Edgar Allan Poe: “The Tell-Tale Heart”

See image credit below.

See image credit below.

Last Halloween, as the light was fading into dusk and the ghouls and goblins were getting ready to take to the streets, I re-read the first spooky story I ever remember reading: Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 piece, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Curled up and cozy warm in my house on a chilly October night, I thrilled once again – as I had so many, many times as a 12-year-old – to the story of the “nervous” narrator obsessed with the old man’s “vulture eye.”

I hadn’t read the story in decades, but on that Halloween night, the story was still just as scary and riveting as it had been when I was a young reader. Sure, there were other stories at the time that captivated me – the recording I had of the story about the young woman with the black velvet ribbon around her neck, the thick volume of ghost stories I pored over again and again – but I always came back to “The Tell-Tale Heart” when I wanted to experience true terror.

Surely you, too, have read this short masterpiece – a perfect example of Poe’s philosophy of composition. A story or poem, Poe believed, should create one overarching effect – and every word should contribute to that effect. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator’s obsession with the vulture eye and his mounting terror over hearing the old man’s beating heart drive the story to the wild confession at the end of the tale. It is a tour de force, every word building to the incredible end.

If you haven’t read “The Tell-Tale Heart” (or if it’s been years since you have), take a listen below. It will make you remember just how well Poe can spin a scary yarn, and you’ll want to read more. A great volume to have in your collection is Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. If you still haven’t had enough Poe, check out Poe Illustrated, a collection of more than 100 images inspired by Poe’s work.

This Halloween, I’ll be diving into Poe’s work once again – and I hope you will, too!

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Listen:Listen as I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” in its entirety — and follow along with the story here. The whole clip is just 16 minutes long, and you’ll get a bone-chilling thrill as you slip into the crazed mind of the maniacal narrator.

Image Credit: Edgar Allan Poe, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_crop.png