The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

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kennyc
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The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby kennyc » Thu Oct 03, 2013 1:31 pm

On this date (10/3) in 1849), Edgar Allan Poe was found unconscious outside a pub in Baltimore — "in great distress and ... in need of immediate assistance," according to the man who found him. Poe had been en route from Richmond to Philadelphia on a business trip, and stopped off in Baltimore on September 28 for an unknown reason. He was found on Lombard Street, outside Ryan's Tavern, dressed in dirty and ill-fitting clothing. He was taken to Washington College Hospital, where he lapsed in and out of a coma until he died four days later. When he was conscious, he had brief periods of coherence, but mostly he was either combative or delirious. He was never able to tell how he came to be in such a state; newspapers reported "congestion of the brain" as the cause of death, which was a common euphemism for fatal circumstances that were socially unacceptable. There was no death certificate and no autopsy, so the reason for his demise remains a mystery.
Naturally, because he'd been found outside a tavern, alcohol was the first scapegoat, and one the temperance movement was quick to use to their advantage in Poe's time. It's true that he had a complicated relationship with the bottle. He first took up drinking back in his college days at the University of Virginia, and though he had long periods of sobriety, his reputation as a drunk followed him. He was dramatically affected by alcohol, becoming insensible or ill after only a couple of drinks, but he was aware of the problem and fought it his whole life. Even in college, his reputation as a drunkard far outstripped the reality. One professor recalled: "I often saw him in the Lecture room and in the library, but never in the slightest degree under the influence of intoxicating liquors. Among the Professors he had the reputation of being a sober, quiet, and orderly young man." Medical records also indicate that Poe had been sober for the six months leading up to his death.
Poe could have been the victim of "cooping." Political gangs would kidnap people, drug them, beat them, and force them to vote repeatedly at different ballot boxes all over the city, wearing an assortment of disguises. The cooping theory is supported by the fact that Ryan's Tavern was also a polling place, and Poe was found on election day; what's more, his clothes were dirty, threadbare, and didn't fit him. Poe always prided himself on his neat and stylish appearance, so this was not at all like him. Opponents of this theory argue that he was too well known a figure around Baltimore, and someone surely would have recognized him at one of the polling places.
There's a relatively recent theory that says Poe might have died of rabies. Dr. R. Michael Benitez, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, reviewed Poe's case. There's no way to prove anything without an autopsy, of course, but Benitez thinks that first-person accounts of the author's last days make a strong case for rabies. It's not unusual for people in the final stages of the infection to be combative and disoriented, with periods of lucidity. Poe also refused water — hydrophobia is another common symptom. He had several pets, one of which could have bitten him at some point. It's possible to be infected for nearly a year before serious symptoms develop, and once they do, the average life expectancy is four days—the amount of time Poe was in the hospital before he died.
Other possible causes that match his symptoms to varying degrees include syphilis, diabetes, brain tumor, epilepsy, and cholera. Poe's hair was analyzed in 2006, and the results ruled out lead and mercury poisoning, but in the absence of a thorough autopsy report, we will probably never know for sure.


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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Gord » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:23 pm

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Gord » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:23 pm

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"Knowledge grows through infinite timelessness" -- the random fictional Deepak Chopra quote site
"You are also taking my words out of context." -- Justin
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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Bart Stewart » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:52 am

kennyc wrote:
On this date (10/3) in 1849), Edgar Allan Poe was found unconscious outside a pub in Baltimore — "in great distress and ... in need of immediate assistance," according to the man who found him.


The whole business of "cooping" I always found to be almost beyond belief. I guess it happened, but crikey, how bizarre is that? Could they have possibly coerced enough votes that way to shift an election? I doubt that was the explanation for Poe's death, as he was a well-known guy.

Poe had bitter enemies in the literary world who exaggerated his alcohol usage, and generally slandered the hell out of him, in life and afterwards. The image of Poe that has come down to us is a distortion. He was never such a hard core boozer.

The death could have been from any one of a number of brain maladies. Your description of rabies was interesting. That should rank higher on the list of possibilities.

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Rob Lister » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:05 pm

I won't have you prove he 'wasn't a hard-core boozer' but you're right, that is the prominent description of him. If you do have evidence to the contrary, It would be nice of you to present it. I won't demand it.

