Tenant of the Grave

The Premature Burial  by Edgar Allen Poe  (1844)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    September  24, 2013

How do you feel about being buried alive? Who best could write about this horror than the Mr. Edgar Allan Poe with his magnetic prose and his unparalleled aptness of the pen.


Since next week begins October, the official Halloween month, and since I am planning on featuring a “Women in Horror Month” for Tales of Terror, I wanted to be sure to get a Poe short story to you to kick off the scariest month of the year. Halloween month wouldn’t be fulfilling without a Poe story. So, prepare yourself for a dark tale today.

Merciful God, being buried alive! Of all the human horrors to endure, is there a greater fear? Living in the 1800s, this fear was far more common than today with all our medical devices to declare the dead as truly dead.

From the opening lines …There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction … So we are plunged into the nonfiction, or so we think. We are introduced to several case histories (there are over one hundred well-authenticated cases) of people who were buried alive.  We learn of a Baltimore woman who although buried in the family vault, broke out of her coffin.  And then there is the young and beautiful Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade, buried in the village graveyard. Unbelievably, she is dug up and saved by her lover.


Our narrator, a nervous sort, is obsessed with tombs, cemeteries, and worms. Nightmares plague him of being buried alive in a locked coffin. Why? He has a peculiar disorder called catalepsy, an affliction that causes a human to enter a deathlike trance—possibly for days or weeks. Hence, being declared dead in error and buried alive in a locked coffin remains a living terror for him. What can he do to prevent this destiny?

Come into the realm of the nethermost Hell with our narrator. He will tell you that the boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.

Read the text at Classic Lit


Watch the internet film of The Premature Burial directed by Ric White, Willing Heart Productions (40 minutes). The performances are not exactly stellar (I’m being kind here) and the script is literally a screaming melodrama, but still this is a decent adaptation of Poe’s masterpiece.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBMSZozsY54

If you are a Netflix member, you can get the film starring Ray Milland, directed by Roger Corman (1962). Here’s the 4-minute preview trailer. This film is perfect for Halloween night.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9E7PZllXjI



Images are from The Black Box Club:


 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

GoodReads     WattPad   The Story Reading Ape Blog

Interesting Literature      Bibliophilopolis.wordpress.com

  Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror

Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify     Rob Around Books  

 Books on the Nightstand

TheInsatiableBookSlut   For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed


Filed under dark fantasy, Edgar Allan Poe, fiction, graveyards, horror, quiet horror, short stories, tales of terror

5 responses to “Tenant of the Grave

  1. Pingback: Becoming Death | Paula Cappa

  2. Pingback: Digging Up the Dead | Paula Cappa

  3. Pingback: Shapes That Haunt the Dusk | Paula Cappa

  4. Jay, I actually have not read Gordon Pym. “A Life Cut Short” is a definite must for me, now that you’ve mentioned it. I’ve been hearing about a new book, Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen that is due out in October. That’s on my list. Thanks for your attention to Tales of Terror. I find your Bibliophilopolis.wordpress.com to be of the highest quality!


  5. Jay

    Hi Paula,
    First of all, Let me say that I now look forward to Tuesday’s Tale of Terror each week, even if I do not always comment. 🙂

    Second of all, I don’t think I’ve read this tale by Poe, which surprises me since I thought I’d “read everything!” Your post, for me, calls to mind his story The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, where the protagonist almost has a “buried alive” experience when his stowaway cubbyhole aboard ship seems to have been forgotten by his ‘agent’ among the crew. His agony in that confined space – and Poe’s depiction of it – we’re probably a warm up for The Premature Burial (or maybe the other way around – I don’t know which came first).

    You’ve probably read it already, but if not, I found Ackroyd’s biography of Poe, “A Life Cut Short” very interesting and certainly worth a read for Poe fans.



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