Celebrating the Female Writers of Horror

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Featured Horror Books Women in Horror

Women don’t get a lot of credit in any field that they may excel in, so why should the world of literature be any different? While, they get recognized by their peers, how many of you can name more than a handful of famous female horror authors off the top of your head? It’s unfortunate that most can’t, to say the least, but that’s something that we plan to remedy here today.

Woman in the dark
Photography by H.F.E. & Co.

While we are asserting that all of the writers listed here are horror writers, a lot of these amazing women have actually produced written work that is outside of the horror genre–or, even more astoundingly, their main genre of work may not even be horror.

Mary Shelley

(08/30/1797 – 02/01/1851)

Mary Shelley

Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein (1818) which is quite widely cited as the very first Science Fiction horror novel. Unfortunately, her career wasn’t quite as prolific as some modern writers, but her work seems to have been more about quality, rather than quantity. Unsurprisingly she wasn’t the first writer within the horror genre, but she was the first female horror writer and she did invent two completely different subgenres of horror. I do find it rather nice though, that all of her works are within the public domain and can be enjoyed by anyone who wishes to read her Gothic-styled genius.

Check out our coverage of Mary Shelley in her Dead Author Dedication we did earlier this year.


Daphne Du Maurier

(05/13/1907 – 04/19/1989)

Daphne du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier has generally been classed as a romantic novelist, but the stories she produced in her lifetime have been described as “moody and resonant,” and most if not all of them have paranormal and supernatural overtones. Critics never gave her a fair shot when her bestselling works were first published, but her exceptional talent with her voice in narrative changed their minds and earned her a persistently unparalleled reputation.

A few of her novels have been adapted into films—quite successfully in fact, including Rebecca (1938), adapted by Alfred Hitchcock to film in 1940—which starts off as such an innocent romance, but quickly turns into a story with such a haunting atmosphere, you can’t be sure if it’s a ghost story, or one of subterfuge. Don’t even get us started on his adaptation of her novel The Birds (1952) which was released in 1963!

Some Books to Read by Du Maurier

  • Jamaica Inn (1936)
  • Rebecca (1938)
  • My Cousin Rachel (1951)
  • The Birds (1952)
  • Not After Midnight and Other Stories (1971)

Unfortunately, we haven’t covered the life and times of Daphne Du Maurier as of yet, but believe us when we say that her style of writing is phenomenal–actually, don’t believe us, read some of them and decide for yourself! Since we’ve been trying to cover a single dead author per month, in memoriam during the month in which they passed, we won’t be visiting the life and achievements of Daphene Du Maurier in full until April of 2021.


Shirley Jackson

(12/14/1916 – 08/08/1965)

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is one of those writers that the weird, dark, and haunted can thoroughly relate to–personally, I believe that she is the one writer I can relate to the most. Not because she was insanely talented–I’m not self-centered enough to believe I rank on her level–it’s because she never made an attempt to pretend that she was in any way normal and I mean that in complete admiration.

If you’re interested in learning more about Shirley Jackson, take a look at the articles we did to honor her for August’s Dead Author Dedication:


Lois Duncan

(04/28/1934 – 06/15/2016)

Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan made a name for herself by writing for young adults–those transitioning from childhood to adulthood, who needed a voice to relate to that would help them understand what it was like to have to evolve into a responsible human being, even under the worst of circumstances. As a horror writer for the young and the young-at-heart, Duncan left a legacy, not only for her readers, but for those who were inspired to follow in her footsteps.

She paved the way for writers and creatives to finally be able to appeal to the younger audiences who, otherwise would only have had adult horror to turn to–because, let’s be honest, those among us who love horror now have loved horror for a long time and if it hadn’t been for Duncan’s books we might not have had age-appropriate content for our nerdy dark brains to dive into.

You can learn more about Lois Duncan through our exploration of her life, literary achievements, and legacy–Puzzle Box Horror style, in our Dead Author Dedication in July 2020.


Anne Rice

(10/04/1941 – Present)

Anne Rice

She is a best-selling American author and having sold nearly 100 million copies of her books, is one of the most widely read authors in modern history. World-renowned, among her works the most well-known are the Vampire Chronicles, where she demonstrates her ability to convey love, death, immortality, existentialism, as well as the human condition under the umbrella of the gothic horror genre. One thing is certain, aside from Mary Shelley, Rice is possibly the most popular female author on this list!


