Speaking of long-hidden bodies...

I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to find the particular source I read this from. If anyone can help, I’d sure appreciate it.

Most of us are familiar with Edgar Allen Poe’s strange fascination with the hiding of bodies in odd places–under the floorboards in The Tell-Tale Heart; plastered behind the basement wall in The Black Cat; and most importantly, bricked up in a catacomb/wine cellar in The Cask of Amontillado.

According to this now nebulous source, some renovation work was being done on a building at West Point in the late 1800s, and a body was discovered bricked up underneath the basement stairs. The last work had been performed in the 1830s or so, just prior to Poe’s brief tenure at the Academy. It was speculated that Poe heard whispers about the incident, and used them in his fiction.

Anyone know where I can see the details?

Incidentally, someone once told me that Poe was invited to leave West Point because he showed up one morning in the dress of the day, white cap and gloves, and nothing else. That’s gotta be bullshit, but I’d like to know if anyone else has heard the same story.

I haven’t heard the story about the bricked-up body, Sofa King, but I believe Poe left West Point because his stepfather would not pay some gambling debts. I will try to consult his bio in my collection of Poe stories and make another post on the weekend.

BTW, did anyone else see the article (I think if was reprinted in Reader’s Digest) where a forensic researcher determined that Poe actually died of rabies?

The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. - Henry Van Dyke

Yeah, I saw that about the rabies, too. I’ve also heard that many of the stories of his drug and alcohol use were made up by his publisher’s competitors.

Dear Cabbage:
In one of his novellas – I think it was “All the Lies That are my Life” – Harlan Ellison made a reference to a Poe biography in which the author demonstrated that an enemy of Poe, the Rev. Griswold (?), made up much of the BS about Poe’s substance abuse.
I could care less if Poe was a drunk and an opium fiend – he is one of the great literary geniuses of all time. (I say is because his work lives on, and damn few writers are read two centuries after their death, especially by the general public.)
American literature begins with Poe, IMO.
Wait, what’s that strange sound I hear behind me.
It’s … No, it can’t be!!! Oh, the horrible three-lobed eye… It’s going to kill me.
It’s the ghost of H.P. Lovecraft!!!
Arghhhh (gurgle).

I bet pretty much every military school has a good horror/ghost story. The one I went to did.
Poe had a lifelong terror surrounding the concept of being buried alive and was in the same 19th century media culture that invented flags and alarms that a person could trigger from a coffin. For the most vivid account of entombment that he ever wrote check out one of my favorites of his, The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.
Poe was an orphan (never adopted) and was raised to serve in the military. He enlisted and rose to the rank of sergeant-major of his regiment by the time he was 21. He then enrolled at West Point, on 25 June 1830.
Unfortunately Poe had never really felt comfortable living the military life, and had been doing it all only to please his legal guardian John Allan. But Allan was quarrelsome and unsupportive of Poe’s peripheral literary ambitions. After years of arguing, mostly caused by Poe appealing for small financial allowances, Allan severed all ties with him. Poe decided to set out on his own and leave the service. Except he was stuck at West Point, and Allan could not be bothered to give the needed consent for him to drop out.
So he went on strike - refusing to go to formations, meals, church etc. It didn’t take long for him to get court-martialed and on 19 Feb. 1831 he was dismissed for “disobedience”.

There’s a recent book–I think it’s called Midnight Dreary–which (that?!) investigates Poe’s death. It comes up with a theory that may be a little far-fetched, but the author has good sources; so who knows?

As for the Telltale Heart, premature burial was a common fear in the mid-19th century. It rarely happened–but once every few years was enough to prey on peoples’ minds, so Poe needn’t have seen something at West Point to make him think it would make a corking tale.

And that explains why a raven is like a writing desk… :wink: