3 October

Don't vote, look what it did to Edgar Allan Poe.

October 3, 2009 · 2 min read

On 3 October 1849, in Baltimore, a printer named Joseph W Walker sent a letter to an acquaintance of Poe’s, Dr J E Snodgrass. ‘There is a gentleman rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s Fourth Ward polls,’ he wrote, ‘who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A Poe, and who appears in great distress. He says that he is acquainted with you, and I assure you he is in need of immediate assistance.’

Four days later, Poe was dead, and there was no shortage of people – among them the temperance fanatic Snodgrass – ready to blame it on drink and debauchery. In an article on The Facts of Poe’s Death and Burial, Snodgrass even falsified the contents of Joesph Walker’s note to the effect that Poe had been found ‘in a state of beastly intoxication’.

The many theories put forward for the cause of Poe’s death over the years have included alcohol poisoning, syphilis, apoplexy, diabetes, heavy-metal poisoning – and even rabies. But one of the most popular theories is that he was a victim of ‘cooping’, whereby he was kidnapped, forced to drink himself into a stupor and then used in multiple-voting frauds in the election taking place in Baltimore that day.


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