Saturday, December 31, 2011

Richard Heft Recites Edgar Allan Poe's "Ulalume"

Richard Heft recites Edgar Allan Poe's "Ulalume" at POE FUNERAL. presented POE FUNERAL on October 31, 1999 at the Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica, California.
(C)1999/2011 Brian Aldrich

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch 1999

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is an American sitcom based on the Archie comic book series of the same name.

The show stars Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina Spellman, a teenager with magical powers, who lives with her aunts Hilda (played by Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (played by Beth Broderick), and their magical talking cat Salem. Sabrina has a boyfriend called Harvey Kinkle (played by Nate Richert).

Its first four seasons aired on ABC from September 27, 1996 to May 5, 2000; the final three seasons ran on The WB Television Network from September 22, 2000 to April 24, 2003.

"Episode LXXXI: The Phantom Menace"
Kenneth R. Koch Charlie Tercek
October 29, 1999

When Sabrina gets a job at a nearby coffee house, she decides to work on Halloween night instead of celebrating the holiday with her aunts. After Hilda and Zelda learn of Sabrina's plans, they try to warn her that she can't run away from Halloween, but Sabrina refuses to take their warning seriously. As Hilda and Zelda anxiously prepare for their Halloween dinner with Edgar Allan Poe, Sabrina and Dreama eventually celebrate the holiday in their own way: when a group of Other Realm Zombies arrive the coffee house to help them experience the fun of Halloween.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tim Burton's "Vincent" (1982) Vincent Price & Poe

Vincent is a 1982 stop-motion short film written, designed and directed by Tim Burton and Rick Heinrichs. At approximately six minutes in length, there is currently no individual release of the film. It can be found on the 2008 Special Edition and Collector's Edition DVDs of The Nightmare Before Christmas as a bonus feature and on the Cinema16 DVD American Short Films.

The film is narrated by actor Vincent Price, a lifelong idol and inspiration for Burton. From this relationship, Price would go on to appear in Burton's Edward Scissorhands. Vincent Price later said that the film was "the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality—better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard."


Vincent is the story of a young boy, Vincent Malloy, who pretends to be like the actor Vincent Price (who narrates the film). He is obsessed with the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and it is his detachment from reality when reading them that leads to his delusions that he is in fact a tortured artist, deprived of the woman he loves, mirroring certain parts of Poe's "The Raven." The film ends with Vincent being tortured by the goings-on of his make-believe world, quoting "The Raven" as he falls to the floor in frailty, believing himself to be dead.

Happy Birthday! Tim Burton 1958

Timothy Walter Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an American film director, film producer, writer and artist. He is famous for dark, quirky-themed movies such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and for blockbusters such as Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Batman Returns, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, his most recent film, that was the second highest-grossing film of 2010 as well as the sixth highest-grossing film of all time. Among Burton's many collaborators are Johnny Depp, who became a close friend since their first film together, musician Danny Elfman (who has composed for all but five of the films Burton has directed and/or produced) and domestic partner Helena Bonham Carter. He also wrote and illustrated the poetry book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, published in 1997, and a compilation of his drawings, entitled The Art of Tim Burton, was released in 2009.

Burton has directed 14 films as of 2010, and has produced 10 as of 2009. His next films are an adaptation of the soap opera Dark Shadows, scheduled to be released on May 11, 2012, and a remake of his 1984 short, Frankenweenie, scheduled to be released on October 5, 2012.

Growing up, Burton was a very introspective person, and found his pleasure in painting, drawing and watching movies. His future work would be heavily influenced by the works by Edgar Allan Poe he read, and the horror and science fiction films he watched, such as Godzilla, the films made by Hammer Film Productions, the works of Ray Harryhausen and Vincent Price.

While at Disney in 1982, Burton made his first short, Vincent, a six minute black and white stop motion film based on a poem written by the filmmaker, and depicting a young boy who fantasizes that he is his (and Burton's) hero Vincent Price, with Price himself providing narration.

Vincent is the story of a young boy, Vincent Malloy, who pretends to be like the actor Vincent Price (who narrates the film). He is obsessed with the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and it is his detachment from reality when reading them that leads to his delusions that he is in fact a tortured artist, deprived of the woman he loves, mirroring certain parts of Poe's "The Raven." The film ends with Vincent being tortured by the goings-on of his make-believe world, quoting "The Raven" as he falls to the floor in frailty, believing himself to be dead.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Castle of Blood (1964)

Castle of Blood (Italian title: Danza Macabra) is a 1964 Italian horror film directed by Antonio Margheriti, using the pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson. This film is also known as Coffin of Terror, Danse macabre, Dimensions in Death, La Lunga notte de terrore, Terrore, The Castle of Terror, The Long Night of Terror, Tombs of Horror, and Tombs of Terror.


Barbara Steele — Elisabeth Blackwood
Georges Rivière — Alan Foster
Margarete Robsahm — Julia
Arturo Dominici — Dr. Carmus
Silvano Tranquilli — Edgar Allan Poe
Sylvia Sorrente — Elsi

The story

A journalist challenges Edgar Allan Poe on the authenticity of his stories, which leads to him accepting a bet from Lord Blackwood to spend the night in a haunted castle on All Soul's Eve. Ghosts of the murdered inhabitants appear to him throughout the night, re-enacting the events that lead to their deaths. It transpires that they need his blood in order to maintain their existence. Barbara Steele plays a ghost who attempts to help the journalist escape.


Silvano Tranquilli plays Edgar Allan Poe in this movie, and the credits claim that the movie is based on a short story by Poe. In reality no such story exists, although in the opening scene Poe (Tranquilli) is seen recounting the end of Poe's story "Berenice."

Castle of Blood was remade by the same director in 1971 as Web of the Spider. In this version Poe was played by Klaus Kinski, and the movie claimed to be based on a different non-existent Poe story called "Night of the Living Dead."

Release date: July 29, 1964 (US)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Robert Rankin's "The Brentford Trilogy"

The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe is often referred to in Robert Rankin's The Brentford Trilogy books.

The Brentford Trilogy

The Brentford Trilogy is a series of eight novels by writer Robert Rankin. They humorously chronicle the lives of a couple of drunken middle-aged layabouts, Jim Pooley and John Omally, who confront the forces of darkness in the environs of West London, usually with the assistance of large quantities of beer from their favourite public house, The Flying Swan.