Octavia E. Butler

(06/22/1947 – 02/24/2006)

Octavia E. Butler

Butler started her writing career in her twenties after studying at several universities and she blended elements of science fiction and African American spiritualism in her novels. Her first book, Patternmaster (1976) which would kick start her first series of books. It wouldn’t be her last series, however, as she continued to write and publish books up until her death in February of 2006. Although Butler was better known to be an author of science fiction, she often incorporated elements of our favorite genre, horror. Her most horror-inspired novel was published just a year before her death and told the story of a girl who discovers she’s a vampire. Often hailed as a genius, Butler worked to address racism from her vantage point as a writer and exposed the horrors of oppression in American history. When talking about one of her most popular books, she explained that, “[she] wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”

Join us in February of 2021, for when we honor Butler’s contribution to horror.


Kathe Koja

(01/06/1960 – Present)

Kathe Koja

As a writer, director, and independent producer, Kathe Koja is a multiple platform powerhouse of a woman—her talent allows her to work within several different genres, from Young Adult, to contemporary, to historical, as well as horror fiction genres. Several of her novels have won awards and have also been translated into multiple different languages and her work has also been optioned for film and performance pieces.


Caitlín R. Kiernan

(05/26/1964 – Present)

Caitlín R. Kiernan

As an Irish-born American, Caitlín R. Kiernan is a published paleontologist and author of both science fiction and dark/horror fantasy. An accomplished author in her own right, Kiernan has published ten novels, a series of comic books, and over two hundred fifty short stories, novellas, and vignettes—for all of her hard work she has received both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards twice!


Tananarive Due

(01/05/1966 – Present)

Tananarive Due

Tananarive is an all-around wonder when it comes to the horror community, not only is she an award-winning author, she also teaches about Black Horror and Afrofuturism at the University of California Los Angeles. But wait, there’s more—as a prominent figure in black speculative fiction over the last twenty years, she and her husband collaborated to write “A Small Town” for the second season of the reboot of The Twilight Zone. This is by no means a complete biography for Due but we hope it’s enough to interest you in her incredible literature and work for equality as she helps to educate in the exclusionary history of not just American history, but horror history.

To get better acquainted with Tananarive Due, check out her official website and the upcoming article we have dedicated to her work in horror.

For a more in-depth look at the history of horror and the role that black people have historically played within the genre, keep an eye out for Shudder’s Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Tananarive Due is listed as an executive producer for this highly anticipated documentary and it’s coming out in February 2021, just in time for Black History month!


Gemma Files

(04/04/1968 – Present)

Gemma Files

London-born, Gemma Files is a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic—but she had quite a meager start as a freelance writer until she landed a continuing gig with an entertainment periodical called Eye Weekly. It was this position that led to her gaining local traction, as she began critiquing horror, independent, and Canadian films. In 1999 Gemma won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Short Story, with The Emperor’s Old Bones. Since then, five of her short stories have been adapted to television for The Hunger series. She’s been nominated for countless awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award in 2009 and 2010 for a short story and novelette respectively.


Jemiah Jefferson

(01/01/1972 – Present)

Jemiah Jefferson

Another elegant African American horror author, Jemiah Jefferson toes the line between horror and erotica through her gift to horror-loving women everywhere—her Voice of the Blood series about the famous creatures of the night has been called “smart, beautiful, sexy, and vicious.” (I’m not going to lie, I may have purchased all four of them the very same day I discovered her.) Jemiah has a lot more to offer in the way of novels and short stories, however, and we’re exceptionally excited to share her with you all.


Helen Olajumoke Oyeyemi

(12/10/1984 – Present)

Helen Oyeyemi

Oyeyemi and her writing are equally unique, her writing transcends any genre that attempts to confine or define her, so the best way we can describe her work is a blend of horror, fantasy, fairy tales, and folklore. While not a dedicated horror writer, her work is often unsettling (just the way we like it), frightening, and she often explores the paranormal, bizarre, and supernatural elements of fiction. When she was a young woman, just twenty years of age, she published her first novel The Icarus Girl (2005), which mixed the paranormal with Gothic horror themes and Nigerian folklore. In 2009, her novel White is For Witching, was published and is considered one of the great modern cosmic horror novels—we personally loved it!


