+
upworthy
Pop Culture

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




Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less

A beautiful ship crosses the ocean.

Bryan James has become popular on social media for documenting his time working on Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas. He boarded the ship on December 8, 2023, and will continue his voyage through April 9, 2024.

The Odyssey of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in operation. It is 1,138 feet long and has a gross tonnage of 167,704 with 16 decks.

In a recent video, he revealed the biggest threat to passengers on a cruise ship. While most people, citing the Titanic disaster of 1912, would say it’s icebergs, according to James, it’s fires. He recently shared a video that shows just how seriously the Odyssey of the Seas takes the fire threat. The ship has massive doors installed in the ship that can prevent fire from moving through the ship.

Keep ReadingShow less

A mother confronts her daughter for judging her friend's weight.

A 42-year-old mother wondered whether she did the right thing by disciplining her 18-year-old daughter, Abby, who disinvited a friend from vacation because of her weight. The mother asked people on Reddit for their opinion.

For some background, Abby had struggled with her weight for many years, so she went to her mother for help. The two set up a program where Abby was given a reward for every milestone she achieved.

“Four months ago, she asked that I don't get her any more rewards and add it up to her birthday gift, and for her gift she wants a vacation I will pay for, for her and her friends instead of the huge party I had promised for her 18th. I said OK,” the mother wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less

Our minds are overstimulated, leading us to crave distractions.

If you have a hard time staying focused on a task, you're not alone. In a Crucial Learning poll of 1,600 people, two out of three responded that they have a hard time staying focused on one task or one person. And this difficulty focusing happens in both of the major areas of life, with 68% responding that they have a hard time focusing at work and 62% said they struggle to focus at home.

It's not surprising that most people have attention deficit issues, considering what the vast majority of us are carrying around with us all day long. It's no longer just other people who occasionally interrupt what we're doing, but rather our daily barrage of message, emails, app notifications, news headlines, social media check-ins, advertisements and other distractions our phones or other handheld devices offer us.

However, according to productivity expert Chris Bailey, it's not so much the distractions that are keeping us from focusing, but rather the overstimulation of our brains that cause us to seek out distractions in the first place.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Motivation expert explains how two simple words can free you from taking things personally

You don't need to take responsibility for everything and everyone.

Mel Robinson making a TED Talk.

Towards the end of The Beatles’ illustrious but brief career, Paul McCartney wrote “Let it Be,” a song about finding peace by letting events take their natural course. It was a sentiment that seemed to mirror the feeling of resignation the band had with its imminent demise.

The bittersweet song has had an appeal that has lasted generations and that may be because it reflects an essential psychological concept: the locus of control.

“It’s about understanding where our influence ends and accepting that some things are beyond our control,” Jennifer Chappell Marsh, a marriage and family therapist, told The Huffington Post. “We can’t control others, so instead, we should focus on our own actions and responses.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Heroes

This quick-thinking teen cleverly befriended a woman's kidnapper to rescue her

Malyk Bonnet did a very brave thing: He listened to his gut.


You've probably been there. You're out and about and you see something that just feels ... off.

"Should I step in? ... But it's not really any of my business. ... And I'm not even sure they need my help..."

Keep ReadingShow less