Edgar Allan Poe holds a heralded place in the hearts of literature lovers thanks to his macabre and eerie oeuvre. Poe’s tragic life likely inspired much of his work, as the author gave the world poems about ghostly lovers and stories where guilt manifests as things like a thudding heart beneath the floorboards.
Most people know about Poe’s epic verse “The Raven” and its focus on the insanity-inducing repetition of the phrase “Nevermore.” Few remember the times his prose leaned more towards the viscerally terrifying, though, as in “The Black Cat” and “Hop-Frog.” Throughout his famous and lesser-known works alike, Poe’s descriptions remain as chilling to modern audiences as they were to readers in the 1800s.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” follows a narrator so consumed with causing the demise of his elderly roommate that he stalks the man nightly. The old man’s blind eye disturbs the mad narrator so much that he’s eventually driven to ends his companion's life.
After the completion of the deed, the narrator allows himself to be found out by imagining the man's thudding heartbeat emanating from his floor while police officers sit in his presence.
In “The Premature Burial,” a narrator preoccupied with being buried alive relays several tales about the fear. In the story of a politician's wife, the poor woman supposedly awakens in her final resting place.
After the narrator trips and skirts the edge of a yawning abyss in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” he awakens strapped in place. Moments later, a sharp, steel blade sweeping about him like the pendulum of a clock comes into view.
Unable to move, the narrator fearfully assesses his likely demise before he enacts a plan to harness the room’s rats so he can escape.
The narrator of “The Rue Morgue” speaks of an atrocity he eventually investigates along with his companion, C. Auguste Dupin. They read about the fate of Madame and Camille L’Espanaye in the newspaper, which shares every detail.
The madame’s horrific state is recounted first in the tale.