25 Obscure Facts About the Master of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe

Posted by , Updated on January 19, 2024

It would be hard to find a literature fan anywhere in the world who wouldn’t know Edgar Allan Poe. Considered an important part of the American Romantic Movement, Poe was a great author, poet, editor, and literary critic. The most common reference to this amazing artist, however, is “The Master of Horror“. Poe is even regarded as the founder of a specific literature genre called detective fiction. His short stories are popular especially on Halloween when people retell them at night. Poe, who died exactly 165 years ago on October 7, 1849, simply created his own world, based on human fears and terrors and this world seems to amaze and attract millions of readers from all over the world. To learn more about this unique author, check out these 25 little known facts.


His masterpiece “The Raven“ made Poe a well-known author in the USA almost overnight. There are stories of children walking behind him on the street and flapping their arms and cawing. He would play along by turning suddenly and saying "Nevermore."

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The famous creepy portrait depicting Poe as a baggy-eyed weirdo was far from what he really looked like. Actually, he was a very athletic and handsome universal sportsman, holding a record for swimming six miles up the tidal James River in Virginia.

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The American football team the Baltimore Ravens are named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem ‘The Raven’.

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Although Poe died relatively young (at the age of 40), he moved many times during his lifetime, living alternately in Richmond, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston as well as Scotland and England. His last years, however, were spent in a cottage in Bronx, New York.

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In 1827, Poe enlisted in the United States Army using the false name "Edgar A. Perry". He claimed to be 22 years old even though he was just 18.

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Poe had a very keen interest in cryptography and tried to popularize this field. This is obvious in his work “The Gold Bug“ where he incorporated ciphers as an essential part of the story.

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In 2009, one of the 12 survived copies of Poe's first book “Tamerlane and Other Poems“ was sold at Christie's for $662,500, a record price paid for a work of American literature.

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Poe is believed to have never signed anything "Edgar Allan Poe." Since the name “Allan“ came from the foster father he didn't get along with, he therefore signed documents with “Edgar A. Poe“, or “E. A. Poe“.

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Written in 1841, his "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" short story has been considered the first modern detective story. Mr. Dupin, the fictional detective of the story, has served as a model for many subsequent fictional detectives including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

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Between 1837 and 1844, Poe lived in several houses in Philadelphia, one of which is still preserved as a National Historic Site, accessible to the public. It was in this house where he wrote some his most famous works including “The Black Cat“. The house´s spooky cellar even resembles the one described in the story.

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In 1835, Poe, at the age of 26, married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. She died of tuberculosis in 1847 and her struggles with the illness and death are believed to influence Poe´s work where dying young women appear as a frequent motif, as in "Annabel Lee", "The Raven", or "Ligeia".

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Poe wrote a negative review of a work by his rival Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who - in return - began a dirty campaign to harm Poe's reputation by exaggerating Poe´s alcoholism and psychological issues and even publishing a false biography of him.

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“The Raven“, which later became Poe´s most famous poem and one of the most popular poems in the world, was originally sold to The American Review by the author in 1845. They paid him $9 for it.

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In 1826, Poe registered at the one-year-old University of Virginia to study ancient and modern languages but since his foster father didn’t send him enough money his debts; caused by his gambling, increased and he gave up on the university after a year.

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Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe were pen friends and even met once in Philadelphia when Poe was 34-year-old and Dickens was 31.

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Poe invented the term “tintinnabulation“ to describe the sound made by the ringing of bells. He first used this word in his poem “The Bells“.

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After his father left the family and his mother died a year later in 1811, young Poe was taken into the home of John Allan, a Scottish merchant in Richmond, Virginia. The foster family gave him the name "Edgar Allan Poe", but they never formally adopted him.

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Poe was a keen cat lover. Supposedly, he often wrote with his cat on his shoulder. Cats were also featured in some of his stories with “The Black Cat“ being the most famous of them.

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While Poe became a world-known writer after his death; during his lifetime he was mostly recognized as a literary critic. His caustic reviews earned him the epithet "Tomahawk Man".

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Apart from literature, one of Poe´s favorite hobbies was space and cosmology. His 1848 essay called “Eureka: A Prose Poem“ contained a theory that presaged the Big Bang theory by 80 years. At that time, he considered this work his career masterpiece.

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Poe used several smart techniques to intensify the horror effect of his stories. One of them is “doubling” - when the same thing happens twice or when characters closely mimic each other. An illustrative example is in "The Fall of the House of Usher", when the narrator reads a passage from a book and hears strange noises that correspond to the descriptions in the story.

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Although Poe was best known for his horror stories, he also wrote satires, humor tales, and hoaxes.

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Despite difficult times in American publishing, Poe was the first well-known author to try to live by writing alone. Back then, publishers often pirated copies of British works rather than paying for new works from Americans.

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He might have been named Edgar after a character in William Shakespeare's “King Lear“, a play that his parents were performing in 1809.

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Poe´s death remains as mysterious as the author himself. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore in dire conditions and died 4 days later in a hospital. All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost which has raised many suspicions concerning his death; from heart disease, epilepsy, or cholera up to suicide and even murder.

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