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September 27th, 2023

edgar allan poe collage spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


October is here, which means many people will soon be gearing up for Halloween night at the end of the month here and are looking for spooky activities and other things to occupy the time until then. One of the ways I like to get into a bit of the spirit is picking up some spooky books by some of my favorite authors, and I’ve definitely read some good ones. 

One author in particular I enjoy reading, and have since my high school days, is Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve been fascinated by his life story and his fiction stories since that particular unit in Mrs. Martin’s English class my junior year and his stories are the perfect way to get into that spooky spirit. So I thought for this week, I’d talk about some of my favorites in Poe’s bibliography. 


The Raven

This poem centers on a lonely widower whose life gets upended one night when a large raven suddenly enters his chambers and perches there for the night and rather tortures the narrator. This was one of the first Poe works we read in English and I absolutely loved it because not only do you see inside the narrator’s mind as he descends into madness but the symbolism and other supernatural elements make this the perfect poem to read in the dark with maybe only a candle or two lit. There are several great dramatic readings of the poem on YouTube, as well as the adaptation done by “The Simpsons” in one of the show’s early “Treehouse of Horror” specials. 

The Cask of Amontillado

This was a story I read outside of my English class and to this day even just thinking about it gives me the chills. The story is set in an unnamed Italian city at carnival time is about a man taking fatal revenge on a friend who he believes has insulted him. What struck me about this story was how melodramatic the narrator is – first off, we never know what exactly the “insult” is and instead of talking to the man who has insulted him, he goes full-on crazy and decides to murder the guy by basically kidnapping him from the carnival and burying him alive behind a wall. Something else that REALLY scared me about this story was how the narrator has just such a cool head while going through with his nefarious plan and even now I can’t help but wonder “What could this guy have possibly done to make someone THAT angry at him?!” This is another story that demands a dark room with candlelight and an otherwise spooky environment. 


The Pit and the Pendulum

This was one I rediscovered rather recently and focuses on the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, though it’s not actually a historical work. This one really got to me because Poe writes it in such a way that you truly feel you are in that cell with the prisoner/narrator of the story and you feel all the fear and anxiety and everything else. The description of everything is so unsettling and the entire time while reading it, you’re wondering if some intervention will happen and the prisoner will be able to get out. Overall, another great read for a spooky night. 


The Masque of the Red Death

This story focuses on an extravagant ball being hosted by a rather arrogant prince during the time of the Black Plague and during the ball, the lives of the prince and his guests are upended by a stranger wearing a mask that resembles someone dying of the plague. Overall, it’s a rather interesting metaphor for no matter what you do and no matter how much you try to avoid it, fate will come for you one way or another. The description of everything is also done very well, making for another great spooky story. 


The Fall of the House of Usher

This was actually a story I found a while ago and took a crack at and ultimately ended up enjoying. The story focuses on an unnamed narrator as he stays with his friend Roderick Usher after a bad medical diagnosis, which his twin sister is also afflicted with. After his sister is found dead, many strange and spooky things start happening around the Usher family mansion. The supernatural descriptions are great, the story overall gave me chills and this should definitely be on the reading list if you’re looking for something spooky.


The Tell-Tale Heart

This story was another one I read in English class and much like “The Cask of Amontillado,” one of the main things I remember is how melodramatic the narrator is. During the story, the narrator tells the story of the murder he committed against his boss basically because he has a creepy eye. Instead of ignoring the eye and simply going about life, the narrator again goes full-on crazy and decides to murder the man and then stuffs the body under the floorboards before ultimately confessing to the police. It was one of those stories that made me shake my head while still overall enjoying it.