Kat Howard

(09/14/19** – Present)

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As a modern-day writer in a genre dominated by a more masculine influence, Kat Howard is a refreshing change of pace–since the best writing is when you are allowed to immerse yourself in the story and are otherwise unaware of the writer’s gender, skin color, sexuality, or how they otherwise identify themselves.

We were lucky enough to be able to speak to Kat Howard recently—so, check out the interview that we did with Kat Howard, where she speaks about her novel The End of the Sentence (2014), horror, and what it’s like to be a writer. You can check out that interview here if you’d like to know more!

You can find out a bit more about her on her official website, kathowardbooks.com and you can also follow her on twitter!


We reserve the right to update this list in the future to further represent female writers of the horror genre that we may currently be unfamiliar with–an exclusion of an amazing female horror author here only means that we have yet to be introduced to her work! Let us know if you believe someone should be included here!

Cinema and Television Inspired by Horror Author Richard Matheson

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Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

Many of Richard Matheson’s works went from page to screen pretty successfully–perhaps that’s part of the reason why so many people are familiar with work that he originally penned, but are unaware of the source of the story. After such a long career, one might hope that people would come to recognize your name, but it didn’t seem to bother Matheson, who seemed to only write for the love of writing.

The Films Based on Matheson’s Novels

I Am Legend (1954) is Richard Matheson’s most talked-about novel–it was such a success and inspiration to creatives everywhere that it was even adapted to film three separate times. The Last Man On Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007) all wonderful movies in their own right, just never seemed to capture the concept behind the original novel.

The Last Man On Earth (1964)

The Last Man On Earth (1964) Movie Poster

The dark tale of The Last Man On Earth takes place in a post-epidemic nightmare world, where a scientist by the name of Robert Morgan–played by Vincent Price–is the only man immune to a vampire plague which has transformed the entire population on Earth. This vampire society comes to fear Morgan, as he turns into a monster slayer. As a scientist, he studies the plague and ends up being able to cure one of them, by transfusing his blood into her. This upsets the vampire race and they end up killing him for what he has done to Ruth.

The Last Man On Earth on IMDB

The Omega Man (1971)

The Omega Man (1971) Movie Poster

Considered the second adaptation of I Am Legend to film, Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, a man who is the only recipient of a serum that made him immune to the germ warfare between Russia and China. This caused him to be the only known normal human left alive and he lives in a gaudy, antique-decorated penthouse in Los Angeles where he roams the vacant city by day and fends off bloodthirsty (read: vampire) mutant scavengers. Eventually, Neville comes across a young group of healthy non-vampires, which destroys the idea of him being the last remaining normal human being.

The Omega Man on IMDB

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend (2007) Movie Poster

The third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, this attempt at the film follows Robert Neville–played by Will Smith–as the last man on Earth struggling to survive and fend off the infected victims of the vampiric plague. He’s a brilliant scientist who is meant to find the cure to a highly contagious superbug–something he is inexplicably immune to, as we find out later in the film. By day, Neville searches high and low for supplies, sends out desperate radio messages with the hope to find other survivors, and by night he hunkers down in his fortress of a home while attempting to find the cure to the virus by using his own blood in experiments on vampires he has captured. The horde of vampires is more intelligent than Neville realizes, however, and they take vengeance upon him after he captures a vampire woman who the alpha vampire is bonded to.

I Am Legend on IMDB

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The Legend of Hell House (1973) Movie Poster




Adapted from Hell House by Matheson, into a screenplay by Matheson himself, four people with supposed extrasensory powers are hired to spend the weekend in a haunted house in order to gather evidence of the haunting.

The Legend of Hell House on IMDB



Stir of Echoes (1999)

Stir of Echoes (1999) Movie Poster

Tom Witzky lives a fairly normal life, he works in Chicago and lives with his wife and son, not believing in anything out of the ordinary. One night, while at a party, Tom and his sister-in-law, Lisa, get into a verbal debate about psychic communication and the power of hypnosis–he challenges Lisa to hypnotize him, so she does. She plants a post-hypnotic suggestion for Tom to be more open-minded and things begin to happen.

