The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

The death of author Edgar Allan Poe has been considered one of the world’s greatest unsolved celebrity mysteries. This well known eccentric author passed away on October 7th 1849. Many theories surrounding the death Poe have circulated by biographers and Poe enthusiasts. Just four days prior to his death, a man by the name of Joseph W. Walker found Poe roaming the streets in the area of Baltimore, Maryland. He reported that Poe was “in great distress” and seemed to be laking normal mental faculties. He was described as being in a delirious state, not speaking clearly and having trouble communicating ideas. He was placed in the Washington College Hospital and passed away at approximately 5:00am on the morning of October 7th.

edgar allan poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Many individuals, including scholars and historians  have attempted to uncover medical records from the hospital that Poe was admitted to. Mysteriously, it happens that the records have been either misplaced or that they lacked existence to start with. All responses have come back as, no documents – not even the official death certificate  of the late Edgar Allen Poe’s death have been uncovered or kept. Individuals that knew Poe have spoke on the fact that he seemed to have obvious challenges with drinking, medications, and depression. A year prior to his mysterious death, he nearly died as a result of an overdose related to the medication referred to as Laudanum.

According to Wikipedia,

Laudanum /ˈlɔːdnəm/ is a tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight (the equivalent of 1% morphine).[1]

It is reddish-brown in color and tastes extremely bitter. Laudanum contains almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. A potent narcotic by virtue of its high morphine concentration, laudanum was historically used to treat a variety of ailments, but its principal use was as an analgesic and cough suppressant. Until the early 20th century, laudanum was sold without a prescription and was a constituent of many patent medicines. Today, laudanum is recognized as addictive and is strictly regulated and controlled throughout most of the world.

This was prescribed for pain, but also acted as a tranquilizer. It is unknown as to whether this was an attempt to end his life or an accidental overdose. Was Poe suicidal?

Many theories abound when it comes to the Edgar Allen Poe death. There are many that believe that the amount that he drank contributed to his death. There are others that believe that he suffered from a medical condition. Naturally, many medical conditions have been outlined as the cause of death. These include Dipsomania, Diabetes, Brain Tumor, Syphilis, Epilepsy, and other conditions.

The Alcohol Theory

This is the theory that Poe engaged in vast amounts of drinking, particularly during Virginia’s (his wife) long illness (1842-1847) is well established, but how exactly he may have died of alcoholism has never really been explained by medical professionals.

Disease and Other Medical Problems

In March of 1847, Dr. Valentine Mott, a renowned doctor in New York, agreed with the diagnosis, of Mrs. Shew, a trained nurse who had helped to care for Virginia during her long illness, that Poe had some sort of lesions on the brain and suffered from brain fever (The Poe Log, p. 694). T. O. Mabbott noted, “A modern medical man who saw a photograph of Poe told my friend Robert Hunter Paterson that a twist in the poet’s face suggested to him a brain lesion. . .” (Mabbott, Poems, 1969, p. 562, n. 12).


“It was a new terror that thus affected me, but the dwan of a more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly from present observation  I called to mind the great variety of buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lefoden, having been absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-strom.” – excerpt from A Descent into Maelstrom, Edgar Allen Poe


At current day, the Edgar Allen Poe death remains to be one of the most mysterious, equalling in the mysterious theme surrounding Poe’s life. While many people and professionals seek to uncover the secrets that seem to surround the great author’s death, very few have reached any solid conclusions.


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