Recurring characters

John Vincent Omally and Jim Pooley - an Irishman living in Brentford and his best friend. The 'heroes' of the series.
Neville - the part-time barman (who is actually full-time since nobody knows where the real one is) who holds down the Flying Swan in Brentford.
Norman Hartnell - Brentford shopkeeper and inventor of various bizarre gadgets, including a means of transporting the Great Pyramid from Egypt to Brentford. Not to be confused with the other Norman Hartnell.
Old Pete and Chips - Old Pete (Age unconfirmed, although he seems to be over a hundred) always appears in the Flying Swan, and Chips is his scraggly dog.
Professor Slocombe - aged, wise magician who often supplies much of the exposition about the various enemies present in the series (Was apparently Merlin in the distant past). Is once described as bearing a resemblance to Peter Cushing. Has a butler named Gammon.
Marchant - John Omally's bicycle, whose anthropomorphic qualities may be a reference to Flann O'Brien's novel The Third Policeman.
Soap Distant -last of a long line of Distants who have spent their lives searching for the denizens of the inner Earth. Soap is an ordinary man when first seen but returns as a cowled and robed albino after five years 'below.'
Small Dave - Brentford's dwarf postman, known to all as a 'vindictive, grudge bearing wee bastard.' Raised the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
Hugo Artemis Solon Saturnicus Reginald Arthur Rune - mystic, charlatan and confidence trickster and self declared 'most amazing man who ever lived'. Has an acolyte named Rizla.
Hairy Dave and Jungle John - these two brothers are local jobbing builders who are known for their wild coiffure.
Archroy - former worker at the rubber factory who became a globe trotting master of the martial arts.
Jennifer Naylor - Brentford's sexy lady librarian, later elevated to the town council.
Young Master Robert - the brewery owner's son, and the bane of Neville's existence.
Leo Felix - white Rastafarian who drives a tow truck.

Novels in the series

The novels in this series are as follows:

1.The Antipope (1981) - Pooley and Omally take on the resurrected Pope Alexander VI the last Borgia pope.
2.The Brentford Triangle (1982) - Pooley and Omally thwart an alien invasion of Earth when the natives of Ceres (the fifth planet in the solar system before it exploded and became the asteroid belt) come back to the system and seek a new home.
3.East of Ealing (1984) - Pooley and Omally are forced to deal with a high-tech Satanic takeover of Earth by way of barcoding the entire population, aided by a temporally-relocated version of Sherlock Holmes.
4.The Sprouts of Wrath (1988) - the unlikely decision to site the next Olympic Games in Brentford threatens to disrupt Pooley and Omally's way of life, as the evil Kaleton threatens to turn the stadium into a monster to destroy humanity.
5.The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (1997) - as the millennium comes early for Brentford, Dr. Steven Malone finds a way to clone Jesus from the Turin Shroud, as the man called Fred (who sold his soul for ultimate power) attempts to blackmail Pooley into arranging a ceremony that will give his Master power over all the world.
6.Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (2000) - Omally manages a rock group, the lead singer of whom has the power to heal the sick. This book also sees the return of Soap Distant and Small Dave. In this book, Pooley suffers a brutal, but not long-term death.[clarification needed]
7.Knees Up Mother Earth (2004) - there's big trouble in little Brentford. Property developers are planning to destroy Griffin Park, the borough's beloved football ground, intending to dig up the creature buried underneath it - namely, the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden; the source of original sin. As well as being the seventh book in The Brentford Trilogy, it is also the second book in The Witches of Chiswick Trilogy.
8.The Brightonomicon (2005) - Hugo Rune and his amnesiac assistant Rizla work to stop Count Otto Black from finding the Chronovision. Unlike the other novels in the series, it is set in Brighton and Omally only makes an appearance in the final chapter. It is revealed that Rizla on this occasion (Rune's many acolytes are always called Rizla), is actually Pooley.
9.Retromancer (2009) - the sequel to The Brightonomicon again pairs the young Jim Pooley with Hugo Rune in another series of adventures only set partially in Brentford. This book also forms a prequel to The Antipope, and brings the series full circle.

Several of Rankin's other novels feature Pooley and Omally, but are not part of The Brentford Trilogy:

They Came And Ate Us (Armageddon II: The B-Movie) (1991) - Pooley and Omally make a brief appearance as one of a number of "trick endings".
The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived (1995) - Pooley and Omally make a brief appearance, offering their help to Tuppe as he plans to free the book's lead character, Cornelius Murphy, from prison. Before they can put their plan into action Cornelius reveals he has already escaped without their help.
Nostradamus Ate My Hamster (1996) - a movie prop-house worker finds a way to put old stars back on the silver screen. Over the course of the book, he learns of the legends of Pooley and Omally and sets out in search of The Flying Swan, culminating in a desperate race to stop the return of Adolf Hitler.
Web Site Story (2002) - set in the year 2022, Pooley and Omally have long since passed into the myths and legends of Brentford lore. As people start vanishing into thin air in Brentford, the staff of the Brentford Mercury investigate.

Although the books theoretically form a series, actually there is little continuity between volumes. World-changing events that take place in one book are usually ignored in following volumes, and it is very rare for the events of a previous book to be referred to. For example the character of shopkeeper Norman Hartnell (not that one) is abandoned by his wife yet is inexplicably reunited with her in later books. Soap Distant also appears in later books as a Brentford resident despite being declared dead, becoming an albino and dwelling beneath the earth.

Robert Fleming Rankin (born 27 July 1949) is a prolific British humorous novelist. Born in Parsons Green, London, he started writing in the late 1970s, and first entered the bestsellers lists with Snuff Fiction in 1999. His books are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, the occult, urban legends, running gags, metafiction, steampunk and outrageous characters. According to the (largely fictional) biography printed in some Corgi editions of his books, Rankin refers to his style as 'Far Fetched Fiction' in the hope that bookshops will let him have a section to himself. Many of Rankin's books are bestsellers.

Most of Rankin's books are set in Brentford, a suburb of London where the author grew up, and which, in his novels, is usually infested with ancient evil and/or alien conspiracies.

In addition to his novels, Rankin held a position as the Writer in Residence of Brentford's Watermans Arts Centre during the 1980s, and organised a regular poetry event there which he claims was the largest in Britain. He also has performed on stage with a variety of bands.

Named after Rankin's fixation with the vegetable, there is a fan club called The Order of the Golden Sprout who maintain a web site and arrange events, many around Brentford. In 2009 he was created the first Fellow of The Victorian Steampunk Society in recognition of his unique contribution to the genre. He lives in Brighton with his wife.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Poe Shadow (2006) Matthew Pearl

The Poe Shadow is a novel by Matthew Pearl published by Random House. It tells the story of one young lawyer's quest to solve the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe's death in 1849. It is a work of historical and literary fiction, where some previously unpublished details about the last days of Poe are conveyed through the thoughts and the actions of the main character, along with the generally shared ideas on Poe's death as of the publication date.

