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3 moments that might convince you Edgar Allan Poe was a time traveler.

In the case of Poe, it was his fiction that was, well, stranger than fiction.

3 moments that might convince you Edgar Allan Poe was a time traveler.


I'm pretty positive that Edgar Allan Poe had (has?) the power to travel through time. Hear me out on this one.

It's not just the well-known circumstances of his life — orphaned at a young age, father of the mystery novel, master of cryptology, maestro of the macabre. Nor am I referring to the head-scratching details of the days leading up to his death: how he was found on the street near a voting poll wearing someone else's clothes, and during his subsequent hospitalization, he was alleged to babble incoherently about an unidentified person named “Reynolds."

And I won't even get into the confounding reports of a nameless figure who, for seven decades, would show up to Poe's gravesite in the early hours of his birthday with a glass of cognac and three roses.



Tragic and curious, yes, but hardly evidence that the acclaimed horror writer could transcend the limits of space and time. No, my time travel theory concerns the author's creative output, which you'll soon see is so flukishly prophetic as to make my outlandish claim seem plausible — nay, probable!

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is a loosely linked map of flesh-eating floaters, crunched skull survivors, and primordial particles. OK, here we go…

Photo by Albert Sterner/Wikimedia Commons.

Exhibit A: "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket"

Published in 1838, Poe's only completed novel details a mutiny on a whaling ship lost at sea. Out of supplies, the men revert to cannibalism, drawing straws to elect a sacrifice. A boy named Richard Parker draws the shortest straw and is subsequently eaten.

Now here's where it gets weird(er): In 1884, 46 years after the novel's publication, four men would be set adrift following the sinking of their yacht. Shipwrecked and without food, they too would go the survival cannibalism route, electing to kill and eat a 17-year-old cabin boy. The boy's name: Richard Parker.

The extraordinary parallel went unnoticed for nearly a century, until a widely-circulated letter from a descendant of the real Parker outlined the similarities between the novel's scene and the actual event. The letter was selected for publication in The Sunday Times after journalist Arthur Koestler put out a call for tales of “striking coincidence." Striking indeed.

Image from the collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus/Wikimedia Commons/Wikimedia Commons.

Exhibit B: "The Businessman"

In 1848, a railroad worker named Phineas Gage suffered a traumatic brain injury after taking an iron spike through the skull. Somehow he survived, though his personality would change drastically. These behavioral changes were closely studied, allowing the medical community to develop the first understanding of the role played by the frontal lobe on social cognition.

Except for Poe, who'd inexplicably understood the profound personality changes caused by frontal lobe syndrome nearly a decade earlier. In 1840, he penned a characteristically gruesome story called “The Businessman" about an unnamed narrator who suffers a traumatic head injury as a young boy, leading to a life of obsessive regularity and violent, sociopathic outbursts.

Poe's grasp of frontal lobe syndrome is so precise that neurologist Eric Altshuler wrote, “There's a dozen symptoms and he knows every single one… There's everything in that story, we've hardly learned anything more." Altshuler, who, to reiterate, is a medically-licensed neurologist and not at all a crackpot, went on to say, “It's so exact that it's just weird, it's like he had a time machine."

Photo via NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

Exhibit C: "Eureka"

Still unconvinced? What if I told you that Poe predicted the origins of the universe 80 years before modern science would begin to formulate the Big Bang theory? Surely, an amateur stargazer with no formal training in cosmology could not accurately describe the machinery of the universe, rejecting widely-held inaccuracies while solving a theoretical paradox that had bewildered astronomers since Kepler. Except that's exactly what happened.

The prophetic vision came in the form of "Eureka," a 150-page prose poem critically panned for its complexity and regarded by many as the work of a madman. Written in the final year of Poe's life, "Eureka" describes an expanding universe that began in “one instantaneous flash" derived from a single “primordial particle."

Poe goes on to put forth the first legitimate solution to Olbers' paradox — the question of why, given the vast number of stars in the universe, the night sky is dark — by explaining that light from the expanding universe had not yet reached our solar system. When Edward Robert Harrison published "Darkness at Night" in 1987, he credited "Eureka" as having anticipated his findings.

In an interview with Nautilus, Italian astronomer Alberto Cappi speaks of Poe's prescience, admitting, “It's surprising that Poe arrived at his dynamically evolving universe because there was no observational or theoretical evidence suggesting such a possibility. No astronomer in Poe's day could imagine a non-static universe."

