8 – Did Edgar Allan Poe Predict a Gruesome Murder 45 Years in Advance?
Poe is one of the greatest creators of unusual and macabre tales in American literary history but even he would have been shocked by his apparent fortune-telling skills. In 1838, his only finished novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was published. In the book, the four-man crew of the ship Grampus found themselves shipwrecked with no food or water. While they found a tortoise to eat, it didn’t provide enough sustenance. Eventually, the crew decides to draw straws to determine which crew member is to be eaten by the others.
Richard Parker, a former mutineer, draws the short straw and is brutally murdered. His feet, hands, and head are tossed into the sea. Two of the remaining members of the crew manage to survive after their act of cannibalism and are eventually rescued. Poe referred to the story as ‘very silly’ but it did serve as a source of inspiration for Jules Verne when he wrote 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Herman Melville when he wrote Moby Dick. However, the real ‘magic’ of the story took place some 45 years after it was written.
In 1884, a yacht called Mignonette sailed out of England destined for Sydney, Australia. In hindsight, it was a foolish endeavor by the four crew members because their vessel simply wasn’t suitable for such a lengthy journey. It sank en-route and the four men had to escape via a lifeboat. It soon became clear that they lacked the provisions for survival and things were getting desperate. They found a tortoise and ate it but the paltry servings each man received wasn’t enough. One of the crew members fell overboard and tried to drink seawater to satiate his thirst.
This is where the tale gets downright spooky. The man’s name was Richard Parker and his seawater mistake led to his demise. The crew had considered drawing straws but decided that the weakening Parker was the best choice. Had they waited for him to die from his illness, there’s a chance his blood could become contaminated so they stabbed him in the throat. They feasted upon his carcass and it sustained them for long enough to be recused, just like in Poe’s book. Their relief didn’t last long as they were sentenced to death for their crime. However, their sentences were commuted to just six months in prison.