A Stir of Echoes on IMDB

Television Shows Inspired by Matheson

Matheson wrote several screenplays, including sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone, where he could simply pitch an idea and spur an entire episode.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2002)

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963) Screenshot

A salesman is traveling via plane after a recent nervous breakdown–after being told that he’s recovered from his issues–while flying, he begins to believe he’s seeing a monster climbing on the wing of the plane and damaging the engine. The only problem is, is that he’s the only one who sees it.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet from The Twilight Zone on IMDB

Cursed Books You Should Read at Your Own Risk

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle
Old library filled with ancient books

It may seem like the spookiest thing about walking into a bookstore these days is how empty it is, with many choosing to swipe away on their Kindle as the shelves of old and rare books collect dust. But that’s nothing compared to the cursed books that have haunted us for centuries. While novels are supposed to bring wisdom and wonder, there are a few books in the world so cursed that one page flip will leave you with years of bad luck and misfortune.

From cursed Japanese poetry and witch’s spellbooks to a deadly novel that kills anybody who dares to edit its pages, the world of literature has a dark side that you couldn’t even imagine. Read on for our top five most cursed books to read at your own risk. 

young woman reading the orphans story

The Orphan’s Story

It can take a while for an author to get their big break, even the first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected 12 times – but 400 years is surely a new record. Written in the early 1600s by Martin de Leon Cardenas, The Orphan’s Story is a Golden Age novel about a 14-year old Spaniard who heads to the Americas in search of fortune. While it may sound like the typical feel-good adventure story, a major darkness lurks within its pages that led to the novel not being published until 2018. 

Belinda Palacios, a Peruvian scholar who edited the book for two years, says that she was warned by multiple people about The Orphan’s Story. They told her that the book was cursed, and the reason it had taken so long to publish was that anybody who worked on it would die in mysterious ways. While she initially laughed it off, research showed that those who previously edited the book died in horrific car accidents or of strange illnesses. Did the powers-that-be not want the ancient script out in the world? Palacios remains alive and well two years after the book’s release… so here’s hoping the curse has lifted.

The Untitled Grimoires

You would think people have watched enough scary movies to know never to mess with a witch’s spellbook… but apparently not. The Untitled Grimoires is a set of two handwritten, spiral-bound spell books, sold by an online retailer for nearly $14,000 back in 2013. The books were handwritten in the 1960s by Persephone Adrastea Eirene, a high priestess of Wicca who supposedly led her own coven. All 250 pages are filled with incantations, spells, enchantments, and details on how to summon spirits and demons.

However, there is a serious catch. The seller warned buyers that any non-believers who messed with the books would bring a deadly curse upon themselves, while Persephone herself explicitly tells readers on the first page that proceeding with the book would have serious consequences. She wrote, ‘To those not of the craft – the reading of this book is forbidden!  Proceed no further or justice will exact a swift and terrible retribution – and you will surely suffer at the hand of the craft’. Since the absolute best way to get somebody to do something stupid is to tell them it’s forbidden, we really hope that the buyers of this cursed book made the right decision.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

Most parents give their kids toys or a new phone as a gift, but Abramelin gave his son a book full of mythical curses. That works too. Since it was translated to English in 1900, this 15th century novel has had a reputation for being cursed. There are several theories why, but most believe it has to do with the mage’s belief that everybody has their own, unique personal demon. 

Throughout the book, he gives instructions for rituals and supernatural feats to bring your demons under control. Any paranormal enthusiast knows that it’s risky to reach out and communicate with the spirit world, so it’s not surprising that readers of this book have reported bad luck and hauntings by spirits from another realm.

old cursed book

The Grand Grimoire 

When a book is nicknamed the “gospel of Satan,” you may want to think before cracking it open. Said to be written by a man possessed by the devil, this 16th century book is known as one of the most terrifying occult books in existence. It contains dark incantations and instructions on how to summon demons and raise spirits from the dead. That last part may sound appealing to those who are grieving or suffering from loss, but this book’s dark reputation makes it one of the most feared medieval manuscripts of all time. 

Since even opening the book is considered equivalent to selling your soul to the devil, it’s a good thing that The Grand Grimoire is not available for purchase. It’s said that the original copy is currently kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, and not currently available to the public.

The Voynich Manuscript

There’s nothing more frightening than the unknown, and this is why The Voynich Manuscript has become one of the most mysterious and feared books of all time. Written in the 15th century, all 240 pages are inscribed in an indecipherable language that has frustrated and cursed people with bad luck for years. While countless historians and researchers have tried to crack the code, none have been successful.

Was it written by people from another country? An unknown species? Alien life? Nobody knows… but it’s been long speculated that a fatal curse will be unleashed on anybody who finally unlocks this terrifying language. 

