poe's death

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How did poe really die?? please contact me via email as soon as possible. i have a report due in one week. thank you

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001


Unfortunately, Poe's death does remain uncertain. There are conjectures as to the cause, but the most accepted reason is rabies, as odd as that is. Some believe he was murdered or ended his life himself, but that is simply not true. He was found on the 3rd of October, 1849 on a street in Baltimore, MD and was taken to a hospital. There he died four days later on the 7th of October, 1849, but no one can know precisely what the cause of death was. I certainly hope that this helps you. If you have further questions concerning him, please feel free e-mail me. P A Regan

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001


It would be most difficult to find a historical figure whose death has generated more interest and speculation relative to the specific cause than that of Edgar Allan Poe. The irony of this is that Poe seems to have fostered more public fascination in death than during his life time. In any event, in the absence of a statistical poll and the availability of more definitive research, I would respectfully disagree that rabies has captured the majority view as the direct cause of his demise. In a 1996 article of the University of Virginia's Cavalier Daily, Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum of Baltimore was quoted as saying there were some 22 different theories that attempt to explain the death of Poe.

The report in the September 1996 issue of the Maryland Medical Journal by Dr. R. Michael Benitez of the University of Maryland Medical Center, has been characterized as a "scientific study" by some in the media. It is my understanding that this study was merely a medical review of patient records maintained by Dr. John J Moran, Poe's attending physician during his brief stay at Washington College Hospital.

As a purely academic exercise, Dr. Benitez was made privy to Dr. Moran's records, but was not made aware of the patient's identity until three or four days prior to his presentation. Effectively, the conclusions of Dr. Benitez were based on a comparative review and analysis of the conditions and symptoms seen in Dr. Moran's famous patient and those typically seen in patients that have contracted rabies. It is Dr. Benitez's conclusion that Poe's symptoms most closely parallels those symptoms seen in patients with rabies.

Regardless of the care and professional precision exercised by Dr. Benitez in his review, this hardly qualifies as a "scientific study" and, perhaps, more accurately as a 147 year old "second opinion." It is interesting that his discussion in the media is replete with indications of prior knowledge of Poe's history. While I would not presume to argue Dr. Benitez's conclusions, I would certainly, in the interest of historical accuracy, question his 20th century presumptions of early 19th century characterizations of patients symptoms. That the precise method of transmission for this disease wasn't fully understood until about 1884 by Louis Pastuer, the cause and effects of rabies were very well known as early as 1804 and may have been easily recognized by Dr. Moran. Dr. Benitez's himself indicated that in spite of the evidence, his analysis, "... merely suggests a new dimension to the Poe death debate."

After the publication of Dr. Benitez's conclusions exploded in the media, two well known Poe scholars, Burton R. Pollin and Robert E Benedetto refuted these conclusions, pretty much in total. Their comments can be found at:


As for the remaining theories, many are simply variations on just a few proposals that have floated around for years. There is a good discussion of these at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore web site at:


Good luck on your paper.


-- Anonymous, February 14, 2001

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