Plot summary

Baltimore lawyer Quentin Hobson Clark witnesses a somber, simple funeral on October 8, 1849. He learns it was for author Edgar Allan Poe, with whom he had previously exchanged letters about providing legal support for a new publication, The Stylus. Clark feels obliged to look into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe's death, despite protests from his fiancee Hattie Blum and his friend Peter. Clark's journey takes him to Paris to seek out the real-life inspiration for Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin, a man of intellect who could help unravel the mystery. After investigating many possibilities of the inspiration of Poe's detective. A Baron C.A. Dupin, a famed lawyer in Paris, and a lone detective with a similar name: Auguste Duponte. After a confrontational encounter with the Baron Dupin and his aid, Bonjour, Clark realizes that the Baron is not quite the character as described in the detective stories of Poe and that Auguste Duponte, with his approach to problem-solving with Ratiocination, was the real inspired character in the stories. They journey back to Baltimore to investigate the final days of Poe before his death, only to find that the Baron and Bonjour have been on the same track, if not ahead, of solving the same investigation. Evidence is uncovered from interviews of the funeral attendants, witnesses, and secret rummaging of Henry Reynolds, a funeral attendant, who obtained a written letter from Poe the day he was found in the streets of Baltimore. What other mysteries that unfold through the odyssey of Clark to clear Poe's name from infamy continue on to a shocking and sorrowful conclusion of the death of the most important Gothic Fiction writer of American Literature.

Matthew Pearl is an American novelist and educator. His novels, The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow and The Last Dickens, have been New York Times Bestsellers, International Bestsellers, and have been published in more than 40 countries.


Matthew Pearl graduated from University School of Nova Southeastern University (NSU). He was then educated at Harvard College and Yale Law School and has taught writing and literature at Emerson College and Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Dante Club was published in 2003. His second novel, a historical thriller about the death of Edgar Allan Poe called The Poe Shadow, was published by Random House in the United States on May 23, 2006 and has also been a New York Times Bestseller and an International Bestseller. His third novel The Last Dickens was released in the United States on March 17, 2009. Pearl has also written op-ed articles on literature and culture for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Pit and the Pendulum (2009) - David DeCoteau

The Pit and the Pendulum (2009)- Directed by David DeCoteau, the horror movie bears little resemblance to the original story but, like the 1961 version, utilizes the large swinging pendulum in the penultimate scene. The film follows a group of university students who visit a hypnotherapy institute lorded over by a sinister hypnotist who wants to use the students to experiment with the possibility of breaking the pain threshold.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) - Stuart Gordon

The Pit and the Pendulum (released on DVD in the United States as The Inquisitor) is a 1991 horror film directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

The film is an amalgamation of several Edgar Allan Poe tales, including "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Cask of Amontillado." The film also appropriates the anecdote of "The Sword of Damocles," re-assigning it to Torquemada.


Set in Spain, 1492, Grand Inquisitor Torquemada leads a bloody reign of terror, torturing and killing in the name of religion. Upset with the way the Church is practicing torture, Maria speaks out during a public burning and whipping of a title-stripped family. Maria's own beauty leads Torquemada into temptation and brutal atonement. Confused over his desires, he accuses Maria of being a witch and to be tortured until confession. During Maria's interrogation, Torquemada cannot help but to stare at her naked body leading him to order her put in the prison. Imprisoned, Maria is befriended by Esmerelda, a confessed witch. Together they struggle to save themselves from the sinister Torquemada.

Outside the castle walls, Maria's husband Antonio breaks into the castle to rescue his innocent wife. After a failed escape, Antonio is imprisoned for his actions and Torquemada decides to test his new machine of pain on him; The Pit and the Pendulum.


Peter O'Toole was originally slated to play Torquemada and Billy Dee Williams was originally slated to play a character named Abdul. Sherilyn Fenn was originally slated to play Maria.


The film was given quick runs at many film festivals until its home video release in the summer of 1991. In 2000, Full Moon released a DVD of the film, but the DVD has now been discontinued for copyright reasons. Since then it has been released on DVD as part of the Stuart Gordon boxset, which also includes Castle Freak, Deathbed and a bonus disc.


Lance Henriksen - Torquemada
Stephen Lee - Gomez
William J. Norris - Dr. Huesos
Mark Margolis - Mendoza
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon - Contessa D'Alba Molina
Barbara Bocci - Contessa's Son
Benito Stefanelli - Executioner
Jeffrey Combs - Francisco
Tom Towles - Don Carlos
Rona De Ricci - Maria
Jonathan Fuller - Antonio
Oliver Reed - Cardinal
Larry Dolgin - Sergeant of the Guards
Frances Bay - Esmeralda
Fabio Carfora - Beggar

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Fanny" Published 1833


by Edgar Allan Poe

THE dying swan by northern lakes
Sing's [Sings] its wild death song, sweet and clear,
And as the solemn music breaks
O'er hill and glen dissolves in air ;
Thus musical thy soft voice came,
Thus trembled on thy tongue my name.

Like sunburst through the ebon cloud,
Which veils the solemn midnight sky,
Piercing cold evening's sable shroud,
Thus came the first glance of that eye ;
But like the adamantine rock,
My spirit met and braved the shock.

Let memory the boy recall
Who laid his heart upon thy shrine,
When far away his footsteps fall,
Think that he deem'd thy charms divine ;
A victim on love's alter [altar] slain,
By witching eyes which looked disdain.


Fanny (1833)

First published in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter on May 18, 1833, the poem laments the death of a young love. It was originally signed only as "TAMERLANE." Title inspired by Poe's friend Frances Sargent Osgood.

Frances Sargent Osgood (née Locke) (June 18, 1811 – May 12, 1850) was an American poet and one of the most popular women writers during her time. Nicknamed "Fanny," she was also famous for her exchange of romantic poems with Edgar Allan Poe.

"Tamerlane" is an epic poem by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in the 1827 collection Tamerlane and Other Poems. That collection, with only 50 copies printed, was not credited with the author's real name but by "A Bostonian." The poem's original version was 403 lines but trimmed down to 223 lines for its inclusion in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems.

Timur (8 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), normally known as Tamerlane (from Tīmūr-e Lang) in English, was a fourteenth-century conqueror of Western, South and Central Asia, founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, and great great grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived until 1857 as the Mughal Empire in India.

