Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Edgar Allen Poe and The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death by Abigail Larson

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
Excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death


Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greatest virtuosos of American literature, author of famous poems such as The Raven, Ulalume, Anabelle Lee, and of mystery tales such as The Murders of the Rue Morgue, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Gold Bug, The Tell-tale Heart, The Premature Burial, and The Masque of the Red Death.

He was born in Boston in 1809 and lived in various Eastern cities. In 1849, he went on a journey and stopped in Baltimore, where he was found in a delirious condition near a tavern. Taken to hospital and confined to a building reserved for drunks, he expired on October 7, the cause of death never ascertained. Brain tumor, diabetes, syphilis, apoplexy, delirium tremens, epilepsy, meningitis, heart disease, lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, cholera, and rabies have all been postulated. Some have suggested he may have been drugged and taken by a gang to vote repeatedly in a political scam then prevalent on election days. He was buried without a headstone, but in 1875 the body was exhumed and placed in a new tomb marked by an appropriate monument.




GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2013 – Volume 5, Issue 1
Winter 2013  |  Sections  |  Literary Vignettes

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