I’m sure everyone has heard of Poe’s work before, but today we are going to be going over some you may or may not be familiar with. Instead of: The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, or The Cask of Amontillado here’s some of Poe’s others work so you can spend this horrific October with the king of spooky tales.
I will cite the sources I used to read these tales, feel free to check them out but Poe Stories.com also has all of Poe’s work online and free so if any of these sound interesting… no excuse not to give it a read.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Hop-Frog.” The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Martin H Greenberg, Arbor House Pub Co, 1981, pp. 25-31.
Edgar Allan Poe delivers a haunting tale on the horrors that come from the retribution from those who have been scorned. The king’s jester is a deformed and crippled foreigner that the king has dubbed the cruel name of Hop-Frog. The king severely abuses Hop-Frog, most notable in forcing the lightweight to guzzle down goblets of alcohol only to suffer an adverse reaction.
The only person whom ever stands up for the poor jester is Trippetta, a dancer whom the king displays unkindness to after he strikes her down and splashes wine into her face. Gritting his teeth, Hop-Frog continues to amuse the king who is looking for a grand trick for the upcoming masquerade.
Hop-Frog aides the king and his council by having them dress up and pretend to be gallivanting beats all chained up. As the crowd shrieks at the uproar caused by these “ourang-outangs”, Hop-Frog takes the chains and hosts all the men to the ceiling. Hop-Frog reeks his vengeance as he raises a torch to the men whose flammable costumes cause them to suffer an agonizing fiery death. Hop-Frog proves that anyone is capable of malicious intent, when provoked by such misfortunes.
Hop-Frog is a tale of karmatic justice in which those who have been scorned get retribution in a wicked fashion. This tale is applauded for it’s allegorical merit, being a cathartic tale in which the literally “little man” is able to topple over the oppressive monarch by outwitting them and channeling his passionate rage against the cruel ruling class. The tale seems very inventive, featuring these wild spellings of orangutan to just give a even more beastly picture of the gruesome image of the parading drunks.
It’s actually interesting how the above image is actually not depicting this fictional tale but the historical event known as ‘le ba des ardents’ (The Ball of the Wild Men). This actually happened where French King Charles VI and his nobles dressed up in costumes and an accident with a torch fire turned fatal for some of them. While there’s no Peter Dinkleage in this version seeking revenge and the grizzly site of watching the king’s skin melt as some depiction of Poe’s tale showcases it is an interesting tale of painting a narrative around some historical truth.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser, Media Production Services Unit, Manitoba Education, 2012, pp. 33–42.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar is Poe’s attempt to capture a mad scientist’s pursuit to challenge the natural order through means of hypnosis. The narrator is a scientist who grows obsessed with studies on Mesmerism, more particular to experiment with his theories on “in articulo mortis” or right before death. The narrator finds his perfect subject in M. Ernest Valdemar who eventually informs him that he consents to being put under hypnosis.
Valdemar is put into a trance and is examined thoroughly. The narrator proceeds to ask Valdemar if he’s asleep which is returned with a frightening response of “Do not wake me! Let me die so!”. As observations are continued by the narrator and colleges they grow concerned with the declining vital signs of Valdemar. However, they persist getting to the point where Valdemar still in his trance barks that he is dead and begs to be let out of limbo.
The narrator shares how he perceives what happens next to be impossible for any human to have been prepared to see. Right before his eyes Valdemar’s body rapidly rots and melts away leaving only a putrid liquid where the body once laid in rest.
I like the absurdity of the set-up that it’s just this “what-if” scenario that’s kind of zany yet potentially horrific. It’s an interesting dynamic illustrated by science and the supernatural and it’s demonstrates a sort of Pandora’s box situation where the lust of knowledge is an ill pursuit. The build up to the finale is great they grind out the tension and really put you on edge to what will happen.
Extraordinary Tales did a fine job of illustrating this but I do enjoy that the gruesome details are for the most part left to your wild imagination. It reminds me of a Junji Ito tale (which I have or will discuss depending on the order I put these out) how it’s a slow march of anticipation towards a really grotesque, horrific imagery. I’m going to change my shoes real quick… I think I stepped in Mr. Valdemar.
The Black Cat
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Black Cat.” Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser, Media Production Services Unit, Manitoba Education, 2012, pp. 23-32.
Edgar Allan Poe uses acts of mutilation towards Pluto by the narrator to give a vivid context into the mind of a sociopath. The narrator of the story begins by remarking his fondness of pets and owned many through his early years. However, the narrator shares that his favorite pet was a large black cat named Pluto.
As the narrator one night becomes extremely intoxicated does he become enraged at the cat for avoiding him and in his drunken rage decides to gauge one of the cat’s eyes. The narrator’s remorse for his actions are quickly replaced with irritation and in his next drunken rage does he take the cat and hangs him from a tree. The narrator’s house burns down, and in the process of relocating does he find a substitute for his dear cat in an alley cat also missing an eye.
When the replacement cat nearly causes the narrator to trip, he again enters a delirious rage in which this time he ends up murdering his wife. As the narrator seals his wife within the walls, he mistakenly also walls in the cat whose roars alert the police causing them to discover the body.
The Black Cat confuses me because it’s like Poe was copying someone’s homework but changing it so the teacher won’t notice… but the homework was his own. So apparently Poe wrote the Tell-Tale Heart a story about: a psycho who decides to murder someone who he finds annoying but in a mental breakdown decides to confess to the police after hearing the excessive heart beating. So Poe was like that’s a great idea me, but there wasn’t enough animal abuse so… here’s a story about a psycho who decides to murder someone he finds annoying but in a mental breakdown decides to confess to the police after hearing the excessive ‘Meowing’.
It would seem on the surface like a self-parody but it is a wicked and twisted character study of a loathsome drunk and their warped mind.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Dark Descent, by David G. Hartwell, GraftonBooks, 1992, pp. 99–107.
Poe’s story emphasizes overwhelming fear suffered by Roderick Usher and the relationship of a narrator unable to calm those worries of death. The narrator visits the mysterious home of his childhood friend, Roderick Usher. The house is eerie having a crack stretching across the house’s entirety.
The narrator was summoned by Roderick who claims he feels ill. The narrator meets his old acquaintance and is surprised by his pale complexion and nervous demeanor. Roderick is stressed as his sister Madeline has a mysterious illness and he frets the Usher bloodline may end. The narrator attempts to calm his friend but to no avail. Madeline passes away and Roderick insists, she temporarily be sealed within a tomb. Roderick notices gas building around the house and the narrator says they are naturally occurring.
The narrator calms Roderick down with reading Mad Trist, an old knight tale that is interrupted by various noises throughout the house. Madeline has arisen and attacks Roderick and both collapse in death. The narrator fleas, witnessing the house of usher crumble to pieces. The fall of the house of Usher ultimately came to this demise because of not a plague of illness but of paranoia and fear.
The Fall of the House of Usher (baby) is an interesting open for interpretation piece as I think the happenings of the story work in both a supernatural or literal sense. It depends how much metaphor you want to attach to watching the “collapse of Roderick and the house”.
Extraordinary Tales displays the delightfully paranormal answer in which his sister is more of a haunting spirit and the house is destroyed in the process. Yet, there’s a literally argument that we are to distrust Roderick so much that his sister was able to escape her fortified tomb and the fright and exhaustion of that their reunion was the “spiritual” fall of the house (lineage) of Usher. It certainly is a frightening tale that creates a creepy atmosphere.
Poe’s works are always a frightful delight, and something to get into the Halloween mood. Be sure to come back for the next spooky stories, until then I’ll be here…. ALWAYS WATCHING. ALWAYS WAITING.