Born into the Turco-Mongol Barlas tribe who ruled in Central Asia, Timur was in his lifetime a controversial figure, and remains so today. He sought to restore the Mongol Empire, yet his heaviest blow was against the Islamized Tatar Golden Horde. He was more at home in an urban environment than on the steppe. He styled himself a ghazi yet some Muslim states, for example the Ottoman Empire, were severely affected by his wars. A great patron of the arts, his campaigns also caused vast destruction. Timur told the qadis of Aleppo, during the sack of that newly conquered city,"I am not a man of blood; and God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Pit And The Pendulum (1961) - Roger Corman & Richard Matheson

The Pit and the Pendulum is a 1961 horror film directed by Roger Corman, starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, and Luana Anders. The screenplay by Richard Matheson was based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name. Set in 16th century Spain, the story is about a young Englishman who visits a forbidding castle to investigate his sister's mysterious death. After a series of horrific revelations, apparently ghostly appearances and violent deaths, the young man becomes strapped to the titular torture device by his lunatic brother-in-law during the film's climactic sequence.

The film was the second title in the popular series of Poe-based movies released by American International Pictures, the first having been Corman’s House of Usher released the previous year. Like House, the film features widescreen cinematography by Floyd Crosby, sets designed by art director Daniel Haller, and a film score composed by Les Baxter. A critical and box office hit, Pit's commercial success convinced AIP and Corman to continue adapting Poe stories for another six films, five of them starring Price. The series ended in 1965 with the release of The Tomb of Ligeia.

Film critic Tim Lucas and writer Ernesto Gastaldi have both noted the film’s strong influence on numerous subsequent Italian thrillers, from Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body (1963) to Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975). Stephen King has described one of Pit’s major shock sequences as being among the most important moments in the post-1960 horror film.

"The Pit and the Pendulum" Published 1842

"The Pit and the Pendulum" is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe and first published in 1842. The story is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, though Poe skews historical facts. The narrator of the story describes his experience being tortured. The story is especially effective at inspiring fear in the reader because of its heavy focus on the senses, such as sound, emphasizing its reality, unlike many of Poe's stories which are aided by the supernatural. The traditional elements established in popular horror tales at the time are followed, but critical reception has been mixed.

Plot summary

The story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. At the beginning of the story an unnamed narrator is brought to trial before various sinister judges. Poe provides no explanation of why he is there or for what he has been arrested. Before him are seven tall white candles on a table, and, as they melt, his hopes of survival also diminish. He is condemned to death and finds himself in a pitch black compartment. At first the prisoner thinks that he is locked in a tomb, but he discovers that he is in a cell. He decides to explore the cell by placing a hem from his robe against a wall so he can count the paces around the room; however, he faints before being able to measure the whole perimeter.

When the prisoner awakens he discovers food and water near by. He gets back up and tries to measure the prison again, finding that the perimeter measures one hundred steps. While crossing the room he slips on the hem of his robe. He discovers that if he had not tripped he would have walked into a deep pit with water at the bottom in the center of the cell.

After losing consciousness again the narrator discovers that the prison is slightly illuminated and that he is bound to a wooden board by ropes. He looks up in horror to see a painted picture of Father Time on the ceiling; hanging from the figure is a gigantic scythe-like pendulum swinging slowly back and forth. The pendulum is inexorably sliding downwards and will eventually kill him. However the condemned man is able to attract rats to his bonds with meat left for him to eat and they start chewing through the ropes. As the pendulum reaches a point inches above his heart, the prisoner breaks free of the ropes and watches as the pendulum is drawn back to the ceiling.

He then sees that the walls have become red-hot and begun moving inwards, driving him into the center of the room and towards the brink of the pit. As he gazes into the pit, he decides that no fate could be worse than falling into it. It is implied by the text that the narrator fears what he sees at the bottom of the pit, or perhaps is frightened by its depth. The exact cause of his fear is not clearly stated. However, as the narrator moves back from the pit, he sees that the red-hot walls are leaving him with no foothold. As the prisoner begins to fall into the pit, he hears human voices. The walls rush back and an arm catches him. The French Army has taken Toledo and the Inquisition is in the hands of its enemies.


Poe takes dramatic license with history in this story. The rescuers are led by Napoleon's General Lasalle (who was not, however, in command of the French occupation of Toledo) and this places the action during the Peninsular War, centuries after the height of the Spanish Inquisition and at a time when it had lost much of its power. The elaborate tortures of this story have no historic parallels in the activity of the Spanish Inquisition in any century, let alone the nineteenth. The Inquisition was, however, abolished during the period of French intervention (1808–13). Although doubts remain, the pendulum as a torture device is generally regarded as a real device used during the Spanish Inquisition.

Poe places a Latin epigraph before the story, describing it as "a quatrain composed for the gates of a market to be erected upon the site of the Jacobin Club House at Paris." The epigraph was not Poe's invention; such an inscription had been reported, no later than 1803, as having been composed with the intention (possibly facetious) of having it placed on the site,[1] and it had appeared, without attribution, as an item of trivia in the 1836 Southern Literary Messenger, a periodical to which Poe contributed.[2] It does not appear, however, that the market was ever built as intended. Charles Baudelaire, a noted French writer who translated Poe's works into French and who was largely inspired by him, said that the building on the site of the Old Jacobin Club had no gates and, therefore, no inscription.[3]


"The Pit and the Pendulum" is a study of the effect terror has on the narrator,[4] starting with the opening line that suggests he is already suffering from death anxiety ("I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony") and, shortly thereafter, when he loses consciousness upon receiving the death sentence.[5] Such anxiety is ironic to the reader, who knows of the narrator's implicit survival: the text refers to the black-robed judges having lips "whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words", showing that he himself is writing the story after the events have happened.[6] What makes the story particularly effective at evoking terror is in its lack of supernatural elements; the action taking place is real and not imagined.[7] The "reality" of the story is enhanced through Poe's focus on sensation: the dungeon is airless and unlit, the narrator is subject to thirst and starvation, he is swarmed by rats, the closing walls are red-hot metal and, of course, the razor-sharp pendulum threatens to slice into the narrator.[8] The narrator experiences the blade mostly through sound as it "hissed" while swinging. Poe further emphasizes this with words like "surcingle," "cessation," "crescent," "scimitar," and various forms of sibilance.[9] "The Pit and the Pendulum" can be considered a serious re-telling of the satirical "A Predicament." In that story, a similar "scythe" slowly (and comically) removes the narrator's head. That action has been re-imagined with a pendulum preparing to slice through the narrator's chest.[10]


