Engraving of Edgar Allan Poe by Félix Valloton in La Revue blanche, 1895 – Wikimedia Commons/
CAIRO – 19 January 2018: On January 19, 1809 the acclaimed American author
was born, master of the Gothic and a formidable short story writer across a wide variety of genres; he single-handedly shaped the course for horror, mystery and science-fiction.
Here's a look at ten of his many fantastic stories, showcasing his undying influence:
"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
One of Poe's earliest and most defining stories, this poem helped to perfectly establish the tone and mood of Gothic literature and has withstood the test of time until this day. The poem tells of a titular Raven who visits the narrator on a cold evening, and reminds the narrator of despair and death, all that is "nevermore".
The Tell-Tale Heart
"’Villains!' I shrieked. 'Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
A tale of maddening guilt, Poe masterfully captures the narrator's pitiful attempts to claim he isn't losing his mind, even as he describes how he hears the still-beating heart of the elderly man he murdered, haunting him from beyond the grave.
The Fall of the House of Usher
"There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart - an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.”
Another of Poe's most critically acclaimed short stories, Poe captures everything about the Gothic novel into one short story, telling the tale of a rich family living in an old Gothic manor, where it's last descendants are plagued by madness, believing the house to be alive.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
"To observe attentively is to remember distinctly."
Considered to be one of the earliest detective stories, predating even the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Poe laid out the groundwork for the whole genre, being amongst the first to utilize a detective protagonist with a keener sense for little details than those around him.
"You will observe that the stories told are all about money-seekers, not about money-finders."
At the time of publishing, “The Gold Bug” was in fact Poe's most wildly successful story; today most of the author's fans would be at a loss to name this one. Yet much like “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, Poe deserves credit for birthing the code-breaking genre. This treasure hunting story features the attempts to decipher a code in order to find the fortune.
"He knew that Hop-Frog was not fond of wine; for it excited the poor cripple almost to madness; and madness is no comfortable feeling.”
One of Poe's most outright bizarre stories and indeed, one of his last, “Hop-Frog” is the strange and morbid tale of a dwarf jester working under a cruel king, who seeks vengeance against him through the usage of Orangutan costumes.
The Cask of Amontillado
"I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.”
This tale of vengeance is set in an unnamed Italian city, and follows a man's efforts to murder a former friend after what he perceives to be an insult, despite the lack of evidence for the supposed crime. The tale ends in a truly terrifying manner.
The Black Cat
"Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart — one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of man."
Poe explores how a man succumbs to guilt over the horrific actions he committed. The narrator, an alcoholic, describes how he murders his own beloved black cat one night in a fit of drunkenness, and is now plagued with the feeling that his pet's ghost is haunting him, driving him further into horrific despair as he acknowledges his crimes all too late.
The Masque of the Red Death
"There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion.”
Poe eloquently describes man's futile efforts to escape doom in this tale of the selfish Prince Prospero, who chooses to ignore that his kingdom is being struck by a horrific plague and locks his castle. As he throws an elaborate costume party for all his favorite subjects, until they notice a mysterious visitor dressed like a corpse who brings with him The Red Death.
The Pit and the Pendulum
"In death--no! Even in the grave all is not lost.”
Throughout his stories Poe was fascinated by the helplessness of those buried alive, and he puts this fear to good use in this tale of a prisoner set to be executed in a most horrific way; fully aware that nothing will save him, he spirals into madness.