Your 2020 Halloween Guide w/ Edgar Allan Poe

I frickin’ love Halloween. 🎃 Now, while it wasn’t always big in Kosovo, all things considered, my parents always made an effort to make it worth while for me and Jon. Whether that included going for a chaperoned trick or treating spree with the neighborhood kids, or going to a kid-friendly costume party in DreamLand (#nostalgic), we always made a day out of it. Did I mention I love Halloween?

Since this year Halloween will likely be cancelled, I wanted to talk to you about one sure-fire way you can spend a good and eerie Halloween by yourself. Dim your lights, get yourself a nice hot tea, and cozy up under a blanket with a good old Edgar Allan Poe piece.

A self-proclaimed fan, I still never know whether it’s Edgar Allan or Edgar Allen Poe… nevertheless, I digress. I’m not the biggest fan of Edgar Allan Poe, but I am a fan, in part due to my high school covering his work in our English curricula (I 💖 you, Prishtina High School!).

If you’ve never heard of Poe, you might find him a little odd. He’s a mid-19th century American writer and poet, and if you can get over the slightly older English, he’s really worth your time. The way I’d best describe him, is that he’s like the emo goth kid that gives Butter’s sound life advice in a South Park episode. In fact, I think Poe makes a cameo in that episode as well.

Poe is gloomy and dark and the most Halloween-appropriate writer I can think of. His poems and short stories (at least the one’s I’m familiar with) usually include an eerie plot twist at the end, that makes you shiver. He’s not your typical beach read per se, but he is great for a nice fall evening at home, especially if it’s raining outside and you have some nice ambiance lighting going on, and there’s a global pandemic to add to the fear. Fun!

I wanted to recommend some of his pieces to you for this Halloween, and I reached out to a few of my friends from high school to see which pieces they would like to recommend as well. Without further ado, here’s what the ladies of Prishtina High School would recommend you start with:

The Bells (1849) 🔔

The first recommendation comes from Dina, who recommends reading The Bells. The poem is constructed around four-parts, each representing a different type of bell, and each changing the (literal and figurative) tone of the poem. “It is a good representation of the human stages of life: from a happy childhood to a (lonely) death,” Dina explained. “I enjoy the author’s creativity in using bells to represent milestones like birth and marriage, while simultaneously shifting from an innocent, happy mood to a more fatal one in the end”.

HEAR the sledges with the bells — Silver bells !
What a world of merriment their melody foretells !
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, in the icy air of night !
While the stars that over sprinkle; All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight.

Read the full poem here.

The Tell Tale Heart (1843) 🖤

Next up, we have The Tell Tale Heart, which is a short story recommended by my friend Florentina. “I like how in this horror story Poe is actually trying to warn people about the consequences of their actions,” Florentina explains, adding that the story is quite similar to Dostojewski’s Crime and Punishment. The story is one of my particular favorites as well, and it follows a narrator as he comes to terms with his murderous deeds, until his consciences drives him to … you’ll have to read and see!

“Now this is the point. You fancy me a mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded – with what caution, with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. “

Read the full story here.

The Cask of Amontillado (1846) 🧱

Our third recommendation comes from Dea, who recommends The Cask of Amontillado. In her words, “What else speaks of Poe more than a good old tale of being buried alive?”. Now if that doesn’t convince you that you should spend your Halloween with Poe, I don’t know what will. The story follows a narrator who gets his friend, Fortunato, drunk and starts building a (literal and figurative) wall around him in the basement, so he cannot leave. “If you‘re a fan of the morbid and sinister, I would highly recommend this piece. It’s short enough to make you question human reasoning but exiting enough to keep you hooked until the end.”

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. 

Read the full story here.

The Raven (1845) 🐦

Last, but not least, I would like to recommend everybody’s gateway Poe poem: The Raven. In The Raven, the narrator has recently been parted from his love, Lenore, and as he is mourning her loss, he is greeted by a raven that taps at his door. The poem then explores the conversation that the narrator and the raven have. The narrator is uneasy at the raven’s visit and asks him numerous questions about Lenore, whether he will see her again, and whether his heart will grow easy again, to which the Raven only answers “nevermore”, almost driving the narrator insane.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Read the full poem here.