Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hideous Heart

It was a low, dull, quick sound – much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by E.A. Poe

I know many things about the man who will soon kill me. I know he fears my left eye with its watery film. Each night when he thinks I’m asleep, he cracks open my door and puts his head into my room. The single spider-thread of his lantern’s beam searches for that eye. But I close it tight, and he can’t see it, can’t bring himself to murder. Of course I am scared, so scared I can’t breathe. If I weren't so weak I’d leave. But I can hear his breath in the hall like a winter wind through a filthy alley, and I know he’s terrified too. His own heart must be pounding like mine, only stronger of course.
I know how he will dispose of me when my last night comes. Each morning he arrives to greet me cheerily, and chat about whether I’ve rested, and he gazes idly about the room to this spot and to that, as if all of it and none of it matter equally to him. But he always stands in the same place, the one place where he does not look, which is the loose board over a hollow space beneath my floor.
I know he can hear acutely. Whatever disease he has has sharpened his senses to an unbearable edge. He starts at the sound of beetles in the wall or a single cough from the street outside. And I know he’ll notice that small clock, which I wind each evening before bed and bury beneath the linens in my dresser’s bottom drawer.

The Conqueror Worm

Lo! ‘tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres...


Over at Flickr, Karl Eschenbach has a five-picture set illustrating one of Poe's lesser known, but utterly terrifying, poems. (Click on the photo to see the entire series. Published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Cask of Amontillado

Vincent Price has dramatized a number of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous works. I like the reading below, posted by mirkodamian on Youtube (he's uploaded other horror clips, including a Price reading of The Tell-Tale Heart.)

The piece is slightly edited from the original text. For example, the "mold" which fills the catacombs is "nitre," or potassium nitrate, in Poe's story. Also, there's a passage missing where Fortunato asks about Montresor's family motto: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit or, "No one provokes me with impunity." A fine touch for a tale of revenge. Still, Price is in rare form here, and his performance is ghoulish fun. I hear the bells jingling now.

Part 1




Part 2

Whisper-Man

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss – we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain.
-“The Imp of the Perverse” by E.A. Poe

I almost never listen to Whisper-Man. He tells me to step free of the bridge and see what happens. He says bad things when I’m outside the animal’s cage, when I handle a gun, when I notice the grinder’s spinning blades. I’m sure you’ve heard his voice as well.
Now we’re driving together – you, Whisper-Man, and me – on a long two-lane road. Ahead there’s a dip, so we see the onrushing truck duck down beneath the ridge as I’m popping into its lane, just for a moment, to pass another car.
But why don’t you linger? Whisper-Man asks me.
Linger, linger. And I can’t say no.
My spine electrifies as you make a comment... and then bark an order... and then grab for the wheel. As the truck’s driver punches his horn and pounds his brakes, and everywhere there’s the smell of scorched rubber. But somehow we make it through and you hit me on the shoulder, almost crying, and I laugh like it was a joke. Like I could control myself, and I knew we would be alright in the end.
Whisper-Man laughs too. He knows we have far to go.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Pit and the Pendulum


Another illustration by Harry Clarke. The strange-looking blade (who built that thing?), the victim's expression, and of course the rats make this picture truly nightmarish.

If you want more information about this classic Poe tale, please read on.

Images of Classic Terror


Harry Clarke, an Irish artist who died in the early 20th century, created some very creepy illustrations of Poe's work. The picture above portrays The Masque of the Red Death. I found this copy on the website of an artist named John Coulthart.


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