The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key Of Solomon book cover

The Lesser Key of Solomon is a grimoire of demonology. Like many of these books, it has multiple names and is also known as the Clavicula Salomonis Regis. To add to the mystery the original author is unknown although several authors who have re-written it take credit on some cover variations. The pictured version is available on Amazon even.

The books is actually divided into five discreet books—the Ars Goetia, Ars Theurgia-Goetia, Ars Paulina, Ars Almadel, and Ars Notoria. Most historians believe the book of spells is a compilation taken from other grimoires dating as far back as the early 1500s. In essence, it is really written by many previous authors and compiled into a master book of magic. The contents include summoning demons, angels, and spirits. Creating magical talismans, spells of invisibility, curses, and anything else you might imagine wanting to conjure using magic.

Owners of the original manuscript report strange happenings such as pages turning on their own, the book flying off the shelf, hearing whispers in the dark and seeing dark shadowy figures after obtaining the book.

Arguably it might be safer to buy one of the re-writes as perhaps curses don’t transfer, but to be on the safe side maybe just observe this book at a distance.

Departing From the Mind of H.P. Lovecraft

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Featured Lifestyle
Colour Out of Space by Ludvik Skopalik
Artwork by Ludvik Skopalik

During this month’s Dead Author Dedication of H.P. Lovecraft, we have talked about his life, death, literature, his own personal inspirations, and how he has inspired authors and artists all over the world since his death. The question on this writer’s mind is, “how did a master crafter of the written word end up poor and barely able to make ends meet doing what he loved?” and what that means for aspiring writers.

The Legacy of Lovecraft

Last week we delved into the topic of why and how the work of Lovecraft never really successfully makes it into the film medium; since he was such an influential writer for the horror genre. Other authors in this genre have had their work be adapted into films–sometimes these stories are so popular they have even been remade, to update the story with more modern age techniques and higher quality film in order to see if they could do a better job capturing the original source. Stephen King has been one author who has been successful and lucky enough to be able to boast this honor, the productivity of his own lifetime of writing is something of a celebrity amongst aspiring writers. Any writer would be so lucky to capture even a fraction of the renowned that someone like Stephen King has managed, but the kind of reputation that Lovecraft has grown to develop as a writer since his death has a deeper and more concealed appeal.

H.P. Lovecraft Interview (1933)

The thought of having a cult following has an enchanting draw for artists, one that evokes the concept of an inextinguishable legacy; an artist who may have struggled from their creative inception can’t help but entertain the fantasy of their work not only lasting long after their life has ended but becoming more appreciated with time. There have been so many artists inspired by the chaotic and terrifying concepts that Lovecraft helped to create, that we were able to construct a list of books for people interested in learning more.

Even Lovecraft himself never expected to live to see his own stories adapted into film and like all good authors and literary critics, he agrees that while the film industry is a great and complex art form, it cannot and will not ever hope to replace literature entirely. His argument here, and we’re inclined to agree, is that literature is far too complex a beast to ever be matched by the artistic avenues of film. One cannot hope to accomplish the intricacies of the written word with mere dialogue and action, where words effectively capture our innermost thoughts, desires, fears, and secrets.

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft statue in Providence, RI
H.P. Lovecraft Statue in Providence, RI
Artwork by Gage Prentiss; Photography by David Lepage

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft comes across as a fairly low budget short film, which lies more in the mystery genre, but it’s a brilliant show of how Lovecraft inspired minds to create a more complex, tangled, and generally incomprehensible universe–one that alludes to far greater, far darker, far more ancient and terrible things in comparison to the world that man knows. Lovecraft’s legacy was what can really bring hope to aspiring creatives, his legacy of work speaks to the complexity of the overflowing river that is the human imagination. This is a river that can never truly run dry, but it is only the limits of our own mundane experiences that can place our creativity within constraints.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community.

Now that we’ve spent a month looking into the creative, yet dark and hellish mind of H.P. Lovecraft, it’s safe to say we know a fair amount about him–but there is always more to learn about his work that helped the horror genre become what it is today?

Is there anything you’d like to add about this mad and mysterious mind? Comment below!

Edgar Allan Poe, the Father of Gothic Horror

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Featured Horror Books
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

Dark and mysterious in life and in death, Edgar Allan Poe is most famous for the Gothic horror genre, was a master of macabre poetry and short stories that are the stuff of nightmares. As an American writer, he made a surprising number of enemies through his harsh literary critique of their work. His abundant well of imagination and creative abilities directly enabled him to create a new genre and he has long been considered the father of the modern detective story. While that alone is impressive enough, he is also often regarded in literary history as the architect of the modern short story. As a creative individual, he was also a principle forerunner of the Art for Art’s Sake movement within nineteenth-century European literature.

