The name Edgar Allan Poe conjures all things creepy and macabre. His poems and short stories have long instilled terror into the hearts of readers, and he is considered one of the most important American writers in history. But what do we really know about Poe, other than his dark literary gifts?
Here are 10 little-known facts about one of the earliest masters of American horror, Edgar Allan Poe.
1. Poe’s parents were actors
It’s likely he was given the name “Edgar” after the character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, in which his parents were appearing during the time of his birth.
2. The name “Allan” came from his foster family
After his father left the family and his mother died, Poe was taken in by the family of John Allan, a wealthy Scottish merchant living in Virginia. Poe was never formally adopted by the Allans, but they gave him their name, which he eventually chose to use in his professional career.
3. He published his first book at only 18 years old
In 1827, Tamerlane and Other Poems was released; the byline read “By a Bostonian”—a reference to Poe’s place of birth.
4. Poe attended the University of Virginia for only one year
He incurred massive gambling debts, which left him unable to afford to remain at school, despite the money John Allan claimed he was sending to his foster son.
5. He married his cousin in 1835
Poe was 26, and his cousin, Virginia Clemm, was only 13. They were married for 11 years, until Clemm’s death from tuberculosis. Poe’s experience watching his wife struggle with illness is believed to have inspired many of his most famous works, such as Annabel Lee and The Raven.
6. Poe sold The Raven to a literary journal, The American Review, for only $9
It was an instant hit.
7. Poe originally was going to use a parrot instead of a raven…
… but decided a parrot did not evoke the mood he was trying to achieve.
8. He was pen pals with Charles Dickens
They even met in person once, in Philadelphia.
9. The reasons for Poe’s sudden and bizarre death remain a mystery
10. The football team the Baltimore Ravens was named for Poe’s famous poem
Though he lived in many different cities in his life—including Boston, Massachusetts, Richmond Virginia, and Fordham, New York—Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland.