Edgar Allan Poe's 10 Scariest Stories - Listverse (2023)


Edgar Alan Poe. Can you think of a name that's more synonymous with chillingly macabre literature? Poe, a master of both prose and poetry, lives in that dark corner of our literary consciousness, along a creaking corridor of dust and cobwebs. Even more than a century later, reading Poe still feels like walking a razor blade between grim amusement and irrevocable madness. Here is a list of ten of Poe's most famous short stories and poems. Halloween is still a few months away, but there's nothing wrong with starting early...


Hop wound

Published in 1849

A dwarven court jester is the title character of this devilish revenge story. Hop-Frog is the childish king's favorite entertainer. But when the king and his extravagant cabinet humiliate Hop-Frog's girlfriend Tripetta, he decides to play a trick on her. He dresses them up as monkeys for the king's grand masked ball, then sets them on fire in front of the shocked crowd. As he flees with Tripetta, Hop-Frog revels in his revenge, declaring, "This is my final prank."


The facts in the M. Valdemar case

Published in 1845

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By the mid-nineteenth century, the pseudoscience of mesmerism was all the rage in the salons of the American bourgeoisie, and Poe made it the central theme of this gruesome tale. On the verge of dying from tuberculosis, a certain M. Valdemar allows himself to be hypnotized in an eccentric experiment in immortality. Unfortunately for Valdemar, his soul is trapped within his now dead and increasingly corrupted earthly remains. Definitely one of the more graphic Poe tales and one of several dealing with the horrors of the mortal mind.


the black cat

Published in 1843

The narrator and his wife have several pets. Among them is a big black cat named Pluto. One day, while drunk, the narrator blinds Pluto in one eye and then hangs the cat from a tree. Mysteriously, the house burns to the ground, leaving behind the silhouette of a cat hanging from a gallows. Later, our narrator acquires another cat who is eerily similar to Pluto. Outraged again by the drink, he attempts to kill the cat, but instead murders his wife and hides her body in a basement wall. As the police are nosing around, they are drawn in by a howling sound coming from the wall. Then they discover the corpse of the woman on which the screeching black cat is sitting, condemning her master for his terrible crime. [Image: "Poe's Black Cat" by Aubrey Beardsley]


Murders in the Rue Morgue

Published in 1841

C. Auguste Dupin is a Paris-based man tasked with solving the shocking murder of two women after a suspect has already been arrested. Several witnesses claim to have heard the killer, but report that different languages ​​are spoken. Later, at the crime scene, Dupin discovers a hair that cannot be human. It later turned out that the killer is actually a fugitive Ourang-Outang. This is considered the birth of the crime novel. And let's face it, what's scarier than a giant, knife-wielding primate?


Das Fass Amontillado

Published in 1846

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In an unnamed European city in an unspecified year, old Montresor finds himself resentful of poor Fortunato and too much free time to think of revenge. Montresor waits until Fortunato is well-behaved and drunk at the carnival before luring him to his bodega for a shot of fine Spanish sherry. He then chains an increasingly sober Fortunato to a niche in the wall and mercilessly locks him up. And there it stays forever. "In pace requiescat."


The Mask of the Red Death

Published in 1842

Prospero, a ridiculously distant potentate whose realm is being ravaged by a plague known as the Red Death, invites his wealthy friends to take refuge in an abbey and leave the poor to their fate. During a glittering masquerade ball, a mysterious hooded figure roams the abbey. Thinking he is dealing with an uninvited guest, Prospero confronts the figure and, to his horror, discovers that it is the incarnation of the Red Death himself. The decadent Prospero and all his guests fall ill and die without protection or exclusion from the misfortunes of the world at large.


The Fall of the House of Usher

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Published in 1839

An anonymous narrator arrives at the home of reclusive Roderick Usher and his ailing twin sister, Madeline. Roderick suffers from extreme sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, and hypochondria. Suffering from a debilitating illness, Madeline eventually dies and is buried in the family crypt at the cavernous mansion. On a stormy night, the narrator and Roderick hear squeaking and cracking noises in the house. We learn that the cataleptic Madeline wasn't dead when she was buried and has returned to confront her insane brother, who himself is dying of fright. The narrator then flees as the cursed house is swallowed up by the murky swamp.


the revealing heart

Published in 1843

Here we follow a narrator as he tries to prove his sanity to himself after murdering his elderly roommate. Driven insane by the old man's "vulture" eye, the narrator kills him in his bed and hides the dismembered corpse under the floorboards. When the police show up to question him, the narrator is at the mercy of his heightened senses. You begin to hear a steadily increasing heartbeat from the floor. Surely the police have to listen to him too (they don't), he confesses to the crime. When stating the facts, presumably before a judge, the killer's innocence is less important than his or her sanity or lack thereof.


The fountain and the pendulum

Published in 1842

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This story follows the horrors endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. Guilty of an unknown crime and housed in an utterly dark chamber, the protagonist is subjected to tortures only Poe could imagine. As he keeps falling unconscious, he discovers that he is tied to a platform swinging a slowly falling pendulum blade. He eventually finds a way out and is saved by an unlikely ransom. This story is unique in that it relies almost entirely on the senses, such as sounds, to convey primal fear rather than the supernatural. The only visual descriptions are cursory at best, and only serve to add to the horror of the unseen.


The Raven

Published in 1845

This narrative poem is undoubtedly Poe's most famous work. Musical, mysterious and even maddening, Poe tells the story of a grieving lover who is visited by a talking raven on a cold winter's night. At first, the narrator is curious about the purpose of the raven's single word: "Nevermore". He is soon overcome by memories of his lost love, Lenore, and begins to sense her presence. Believing the raven to be a messenger from the other world, the narrator implores him to say if they will meet in heaven, to which the raven replies, "Never again". We follow the narrator's descent into madness and despair while the raven sits forever at his bedroom door, forever haunting him with his call.

Featuring: The RePoe Man

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