Poe was following an established model of terror writing of his day, often seen in Blackwood's Magazine (a formula he mocks in "A Predicament"). Those stories, however, often focused on chance occurrences or personal vengeance as a source of terror. Poe may have been inspired to focus on the purposeful impersonal torture in part by Juan Antonio Llorente's History of the Spanish Inquisition, first published in 1817.[11] It has also been suggested that Poe's "pit" was inspired by a translation of the Koran (Poe had referenced the Koran also in "Al Aaraaf" and "Israfel") by George Sale. Poe was familiar with Sale, and even mentioned him by name in a note in his story "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade". Sale's translation included commentary and, in one of those notes, refers to an allegedly common form of torture and execution by "throwing [people] into a glowing pit of fire, whence he had the opprobrious appellation of the Lord of the Pit." In the Koran itself, in Sura (Chapter) 85, "The Celestial Signs," a passage reads: "...cursed were the contrivers of the pit, of fire supplied with the fuel... and they afflicted them for no other reason, but because they believed in the mighty, the glorious God."[12] Poe is also considered to have been influenced by William Mudford's The Iron Shroud, a short story about an iron torture chamber which shrinks through mechanical action and eventually crushes the victim inside.[13] Poe apparently got the idea for the shrinking chamber in the "Pit and the Pendulum" after Mudford's story was published in Blackwood's magazine in 1830.[14][15][16]

Publication and response

"The Pit and the Pendulum" was included in The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843, published by Carey and Hart. It was slightly revised for a republication in the May 17, 1845 issue of the Broadway Journal.[17]

William Butler Yeats was generally critical of Poe, calling him "vulgar." Of "The Pit and the Pendulum" in particular he said, "[it does] not seem to me to have permanent literary value of any kind... Analyse the Pit and the Pendulum and you find an appeal to the nerves by tawdry physical affrightments."[18]

Film and television

Several film adaptations of the story have been produced, including the early French language film Le Puits et le pendule in 1909 by Henri Desfontaines. The first English language adaptation was in 1913, directed by Alice Guy Blanche.[19]

The 1961 film The Pit and the Pendulum directed by Roger Corman starring Vincent Price and Barbara Steele, like the other installments in the Corman/Price "Poe Cycle", bears minimal resemblance to the Poe story: the torture apparatus of the title makes its appearance only in the final 10 minutes of the film. A novelization of the film was written by Lee Sheridan adapted from Richard Matheson's screenplay in 1961 and published by Lancer Books in paperback.

In 1983, Czech Surrealist Jan Švankmajer directed a 15-minute short film called The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope, based on this story and the short story "A Torture by Hope" by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. It is a fairly faithful adaptation of both stories, featuring a unique first-person camera perspective and segments of Švankmajer's trademark stop-motion and cut-out animation (in an otherwise live action film). Most of the art design was done by his wife, Eva Švankmajerová.

In 1991 a film version of the story, directed by Stuart Gordon and starring Lance Henriksen, was released. The plot was altered to a love story set in Spain in 1492.

In 2006 a stop-motion animated version of the story "The Pit and the Pendulum" was completed under the 'Ray Harryhausen Presents' banner. The film was executively produced by Ray Harryhausen and Fred Fuchs, directed by Marc Lougee, produced by Susan Ma and Marc Lougee, and funded by Bravo!FACT.[20]

The 2007 Nightwish album Dark Passion Play includes a song inspired by "The Pit and the Pendulum". It's called "The Poet and the Pendulum". Nightwish songwriter Tuomas Holopainen said it's his favorite Nightwish song.

The 2009 horror film directed by David DeCoteau bears little resemblance to the original story but, like the 1961 version, utilizes the large swinging pendulum in the penultimate scene. The film follows a group of university students who visit a hypnotherapy institute lorded over by a sinister hypnotist who wants to use the students to experiment with the possibility of breaking the pain threshold.


3.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. ISBN 081604161X p. 188-9
4.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. p. 359. ISBN 0801857309
5.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. Yale University Press, 1987. p. 53. ISBN 0300037732
6.^ Kennedy, J. Gerald. Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. Yale University Press, 1987. p. 32. ISBN 0300037732
7.^ Fisher, Benjamin F. "Poe and the Gothic Tradition" as collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Kevin J. Hayes, ed. Cambridge, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002. p. 84 ISBN 0521797276
8.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 204 ISBN 0060923318
9.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991. p. 206 ISBN 0060923318
10.^ Goddu, Teresa A. "Poe, sensationalism, and slavery", as collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Kevin J. Hayes, ed. Cambridge, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002. p. 104 ISBN 0521797276
11.^ Alterton, Margaret. "An Additional Source for Poe's 'The Pit and the Pendulum'" from Modern Language Notes, Vol. 48, No. 6 (Jun., 1933), p. 349
12.^ Murtuza, Athar. "An Arabian Source for Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" from Poe Studies, vol. V, no. 2, December 1972, p. 52
13.^ The Iron Shroud from Project Gutenberg
14.^ Online Biography of William Mudford from the Dictionary of Literary Biography hosted by BookRags p. 2
15.^ Oxford Journals Critique of William Mudford Notes and Queries July 31, 1943 p. 83
16.^ Title The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and Related Tales The world's classics Oxford World's Classics Author Edgar Allan Poe Editor J. Gerald Kennedy Edition reissue, illustrated Publisher Oxford University Press, 1998 ISBN 0192837710, ISBN 9780192837714 Length 336 pages Quote: "Explanatory Note #254: Poe apparently got the idea for his shrinking chamber from an 1830 Blackwood's story titled the 'Iron Shroud'"
17.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. ISBN 081604161X p. 188
18.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992. ISBN 0815410387 p. 274
19.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. ISBN 081604161X p. 189
20.^ 2006 stop motion short film The Pit and the Pendulum

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Masque of the Red Death (2008) - Berlin Poe Fans

A gothic and nostalgique black and white adaptation of the classical story "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, performed by some Poe-enthusiasts in Berlin, November 2008.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Masque of the Red Death (2007) - Mat Van Rhoon

A short film of Edgar Allan Poe's classic story "The Masque of the Red Death"
created at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Director: Mat Van Rhoon
Producer: Evangeline Aguas

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Diamanda Galas "Masque of The Red Death" (1989)

Diamanda Galás (born August 29, 1955) is a Greek-American avant-garde composer, vocalist, pianist, performance artist and painter.

Known for her expert piano as well as her distinctive, operatic voice, which has a three and a half octave range, Galás has been described as "capable of the most unnerving vocal terror." Galás often shrieks, howls, and seems to imitate glossolalia in her performances. Her works largely concentrate on the topics of suffering, despair, condemnation, injustice and loss of dignity. She has worked with many avant-garde composers, including Iannis Xenakis, Vinko Globokar and John Zorn.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Masque of The Red Death (1964) with Vincent Price

The Masque of the Red Death is a 1964 British horror film starring Vincent Price in a tale about a prince who terrorizes a plague-ridden peasantry while merrymaking in a lonely castle with his jaded courtiers. The film was directed by Roger Corman; the screenplay by Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell was based upon the 1842 short story of the same name by American author Edgar Allan Poe. The film is one in a series of eight Corman film adaptations of Poe's works, and incorporates a sub-plot based on another Poe tale, "Hop-Frog." The Masque of the Red Death has been televised in America and has been released on DVD. It was made by American International Pictures.


