Baltimore, October 3, 1849.
It was a dreary day in Charm City when a typesetter from the Baltimore Sun discovered an incoherent, delirious man close to death in the gutter outside of a public house called Gunner’s Hall. The typesetter recognized the man at once, for it was Edgar Allan Poe, the famed poet and author.
Poe was a known alcoholic - a habit that had taken hold of him ever since the death of his pretty young wife just two years earlier. Even more strange: Poe was not wearing his own clothes.
The typesetter managed to get Poe lucid enough to give him the name of a local friend, Dr. Joesph Snodgrass. Poe lived in New York at the time and had been visiting Richmond to propose to Sarah Elmira Royster, his childhood sweetheart. He was due in Philadelphia on assignment to edit a new collection of stories but never made it there.
Snodgrass was both a doctor and a newspaper man. He was disgusted by Poe’s drinking and when he saw his disheveled friend, he proclaimed him “in a state of beastly intoxication.”
Poe was in and out of consciousness during the next four days at Washington College Hospital where he was allowed no visitors. He repeatedly shouted, “Reynolds!” but no one knows to whom he was referring. Poe ultimately succumbed to his demons on October 7, 1849 at just 40 years old.
Theories, But No Explanations
To this day no one knows exactly what happened to Poe. In the years immediately after his death many went with the notion that he drank himself to death thanks to his alcohol abuse and a previous overdose of laudanum. Because of the mysterious nature of the clothing however, others suspect beating, murder, or cooping. Cooping was the practice of drugging a man, changing his clothes, and then forcing him to vote for a preferred candidate. October 3, 1849, the day Poe was found was election day. Modern doctors have also posited that he could have had rabies or a brain tumor.
Edgar Allan Poe was buried in a pauper’s grave, unmarked in the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. He was reburied in 1875 and given a memorial marker. In 2009, another funeral was held in remembrance of the renowned author.