“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity”
Edgar Allan Poe
Halloween is a holiday of horrors. As Halloween rolls back around, it is again the time of year that most people welcome a good scare, horrifying decor, or frightening tales.
There really is no better opportunity than this holiday of horrors for appreciating the fiction of one of the most renowned Gothic horror authors: Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American writer, poet, critic, and editor. Today, many of Poe’s writings have been deemed literary classics. However, it is his visceral short stories that have truly captured the interest and hearts of countless readers.
Many of Poe’s well-known short stories either come from his collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a collection of spine-tingling tales published in 1839, or belong to his collection of detective stories, which earned him the nickname “Father of the Detective Story.”
In honor of this great author and the holiday of horrors, below is a quick introduction to two of Poe’s famous Gothic Horror short stories:
The Tell-Tale Heart
A classic Gothic horror story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous pieces of fiction. It was this short story that initially earned Poe world-acclaim.
“A Tell-Tale Heart” is a first-person narrative of an anonymous character refuting an accusation that the narrator is suffering from an attack of nervousness or insanity. Instead, the narrator claims that what “you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses.”
The narration then turns to the story, describing the “vulture eye” of an old man that drove the narrator to become a murderer.
Each night, the narrator slowly inched into the old man’s room, waiting for hours preparing to carry out the murder once he glanced the evil eye. Finally, on the eighth night, the old man wakes to the sound of wood creaking, caused by the narrator in wait at the bedroom door, and the murder is finally carried out.
With precision in a moment of clarity, the narrator slices up the old man’s body and buries it underneath the bedroom floorboards to conceal the crime. Finally at peace, the narrator prepares to return to bed, only to be stopped by the ringing of the front door. It was the police.
The old man’s final scream was overheard by the neighbors, who informed the police of a disturbance. Confident that there was no evidence, the narrator brings the police officers on a tour of the house ending at the scene of the crime, where the narrator offers them a seat. As time passed, the narrator hears the faint sound of a heartbeat from under the floorboards…
The Fall of the House of Usher
“The Fall of the House of Usher” uses the same narration style as that of “The Tell-Tale Heart”; it is first-person narrative short story. This story was included in Poe’s collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.
This story’s narrator is an unnamed character. The narrator begins by describing his/her arrival at a friend named Roderick Usher’s remote and unkempt house after being summoned by an urgent letter.
The narrator is welcomed by Roderick, who along with his sister Madeline are the only remaining members of the Usher family. Roderick eventually tells the narrator the reason for requesting a visit, which is that Roderick believes his house is alive and that his own fate is tied to that of the deteriorating house.
After some time, Roderick checks on his sister and finds that she passed away, before insisting that she must be buried for a period of two weeks in the family tomb located within the house, then be moved to a permanent grave. The narrator describes helping Roderick put the body in the tomb.
During the first week of Madeline’s interment, the narrator and Roderick are constantly on edge. One night, during a violent storm, Roderick claims that the thundering noises vibrating throughout the house are coming from his sister’s temporary resting place. Almost immediately, a flash of lightning reveals Madeline standing in the doorway, only to then collapse with Roderick like corpses onto the ground. Terrified and in complete shock, the narrator flees the house as it begins to crumble…
Edgar Allan Poe brings a touch of elegance and mystery to the genre of horror. Though his writings may induce some chills, you won’t want to stop reading until you have reached the end of the story
If you enjoyed reading about these short stories, take a minute to read more of his work at https://poestories.com/