Edgar’s life, just like his profound short stories, is largely shrouded in mystery to this day. The substantial confusion between the facts and the falsehoods is a direct result of the blatant misrepresentation in a biographical piece written by one of his enemies—in an attempt to smear the dead author’s name. As a result of these widely distributed beliefs, Poe’s image has formed into one that is a morbid, macabre, and mysterious figure who dabbles and lurks in spooky cemeteries has contributed to his legend.

This horror icon grew to become such a renowned author due to his ingenious and profound stories, poems, and critical theories, which proved in time to be influential within their respective fields. He began to be the author everyone associated with tales of murderers and madmen, the prospect of being buried alive, and revenants returning from the dead. He is most widely known for poems like “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but that’s not even close to the extent of his most famous works.

Poe managed to produce such compelling literature that he has remained in print since 1827. A man who led an incredibly dark and dreary life and somehow managed to produce these works of literary horror art that was consistently beautiful and haunting.

Early Life

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809; his parents were both traveling actors who Edgar was never able to truly get to know. His father was David Poe Jr. Who was originally from Baltimore, his mother Elizabeth Arnold Poe was British in descent. Both died before Poe was even three years old, while his father’s cause of death is unknown, we do know that his mother succumbed to tuberculosis which officially left Poe and his siblings as orphans. At that point, Poe was separated from his brother William and sister Rosalie and he alone was sent to live with John and Frances Allan—a successful tobacco merchant and his wife who lived in Richmond, Virginia. While Edgar seemed to develop a bond with Frances Valentine Allan, Poe’s relationship with John remained unsteady. Allan would never legally adopt his foster son Edgar, but he did send him to the best schools available where he was always a good student.

Despite butting heads, Allan raised Poe to be a Virginian gentleman, as well as a businessman; unfortunately for Allen, Poe was drawn to writing. By the time Poe was a mere thirteen years old, he was already a prolific poet, inspired by the British poet Lord Byron. Unfortunately for Poe, his efforts and literary talents were highly discouraged by his foster father and his headmaster at school. Since Allan raised Poe to be a businessman, he of course did not approve of the fact that Poe preferred to write poetry. He would also allegedly draft poetry on the back of some of Allan’s business papers—needless to say, this was frowned upon by Allan.

Adulthood

Education

Poe was admitted to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1825, where he once again demonstrated his scholarly abilities. Unfortunately, a miserly John Allan sent Poe to his university with less than a third of the funds he would have needed to finish and he quickly accumulated debt. As a result, Poe turned to gambling to raise the money he needed to pay his expenses. By the end of his first term, Poe was rumored to have been so poor, that he had to burn his furniture to keep himself warm. This left him humiliated for being impoverished and furious with Allan for putting him in that position.

Forced to drop out of school, Poe returned to Richmond, Virginia where things went from bad to worse. When he arrived in Richmond, he went to visit his fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster, to the shocking discovery that she had become engaged to another man. After hearing this dismal news, a heartbroken Poe returned to Boston,

Military Service

Poe decided to join the U.S. Army in 1827, the same year he had published his first book—after serving for two years, Poe received news that Frances Allan, his foster mother, was dying of tuberculosis. Sadly, Frances passed away before Poe was able to return home to say his goodbyes. Heartbroken once more, he moved a few hostile months spent living with Allan drove him back to Baltimore to follow his dreams of writing, but also because he was able to call upon relatives for assistance. One cousin ended up robbing him blind, but fortunately for Poe, he met Maria Clemm, another relative who welcomed him with open arms and became a surrogate mother to him. In 1929, Poe was honorably discharged from the army, after having attained the rank of regimental sergeant major.

West Point Military Academy

Two years after meeting Clemm, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point and continued to write and publish poetry. Poe once again demonstrated his ability to excel in any class but was thrown out after only eight months of attendance. It’s speculated that Poe intentionally got himself expelled to spite his foster father, by ignoring his duties and violating regulations.

In 1831, after moving to New York City, Poe published his third collection of poems, then to Baltimore to live with Clemm, before finally ending up back in Richmond, where the relationship between Poe and Allan had finally deteriorated.

