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:
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