Edgar Allan Poe, an author famous for stories and poems of the macabre, met and end as mysterious and strange as one he might have written about himself. On October 3,1849, he was found in a delirious state on the streets of Baltimore. According to Joseph W. Walker, the man who found him, he was “in great distress and . . . in need of immediate assistance.” He died of unknown causes on October 7 at 5 AM in Washington College Hospital. Several theories exist as to what may have caused Poe’s death, including suicide, murder, cholera, rabies, syphilis, influenza, brain tumor, and poisoning by carbon monoxide or heavy metals. Some speculate that he fell victim to cooping, a method of voter fraud in which victims were abducted and forced to vote for a particular candidate, often multiple times using an array of false identities and under the influence of alcohol. Poe is buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, now part of the University of Maryland School of Law.

  • A portrait of Poe by William Abbot Pratt, September 1849- one month before his death
    A portrait of Poe by William Abbot Pratt, September 1849- one month before his death
  • Monument marking Poe's grave
    Monument marking Poe's grave

A rival of Poe’s, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, sought to ruin his reputation posthumously. Under the pseudonym "Ludwig," he wrote an obituary for Poe which appeared in the New York Tribune on October 9. The obituary declares: 

Edgar Allan Poe is dead...This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it. The poet was well known, personally or by reputation, in all this country...but he had few or no friends; and the regrets for his death will be suggested principally by the consideration that in him literary art has lost one of its most brilliant but erratic stars.

Griswold further claimed that it was a habit of Poe’s to wander the streets in delirium and talk to himself, describing Poe as follows:

He was at all times a dreamer — dwelling in ideal realms — in heaven or hell — peopled with creatures and the accidents of his brain. He walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayers, (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned), but for their happiness who at the moment were objects of his idolatry — or, with his glances introverted to a heart gnawed with anguish, and with a face shrouded in gloom, he would brave the wildest storms; and all night, with drenched garments and arms wildly beating the winds and rains, he would speak as if to spirits. (see below under "sources" for a link to the full obituary).

Griswold also published Poe’s first full biography, where he portrayed him as a drunk, drug abuser, and madman. Poe nevertheless had prominent fans as well. Alfred Tennyson, for example, composed an epitaph in Poe's honor: 

Fate that once denied him, / And envy that once decried him, / And malice that belied him, / Now cenotaph his fame.

In the decades following his death, Poe continued to invite mixed opinions; as scholar Kevin Hayes explains, there were "three predominant attitudes toward Poe" by the 1870s: "popular acclaim, measured skepticism, and ardent enthusiasm."

Poe was initially buried in an unmarked, neglected grave. In the 1860s and 70s, however, a group of concerned citizens raised the money to build Poe a proper monument, which was dedicated in 1875, with Walt Whitman in attendance. Tennyson's epitaph was read at this ceremony. The monument is made of marble on a granite base. It mistakenly records Poe's birth date as January 20 (rather than January 19, the correct date).

Bandy, William. "Dr. Moran and the Poe-Reynolds Myth." In Myths and Reality. Baltimore, MD: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987. Available here: http://www.eapoe.org/papers/psbbooks/pb19871d.htm. p. 26-36.

Geiling, Natasha. "The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe." Smithsonian Magazine. October 07, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/still-mysterious-death-edgar-allan-poe-180952936/.

Griswold, R. W. "Death of Edgar A. Poe." New-York Daily Tribune, October 09, 1849. p. 2, cols. 3-4. Available here: http://www.eapoe.org/papers/misc1827/nyt49100.htm.

Hayes, Kevin, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 2002. Quoted text from p. 2.

Joseph, Gerhard. Tennyson and the Text: The Weaver's Shuttle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. p. 28.

Marcotte, Frank. Six Days in April: Lincoln and the Union in Peril. New York. Algora Publishing, 2005. p. 27 (on cooping).

Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York. Cooper Square Press, [1992] 2000. 

"Poe's Memorial Grave." Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. Accessed February 10, 2017. http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegrave.htm. 

Quinn, Arthur. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, [1941] 1998.