Career

Poe began to follow his dream of being a writer when he published his first book Tamerlane (1927) at the age of eighteen. Later on, Poe was in Baltimore when his foster father passed away, leaving him completely out of the will and instead, witnessed an illegitimate child whom Allan had never met inherit everything. Poe was still living in poverty, but publishing his short stories when he could. One of these submissions won him a contest which was sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. Poe made valuable connections through winning this contest, which allowed him to publish more stories, and eventually, he grabbed an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. This would be the first of several journals that Poe would direct over the following decade, through which he would rise in prominence as a critical writer within America.

While his writing continued to gain attention in the late 1830s and the early 1840s, his income from this work remained minimal and he was only able to truly support himself through his work editing Burton’s Gentleman Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia as well as the Broadway Journal in New York City.

Short Stories & Poetry

In 1935, Poe began to sell short stories to magazines—this was also when he began to establish himself as a poet—his best-known works and poems were made during these years, the years when he was happily married despite already being a depressed alcoholic.

Literary Critic

The Southern Literary Messenger was the magazine where he ultimately obtained his goal to become a magazine writer. Before a year had passed, Poe helped to make the Messenger the most popular magazine in the south—it was his sensational short stories and his absolutely ruthless book reviews. Poe ended up developing a reputation for being a ruthless critic who would not only attack an author’s work but also insult the author themselves as well as the northern literary establishment. This job led to Poe writing reviews that were meant to target some of the most famous authors in America—one of which was Rufus Griswold, the anthologist who would become Poe’s worst enemy in life and death!

Married to his Cousin

Clemm’s daughter, Virginia, began carrying letters to Poe’s love interest at the time, but soon after became the object of his desire. He began to devote his time and attention to her and when Poe finally moved back to Baltimore he brought both his aunt Clemm as well as his twelve-year-old cousin, Virginia. The couple was married in 1836 while she was still only thirteen and Poe was twenty-seven. The age difference, as well as the marrying of a cousin, was still considered a normal thing during this era, even though by modern standards, it would be inappropriate for a child to become a bride. The marriage proved to be a joyful one and it’s likely that it was one of the happiest times during his life, but finances were fairly tight throughout despite Poe’s gain in acclaim as a writer.

Taken by Tuberculosis

Virginia was tragically taken in 1947, at the young age of 24, which happened to be the age that Poe’s mother was when she also died of tuberculosis. Poe was devastated by Virginia’s death, so much so that he was unable to write for months—his critics assumed he would die soon after and they weren’t wrong. Yet, it’s also rumored that he became involved in a number of romantic affairs before he was engaged for the third time. This time to his original fiancée, Elmira Royster Shelton, who had recently become a widow just as Poe had become a widower.

Mysterious Death

While in preparation for his second marriage, Poe arrived in Baltimore in late September of 1849. He was discovered in a semi-conscious state on October 3 and was taken to a hospital. He ended up dying four days later of “acute congestion of the brain,” without regaining consciousness to explain what had happened to him during his last days on earth. Neither Poe’s mother-in-law Mrs. Clemm nor his fiancée Elmira knew what had become of him until they read about it in the papers. Medical practitioners later reopened his case and hypothesized that Poe could have been suffering from rabies at the time of his death, but the exact cause still remains a mystery.

Libelous Obituary

Only days after Poe’s death, one of his main literary rivals—he had several due to his moniker “The Tomahawk Man,” when he wrote his scathing literary reviews—Rufus Griswold, decided to write a libelous obituary about the dead author. This was done in a misguided attempt to get his revenge against Poe for some offensive things that Poe had written and said about him. Griswold attempted to smear Poe’s image by labeling him a drunken, womanizing, madman, who possessed neither morals nor friends; his hope was that these attacks on Poe would cause the public to dismiss his works and cause Poe to be forgotten completely. Unfortunately for Griswold, his libelous attack on Poe had the opposite effect on audiences and immediately caused the sales of Poe’s books to skyrocket, higher than they had ever been during his lifetime. The joke was truly on Griswold, however, who instead of being recognized as a writer is only recognized (if vaguely) as Poe’s first biographer, even if he intentionally botched the whole thing.

Work Cited

Edgar Allan Poe. (2020, September 03). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/writer/edgar-allan-poe

“Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe.

Poe’s Biography: Edgar Allan Poe Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.poemuseum.org/poes-biography