Photo from Dodd, Mead and Company/Wikimedia Commons.

But what if Poe wasn't of a day at all, but of all the days?

What if his written prophecies — on the cannibalistic demise of Richard Parker, the symptoms of frontal lobe syndrome, and the Big Bang theory — were merely reportage from his journey through the extratemporal continuum?

Surely I sound like a tinfoil-capped loon, but maybe, maybe, there are many more prophecies scattered throughout the author's work, a possibility made all the more likely by the fact that, as The New York Times notes, “Poe was so undervalued for so long, there is not a lot of Poe-related material around."

I'll leave you with this quote, taken from a letter that Poe wrote to James Russell Lowell in 1844, in which he apologizes for his absence and slothfulness:

"I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass… You speak of “an estimate of my life" — and, from what I have already said, you will see that I have none to give. I have been too deeply conscious of the mutability and evanescence of temporal things, to give any continuous effort to anything — to be consistent in anything. My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future."


This story was originally published on HistoryBuff and first appeared on 8.16.16




Education

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As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

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Woman shares the powerful impact of a 'hardcore' gym bro's words of encouragement

Previous experience had her feeling nervous when the man approached her at the gym, but what he said brought her to tears.

Steph shares how a few simple words made all the difference.

Going to the gym can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people. It shouldn't be—the whole point of going to the gym is to exercise, which is something that should universally be applauded—but sometimes it can feel like there's pressure to be at a certain fitness level or have a certain physique before stepping foot in the door.

For people who are heavier, gym culture can be especially intimidating. Unfortunately, not everyone remembers to practice kindness and fatphobia appears to remain a fairly tolerated prejudice. That shouldn't stop people with big bodies from enjoying all that fitness centers have to offer, but all too often, it does.

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In a video made from her car just after leaving the gym, Steph explained that a "hardcore" gym-goer who is "super tough" and covered in tattoos had came up to talk to her. Her initial response was to be afraid of what he was going to say to her, based on previous experience. She shared in the video how hard it's been to stay steady with her workouts, especially with medications she's on making her body hold onto weight, but she's been working hard to be consistent. She steeled herself for whatever he might say.

She didn't expect it to be this: "I've seen you in here every week, almost every day. I've seen you in here every week—and I'm proud of you." Nor did she expect that such simple words of encouragement could make such a huge impact.

Watch her tell the story:

@steph5468

#gymprogress #workputjourney #keepgoing #healingjourney

People had a lot to say about the interchange and Steph's emotional response to it.

"People do not realize, how one person can change everything," wrote one commenter.

"Girl you are CRUSHING IT," wrote another. "That man you encountered is what real men do. Encourage. Support. Be human! It isn’t hard! ❤️"

"No one knows your story, your struggles. You're doing the dang thing and that takes courage and strength. You. Keep. Going. I'm proud of you too!" shared another.

More and more words of encouragement flooded Steph's comment section, and people on Upworthy's Instagram page weighed in as well.

"I'm a fitness coach and this made me cry 😢 just having someone say they are proud of you can move mountains for so many of us who didn’t/ don’t get the praise growing up," wrote one person.

"Who knows? He may be going through something too and saw a determined, consistent, fellow traveler," wrote another. "You share your Truth so powerfully. You may not know how many people will see this and be encouraged by your honesty. I’m in awe that you show up for YOURSELF every day. And as for the rude and ill-mannered? Well they struggle too—just to be decent kind human beings. Some people have not been shown Empathy and therefore do not know how to use that muscle. You are beautiful, smart, articulate, wise and a woman who knows where she’s headed. Keep walking, head up knowing there are many many more who do empathize, who see you and are on your side❤️"

"It’s amazing to think about how this man’s single act of kindness, spread through you to affect us all in a positive way," shared another. "This made all of our days, and I’m crying tears of joy while I write this. Please thank him from all of us the next time you see him, if you’re comfortable with that. And thank you for sharing! ❤️"

Indeed, thanks to both Steph and the hardcore, tattooed gym bro for being wonderful examples for us all. We never know what a small act of kindness or a few words of encouragement will do to make someone's life significantly better, but it's always worth trying.


This article originally appeared on 9.5.23

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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