Couple of quibbles:
When he was conscious, he had brief periods of coherence, but mostly he was either combative or delirious. He was never able to tell how he came to be in such a state; newspapers reported "congestion of the brain" as the cause of death, which was a common euphemism for fatal circumstances that were socially unacceptable.
...
It's possible to be infected for nearly a year before serious symptoms develop, and once they do, the average life expectancy is four days—the amount of time Poe was in the hospital before he died.


These days we call that delium tremons. The description fits. The circumstances fit. The symptoms fit. The timeline fits. The [purported] history fits. Occam whispers to me that rabies and coopers and other oddities are less likely.

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby fromthehills » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:17 pm

Rob Lister wrote:I won't have you prove he 'wasn't a hard-core boozer' but you're right, that is the prominent description of him. If you do have evidence to the contrary, It would be nice of you to present it. I won't demand it.

Couple of quibbles:
When he was conscious, he had brief periods of coherence, but mostly he was either combative or delirious. He was never able to tell how he came to be in such a state; newspapers reported "congestion of the brain" as the cause of death, which was a common euphemism for fatal circumstances that were socially unacceptable.
...
It's possible to be infected for nearly a year before serious symptoms develop, and once they do, the average life expectancy is four days—the amount of time Poe was in the hospital before he died.


These days we call that delium tremons. The description fits. The circumstances fit. The symptoms fit. The timeline fits. The [purported] history fits. Occam whispers to me that rabies and coopers and other oddities are less likely.



It is the most obvious, but surely the hospital would have been familiar with DTs, and it's simple treatment.

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Pyrrho » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:20 pm

IIRC the Poe case was presented to the author with Poe's name redacted.
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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Rob Lister » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:24 pm

fromthehills wrote:
Rob Lister wrote:I won't have you prove he 'wasn't a hard-core boozer' but you're right, that is the prominent description of him. If you do have evidence to the contrary, It would be nice of you to present it. I won't demand it.

Couple of quibbles:
When he was conscious, he had brief periods of coherence, but mostly he was either combative or delirious. He was never able to tell how he came to be in such a state; newspapers reported "congestion of the brain" as the cause of death, which was a common euphemism for fatal circumstances that were socially unacceptable.
...
It's possible to be infected for nearly a year before serious symptoms develop, and once they do, the average life expectancy is four days—the amount of time Poe was in the hospital before he died.


These days we call that delium tremons. The description fits. The circumstances fit. The symptoms fit. The timeline fits. The [purported] history fits. Occam whispers to me that rabies and coopers and other oddities are less likely.



It is the most obvious, but surely the hospital would have been familiar with DTs, and it's simple treatment.


They were familiar with it. They euphemistically called it "congestion of the brain".

Even today, benzodiazepine is really the only effective treatment. There was no treatment then to speak of.

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby fromthehills » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:49 pm

From Wiki:
On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker.[69] He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning.[70] Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul."[70] All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost.[71] Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism.[72] The actual cause of death remains a mystery.[73] Speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation,[3] cholera[74] and rabies.[75] One theory, dating from 1872, indicates that cooping – in which unwilling citizens who were forced to vote for a particular candidate were occasionally killed – was the cause of Poe's death.[76]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allen_Poe#Death


Rob wrote:Even today, benzodiazepine is really the only effective treatment. There was no treatment then to speak of.


I thought they did the ol' tapering off trick, back then. Sugar is supposed to help, too. I may start getting AA spam, now, but I don't see anything on treating DTs with small doses of alcoholic beverages, with quick searches, anyway.

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Rob Lister » Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:07 pm

Tapering off may delay the onset but won't stop it. Nothing stops it. Benzodiazepines treat the symptoms and reduce mortality from 30% to 3% depending on previous DT events and recoveries. Massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through your bloodstream like water. The brains production of serotonin pretty much ceases. Extreme paranoia and hallucinations ensues. Endorphins are pumped in waves too little too late, too much too soon. You drop in and out of consciousness. The heart says faster, faster, faster and then ...

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Re: The final mystery of Edgar Allen Poe

Postby Bart Stewart » Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:19 pm

I heard it from Garrison Keillor on his radio show for writers, the Writers Almanac. Poe had these fanatical enemies in the publishing world, one guy in particular, who did all they could to trash his reputation. They said he was falling down drunk half the time, doing all kinds of dope, etc., etc. It was a character assassination job. I didn't write down the details, but that's the gist of it, and it was on the Writers Almanac radio program.


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