The story is set in medieval Europe. Prince Prospero, a cruel, jaded Satanist, invites several dozen of the local nobility to his castle for protection against an oncoming plague, the Red Death. The local peasantry, or anyone that the Prince suspects of being infected by the plague, are killed by crossbow fire outside the castle walls, or their villages are burned to the ground.

Subplots include the abduction and attempted corruption of Francesca, an innocent Christian peasant girl, the revenge of the dwarf jester Hop-Frog upon the brute who abuses his beloved mistress, and the Satanic self-initiation and downfall of Prince Prospero's consort Juliana. The film includes one of Corman's distinctive psychedelic dream sequences.

Prospero orders his guests to attend a masked ball, with the stipulation that no one is to wear red. At the ball, amid a general atmosphere of debauchery and depravity, Prospero notices the entry of a mysterious hooded stranger dressed all in red. Believing the figure to be an ambassador from his master, Satan, Prospero addresses him as "your Excellency." As the ball is transformed into a danse macabre, the red-masked figure asks why Prospero keeps calling him "your Excellency," declaring "I have no title." Realizing his error, Prospero rips off the figure's red mask, revealing Prospero's own blood-spattered face.

The figure is not an emissary of Satan, but the Red Death himself, declaring that "There is no face of Death until the moment of your own death ... Each man creates his own God for himself — his own heaven, his own hell."

Prospero attempts to flee through the now-infected crowd, but his red-cloaked self is always in front of him. The Red Death finally corners him, asks him, "Why should you be afraid to die? Your soul has been dead for a long time," and strikes him down.

In an epilogue, the Red Death is playing with his Tarot cards with a young child, laughing as he shows her a card. He then picks up the cards and puts the deck in his robes as other similarly cloaked figures gather around him, each wearing a different colour: the "White Death," the "Yellow Death," the Golden Death, the Blue Death, the Violet Death and the "Black Death." They discuss among themselves the numbers of people each of them had 'claimed' that night, each accepting of their endless terrible task. When asked of his work, the Red Death says to them, "I called many ... peasant and prince ... the worthy and the dishonored. Six only are left." Among the six are Francesca, her fiance Gino, Hop-Toad, the dancer he loves, the little girl the Red Death played cards with and an old man from a nearby village. The Red Death then says "Sic transit gloria mundi" (Latin for "Thus passes tha glory of the world") and the cloaked figures then file offscreen in a grim procession. Over the procession are Poe's final words from the story itself: "And darkness and decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."


Vincent Price as Prince Prospero
Hazel Court as Juliana, his mistress
Jane Asher as Francesca, a peasant girl
David Weston as Gino, Francesca's lover
Nigel Green as Ludovico, Francesca's father
John Westbrook as The Red Death
Patrick Magee as Alfredo
Skip Martin as Hop Toad, a dwarf jester
Verina Greenlaw as Esmeralda, Hop Toad's dwarf lover

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The Masque of the Red Death" Published 1842

"The Masque of the Red Death," originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death" (1842), is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, has a masquerade ball within seven rooms of his abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. Prospero dies after confronting this stranger. The story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the titular disease.

The story was first published in May 1842 in Graham's Magazine. It has since been adapted in many different forms, including the 1964 film starring Vincent Price. It has been alluded to by other works in many types of media.

Plot summary

The story takes place at the castellated abbey of the "happy and dauntless and sagacious" Prince Prospero. Prospero and one thousand other nobles have taken refuge in this walled abbey to escape the Red Death, a terrible plague that has swept over the land. The symptoms of the Red Death are gruesome: The victim is overcome by convulsive agony and sweats blood instead of water. The plague is said to kill within half an hour. Prospero and his court are presented as indifferent to the sufferings of the population at large, intending to await the end of the plague in luxury and safety behind the walls of their secure refuge, having welded the doors shut.

One night, Prospero holds a masquerade ball to entertain his guests in seven colored rooms of the abbey. Six of the rooms are each decorated and illuminated in a specific color: Blue, purple, green, orange, white, and violet. The last room is decorated in black and is illuminated by a blood-red light; because of this chilling pair of colors, few guests are brave enough to venture into the seventh room. The room is also the location of a large ebony clock that ominously clangs at each hour, upon which everyone stops talking and the orchestra stops playing. At the chiming of midnight, Prospero notices one figure in a dark, blood-spattered robe resembling a funeral shroud, with an extremely lifelike mask resembling a stiffened corpse, and with the traits of the Red Death, which all at the ball have been desperate to escape. Gravely insulted, Prospero demands to know the identity of the mysterious guest so that they can hang him. When none dares to approach the figure, instead letting him pass through the seven chambers, the prince pursues him with a drawn dagger until he is cornered in the seventh room, the black room with the scarlet-tinted windows. When the figure turns to face him, the Prince falls dead. The enraged and terrified revelers surge into the black room and remove the mask, only to find that there is no face underneath it. Only then do they realize that the figure is the Red Death itself, and all of the guests contract and succumb to the disease. The final line of the story sums up: "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."


In "The Masque of the Red Death" Poe adopts many conventions of traditional Gothic fiction, including the setting of a castle. The multiple single-toned rooms may be representative of the human mind, showing different personality types. The imagery of blood and time throughout also indicate corporeality. The plague may, in fact, represent typical attributes of human life and mortality.[1] This would imply the entire story is an allegory about man's futile attempts to stave off death; this interpretation is commonly accepted.[2] However, there is much dispute over how to interpret "The Masque of the Red Death"; some suggest it is not allegorical, especially due to Poe's admission of a distaste for didacticism in literature.[3] If the story really does have a moral, Poe does not explicitly state that moral in the text.[4]

Blood, emphasized throughout the tale along with the color red, serves as a dual symbol, representing both death and life. This is emphasized by the masked figure – never explicitly stated to be the Red Death, but only a reveler in a costume of the Red Death – making his initial appearance in the easternmost room, which is colored blue, a color most often associated with birth.[5]

Though Prospero's castle is meant to keep the sickness out, it is ultimately an oppressive structure. Its maze-like design and tall and narrow windows become almost burlesque in the final black room, so oppressive that "there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all."[6] Additionally, the castle is meant to be a closed space, but the stranger is still able to get in, suggesting that control is an illusion.[7]

Like many of Poe's tales, "The Masque of the Red Death" has also been interpreted autobiographically. In this point of view, Prince Prospero is Poe as a wealthy young man, part of a distinguished family much like Poe's foster parents, the Allans. Under this interpretation, Poe is seeking refuge from the dangers of the outside world, and his portrayal of himself as the only person willing to confront the stranger is emblematic of Poe's rush towards inescapable dangers in his own life.[8]

The "Red Death"

The disease the Red Death is fictitious. Poe describes it as causing "sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores" leading to death within half an hour.

