dark tales into words. Poe was a pioneer of the mysterious and bleak aspect of human nature. He was an American writer and editor who began the trend of detective stories that have evolved throughout literary history.

The young writer, Poe, was putting these conundrums into literature before the first Sherlock Holmes story was ever published! Unfortunately, the man’s life was as every bit as troubling as his twisted poems and stories are. He faced a lot of personal demons, tragedy, and obstacles throughout his short forty years of life.

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19th, 1809 in Boston as the second child of David Poe Jr. and Eliza Poe. Edgar would from the very beginning have a difficult life starting with David Poe’s abandonment of the family about a year after Edgar’s birth.

The Poe’s were professional actors but not bringing in a bunch of money to support their two young children Henry and Edgar. David’s alcoholism issues and financial stress would prove to be a bit more than the man could handle. He would leave the stage and family forever. Edgar’s mother gave birth to a third child in 1811. A little girl named Rosalie.

There is much speculation on who fathered Edgar’s younger sibling. Guesses do include David because he left his wife and family right around the time of conception but that is unlikely. Popular belief was that a fellow stage actor performing with Eliza Poe was the father. There are some theories circulating that imply David knew Eliza was pregnant with a child not belonging to him and jealousy over this played a huge momentous role in him leaving.

Edgar Allan Poe’s beginning of life would further be marred by the death of his mother December 8th, 1811. She died of tuberculosis and likely met her end while surrounded by her three children. David Poe Jr. is said to have died just three days after his estranged wife on December 11th, 1811 in Virginia. There is not much said on David once he left the family. His life and death remain a huge mystery but one thing is for certain Edgar was an orphan by the age of three.  Edgar Allan Poe and his two siblings would be separated and raised by different people. They weren’t very close.


Edgar Allan Poe died at the young age of forty on October 7th, 1849 in Maryland. He was found nearly unconsciousness and highly delirious in what has been reported as “in great distress … and in need of … immediate assistance”. Washington College Hospital pronounced his death a little past 5pm. The world lost a literary genius.

The cause remaining a mystery. Below are the most likely theories that historians believe have any merit as being the possible truth behind what happened.


Edgar Poe was a know alcoholic that struggled with many demons that often hindered his sobriety. Friends closest to the author all believed that the man drank himself to death during a relapse in which he over did it. There are many historians who do not quite buy this theory and it does not answer a lot of questions everyone has. The biggest one being where had Poe been that week? There is an unexplained five day disappearance that has never been clarified.


This is a common theory about the author’s death. Poe was found on election day in a haggard state, many historians think this is from cooping. The elections had tons of corruption and violence at the time. Cooping is a practice in which the “election mafia” kidnapped, beat, and forced people to vote a certain way in order to control the elections’s outcome. It sadly was a common occurrence.


This is probably the least sinister of theories. The newspaper reports that the weather had been less the ideal. There was cold winds and rain during Poe’s travels and it has been suggested that Poe caught the flu. He was not treated and developed phenomena. High fever and being severely ill would account for the delirium Poe is said to have suffered upon being found.


This is the more tantalizing theories that fits like a tale from author’s own work. It has captured the imagination of his fan for years. Poe was recently engaged to Elmira Shelton and had been warned that he would never be allowed to marry her by Shelton’s three brothers. They supposedly caught up to Poe, and the author disguised him self and hid out in Philadelphia for several days before training to make his way to a train station. The couple was expected to marry in Richmond. The theories surmises that Shelton’s brothers found him out and beat him to death.

On October 3, 1849, Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass received the following note:

Baltimore City, Oct. 3, 1849 
Dear Sir,

There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, & he says he is acquainted with you, he is in need of immediate assistance.

Yours, in haste, 
To Dr. J.E. Snodgrass.

Reference: This not was written to the doctor who provided medical attention to Edgar Allan Poe at the time of the author’s unexpected death in October of 1849. 



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21 thoughts on “Literature History | The Mysterious Death Of Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Blog Posts – The Cozied Reader

  2. Now this was an interesting read! Poe was, of course, one of the greatest writers out there, so talking about him is bound to be a good time. To me his death sounds like something that could have been caused by syphilis, as I recall it was quite a common disease, or possibly heavy drug use.

    Yes, I’m here just to stir the pot even more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting thought. My guess is he was murdered but I don’t know that for sure. I looked it up to see what they said and I don’t believe it. One possibility not on your list is he took his own life. So many possibilities including he died from Rabies but no one knows. What’s your guess or guesses?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly think it could have been flu, cooping, or the murder theory but struggle with which one I think is most likely. Murder is not such a far fetched theory especially at election time and the trouble he was having with his fiance’s brothers


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