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Poe’s Philadelphia Experience

By Abigail Esten

By the scene is a vacant old house in the center of a bustling city. A cold chill follows you in before you can even shut the heavy door. There are no furnishings, only a barren fireplace of cold brick. The ambiance gives off the feeling of ice. The paint is desperately trying to peel completely away from the wall, and the bare wooden floors creek beneath your feet.

No, this is not the beginning of an Edgar Allan Poe story. This is the backdrop at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia.

Poe lived in Philadelphia from 1838-1844 and wrote most of his famous tales while in residence. It is here that Poe invented the mystery genre in American Literature. To pay the bills, Poe sold gothic tales to local newspapers and magazines such as the Philadelphia Saturday Courier and Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Poe’s years in Philadelphia were his most productive. He published over 30 short stories including The Gold-Bug, The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, among others. It is also believed that he began work on the Raven while living in Philadelphia.

Of his several Philadelphia homes, only one survives. Poe’s residence from 1843-1844, now a National Historic Landmark, is a small brick house on North Seventh Street in Old City Philadelphia. The residence itself is kept without furnishings, which adds to its Poe-esque character. Attached to the house is a museum complex dedicated to the literary life of Philadelphia, and especially to Poe and his days of greatness in Philadelphia.

For more information contact the Philadelphia Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, at 215-597-8780. Entrance is free, and special events are offered frequently. Especially exciting are the haunting events offered around Halloween.

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