It is likely that the disease was inspired by tuberculosis (or consumption, as it was known then), since Poe's wife Virginia was suffering from the disease at the time the story was written. Like the character of Prince Prospero, Poe tried to ignore the fatality of the disease.[9] Poe's mother Eliza, brother William, and foster mother Frances Allan had also died of tuberculosis. Alternatively, the Red Death may refer to cholera; Poe would have witnessed an epidemic of cholera in Baltimore, Maryland in 1831.[10] Others have suggested that the plague is actually Bubonic plague or the Black death, emphasized by the climax of the story featuring the "Red" Death in the "black" room.[11] One writer likens the description to that of a viral hemorrhagic fever or necrotizing fasciitis.[12] It has been suggested that the Red Death is not a disease or sickness at all but something else[clarification needed] that is shared by all of humankind inherently.[13]

Publication history

Poe first published the story in the May 1842 edition of Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine as "The Mask of the Red Death," with the tagline "A Fantasy." This first publication earned him $12.[14] A revised version was published in the July 19, 1845 edition of the Broadway Journal under the now-standard title "The Masque of the Red Death."[15] The original title emphasized the figure at the end of the story; the new title puts emphasis on the masquerade ball.[16]
Film, TV, theatrical, or radio adaptations

The story inspired Russian filmmaker Vladimir Gardin's A Spectre Haunts Europe in 1921.

Basil Rathbone read the entire short story in his early 1960s Cademon LP recording The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Other audiobook recordings have had Christopher Lee, Hurd Hatfield, Martin Donegan and Gabriel Byrne as readers.

Short films based on the story include a 1969 Zagreb Film production, Maska crvene smrti, and [17] a 2006 Tarantula production directed by Jacques Donjean, Le Masque de la Mort rouge.[18]

The story was adapted in 1964 by Roger Corman as a film, The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price. The film also adapted parts of another Poe story, "Hop-Frog", involving the court jester and his wife. Corman produced, but did not direct, a remake of the film in 1989, starring Adrian Paul as Prince Prospero.[19]

The story was adapted, combined with elements from Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," by American director Orson Welles as a planned episode for the Poe anthology film Spirits of the Dead, which was to have starred Welles as Prince Prospero and Oja Kodar as Fortunata. The French producers replaced the episode with segments directed by Roger Vadim and Louis Malle.
The story was adapted by George Lowther for the January 10, 1975, broadcast of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. It starred Karl Swenson and Staats Cotsworth.

A radio reading was performed by Winifred Phillips, with music she composed. The program was produced by Winnie Waldron as part of National Public Radio's Tales by American Masters series.

The story has been adapted by Punchdrunk Productions, in collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre, as a promenade theatre performance in Battersea from September 17, 2007 to April 12, 2008.[20]

Musical adaptations and references

The heavy metal band Crimson Glory wrote and released the song "Masque of the Red Death", which follows the story, on their 1988 album Transcendence.

The horror adventure game The Dark Eye features a reading of the story by writer William S. Burroughs.

The metal band Stormwitch released the song "Masque Of The Red Death" on their 1985 album Tales Of Terror. Its lyrics follow the storyline.

The post-hardcore band Thrice effectively re-tells the story in the song "The Red Death", on their album The Illusion of Safety.

The Red Death is a metal band from Upstate New York whose name is derived from the title disease and released albums on Metal Blade Records and Siege of Amida/Ferret Records.


1.^ Fisher, Benjamin Franklin. "Poe and the Gothic tradition" as collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521797276 p. 88
2.^ Roppolo, Joseph Patrick. "Meaning and 'The Masque of the Red Death'", collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 137
3.^ Roppolo, Joseph Patrick. "Meaning and 'The Masque of the Red Death'", collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 134
4.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801857309. p. 331.
5.^ Roppolo, Joseph Patrick. "Meaning and 'The Masque of the Red Death'", collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 141
6.^ Laurent, Sabrina. "Metaphor and Symbolism in The Masque of the Red Death", from Boheme: An Online Magazine of the Arts, Literature, and Subversion. July 2003. Available online.
7.^ Peeples, Scott. "Poe's 'constructiveness' and 'The Fall of the House of Usher'" as collected in The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521797276 p. 186
8.^ Rein, David M. Edgar A. Poe: The Inner Pattern. New York: Philosophical Library, 1960. p. 33
9.^ Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Harper Perennial, 1991. ISBN 0060923318 p. 180-1
10.^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. Cooper Square Press, 1992. ISBN 0815410387 p. 133
11.^ Cummings Study Guide for "The Masque of the Red Death"
12.^ "Molecules of Death" 2nd edition, edited by R H Waring, G B Steventon, S C Mitchell. London: Imperial College Press, 2007
13.^ Roppolo, Joseph Patrick. "Meaning and 'The Masque of the Red Death'", collected in Poe: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Regan. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967. p. 139-40
14.^ Ostram, John Ward. "Poe's Literary Labors and Rewards" in Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe. Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987. p. 39
15.^ Edgar Allan Poe — "The Masque of the Red Death" at the Edgar Allan Poe Society online
16.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. p. 149. ISBN 081604161X
17.^ "The Best of Zagreb Film Volume 1". Rembrandt Films.
18.^ "Le Masque de la Mort rouge de Jacques Donjean". Suivez mon regard.
19.^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. p. 150. ISBN 081604161X
20.^ National Theatre online

Deathday: "Hollow Earth" Theorist John Cleves Symmes Jr. 1829

John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1779 – May 1829) was an American army officer whose 1818 Hollow Earth theory, expounded on the lecture circuit, gained him considerable notoriety.


Symmes was born in New Jersey to Timothy Symmes. In some local dealings he used the name Junior to distinguish himself from his prominent uncle John Cleves Symmes. His cousin, Anna Harrison briefly served as First Lady of the United States. He died in May 1829 and is buried in Symmes Park at Hamilton, Ohio. His son, Americus Symmes, erected a Hollow Earth monument above his grave.

He joined the United States Army in 1802 and rose to the rank of Captain during the War of 1812. He was stationed along the Canadian frontier, at both Fort Niagara and Fort Erie.

