“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Edgar Allan Poe, 1845

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Edgar Allan Poe, 1845 – A hoax, published as if it were true.  A man with tuberculosis is put into a state of hypnosis (by mesmerism) at the point of death. A gruesome sputtering of words occurs at death. The scientist’s distanced description of the body during the process is perhaps of note, the “the jaw” slackened, “the tongue” vibrated. The man is left in this state for months; the scientist continues to check on his now cold, lifeless body. When he is released from hypnosis, his body disintegrates.

Comments: Online text.  An example of Poe’s use of hoaxes which, for me, recalls the early 20th century French avant-gardists who also merrily tested the foundations and limits of “belief.” See H. Bruce Franklin’s commentary in Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century. Available in The Phoenix Pick Anthology of Classic Science Fiction. Intro notes that Poe was interested in the psychological and what brings man to edge of madness. Wikipedia provides an extensive analysis which notes that Poe may have studied medical texts or used his wife’s tuberculosis in his descriptions of the body’s transformation. Either may explain Valdemar’s desire to avoid death by tuberculosis and thus his willingness to serve as a subject of medical experimentation. Wikipedia also notes that the “disgusting imagery” of this story may have inspired the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. The article also notes that unlike in other works by Poe, this death is not beautiful but, rather, is “brutal and sensational.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe, January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic.”


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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926 and earlier, death/immortality, dreams/hypnosis, horror, knowledge/truth/epistemology, psych/mind/madness, the body, the scientist. Bookmark the permalink.

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