His 1818 theory of a Hollow Earth, envisioning a shell about 1250 km (800 mi) thick, with openings at both poles about 2200 km (1400 mi) across with four inner shells also open at the poles, made his name famous/notorious.

Some have claimed he was the real author of: Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, which was attributed to "Captain Adam Seaborn." A recent reprint gives him as the author. Other researchers argue against this idea. Some think it was written as a satire of Symmes ideas, and believe they identified the author as an early American writer named Nathaniel Ames who wrote other works, including one that might have served as the inspiration of Moby Dick. (see Lang, Hans-Joachim and Benjamin Lease. "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathanial Ames" New England Quarterly, June 1975, pg 241-252.)

Symmes himself never wrote a book of his ideas, as he was too busy expounding them on the lecture circuit, but others did. His follower James McBride wrote Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres in 1826. Another follower, Jeremiah N. Reynolds apparently had an article that was published as a separate booklet in 1827: Remarks of Symmes' Theory Which Appeared in the American Quarterly Review. In 1868 a professor W.F. Lyons published The Hollow Globe which put forth a Symmes-like Hollow Earth theory, but did not mention Symmes. Symmes's son Americus then published The Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres to set the record straight.


Compare a fictional echo of Symmes in Ian Wedde's Symmes Hole (1987); and a focus on both Symmes and Reynolds in James Chapman's Our Plague: A Film From New York (1993).

Poe Note

Poe used elements of the hollow earth theory in the ending to his only novel:

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is saved by the crew of the Jane Guy. Aboard this vessel, Pym and a sailor named Dirk Peters continue their adventures further south. Docking on land, they encounter hostile black-skinned natives before escaping back to the ocean. The novel ends abruptly as Pym and Peters continue towards the South Pole.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"For Annie" Published 1849

"For Annie"

by Edgar Allan Poe

Thank Heaven! the crisis-
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last-
And the fever called "Living"
Is conquered at last.

Sadly, I know
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length-
But no matter!-I feel
I am better at length.

And I rest so composedly,
Now, in my bed
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead-
Might start at beholding me,
Thinking me dead.

The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:- ah, that horrible,
Horrible throbbing!

The sickness- the nausea-
The pitiless pain-
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain-
With the fever called "Living"
That burned in my brain.

And oh! of all tortures
That torture the worst
Has abated- the terrible
Torture of thirst
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:-
I have drunk of a water
That quenches all thirst:-

Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground-
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.

And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed;
For man never slept
In a different bed-
And, to sleep, you must slumber
In just such a bed.

My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting its roses-
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:

For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies-
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies-
With rue and the beautiful
Puritan pansies.

And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie-
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.

She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast-
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.

When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm-
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.

And I lie so composedly,
Now, in my bed,
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead-
And I rest so contentedly,
Now, in my bed,
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead-
That you shudder to look at me,
Thinking me dead.

But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie-
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie-
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.

"For Annie" (1849)

"For Annie" was written for Nancy Richmond (whom Poe called Annie) of Lowell, Massachusetts. Richmond was a married woman and Poe developed a strong platonic, though complicated, relationship with her. The poem was first set to be published on April 28, 1849 in the journal Flag of our Union, which Poe said was a "paper for which sheer necessity compels me to write." Fearing its publication there would consign it "to the tomb of the Capulets," he sent it to Nathaniel Parker Willis for publication in the Home Journal on the same day as Flag of Our Union.[18] The poem talks about an illness from which Richmond helped Poe recover. It speaks about "the fever called 'Living'" that has been conquered, ending his "moaning and groaning" and his "sighing and sobbing." In a letter dated March 23, 1849, Poe sent the poem he wrote to Richmond saying, "I think the lines 'For Annie' (those I now send) much the best I have ever written."

Nancy Richmond would officially change her name to Annie after her husband's death in 1873.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Eldorado" Published 1849


by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

"Eldorado" is a ballad poem by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in April 1849.


The poem describes the journey of a "gallant knight" in search of the legendary El Dorado. The knight spends much of his life on this quest. In his old age, he finally meets a "pilgrim shadow" who points the way through "the Valley of Shadow." It was first published in the April 21, 1849, issue of the Boston-based The Flag of Our Union.[1]


The poem is made up of four six-line stanzas. Poe uses the term shadow in the middle of each stanza. The meaning of the word, however, changes with each use. First, it is a literal shadow, where the sun is blocked out. In the second, it implies gloom or despair. The third use is a ghost. The final use, "the Valley of Shadow," references the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," possibly suggesting that Eldorado (or riches in general) does not exist in the living world. Eldorado can also interpreted not as the worldly, yellowish metal, but as treasures that actually have the possibility of existence in the abode of spirits. These "spiritual" treasures are that of the mind: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In this case, Edgar Poe doubted the worthiness of humanity to possess such "mental wealth" and admitted to the inescapable worldliness of mankind.

The time of the poem's publication, 1849, was during the California Gold Rush and was Poe's reaction to that event.[2]

"Eldorado" was one of Poe's last poems. As Poe scholar Scott Peeples wrote, the poem is "a fitting close to a discussion of Poe's career."[3] Like the narrator of the poem, Poe was on a quest for success or happiness and, despite spending his life searching for it, he eventually loses his strength and faces death.[3]


1966: An abridged form of the poem, sung in verse appears in the John Wayne-Howard Hawks Western film of the same name, El Dorado. The poem was sung at the beginning of the film by George Alexander, accompanied by The Mellomen, with the lyrics adapted by John Gabriel and set to music by Nelson Riddle. It is sung and spoken in the movie by a young James Caan.

1993: "Eldorado," along with "Hymn" and "Evening Star", was adapted by choral composer Jonathan Adams as Three Songs from Edgar Allan Poe for SATB chorus and piano.

1996: The poem was used for the lyrics of a Donovan's song on his album Sutras.

2000: "Eldorado" was adapted as song by the Darkwave band Sopor Aeternus on the album Songs from the inverted Womb.

2008: Craig Owens released a demo version of a song titled "El Dorado" on his Myspace page. The song uses Poe's poem as lyrics.

2009: The Jim O'Ferrell Band, of Richmond, Virginia (where Poe was raised), released a song based on the poem (retitled "El Dorado") on their album Back to the World.


Silverman, Kenneth (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0060923318.

Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe, A to Z (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. ISBN 081604161X.

1.^ Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, Paperback ed., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801857309. p. 605.
2.^ Campbell, Killis. "The Origins of Poe," The Mind of Poe and Other Studies. New York: Russell and Russell, Inc., 1962: 159.
3.^ Peeples, Scott. Edgar Allan Poe Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998: 172. ISBN 0-8057-4572-6