Master of mystery and the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe is no doubt a compelling literary icon who keeps us guessing. If you take a look back at Poe’s collection of works, there are a few undeniable instances where we have to question…Was Poe a time traveler?
“Time travel was once considered scientific heresy, and I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labelled a ‘crank.’” – Stephen Hawking
Whether you believe time travel is a possibility or not, there are some strange and uncanny coincidences of Poe’s writings to real life events. Let’s start with Poe’s only completed novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
Dealing with mutiny, exposure, and starvation, extreme measures had to be taken in order for the crew to survive being on a whaling ship lost at sea. The crew were soon forced to abandon any qualms of cannibalism and drew straws. A boy named Richard Parker was unfortunate enough to draw the shortest straw and was eaten.
Keep in mind, this was written in 1837. (It’s about to get really creepy.) Forty-six years later, a shipwreck set four men adrift without food, and had to resort to cannibalism for survival. A 17-year-old cabin boy was elected for the task, and his name just happened to be Richard Parker.
Seriously! How do you explain that? The event went unnoticed for about a century until journalist Arthur Koestler of The Sunday Times requested submissions for tales of “striking coincidence”. It was then a descendent of the Parker family wrote a letter pinpointing the uncanny parallels after reading Poe’s novel.
Next up, Poe flexes his medical knowledge in The Businessman. The grisly short story describes an unidentified man that suffered from a traumatic brain injury as a child and grew up severely, cognitively changed from his accident. Poe’s writing expressed his keen medical insights, specifically about the frontal lobe syndrome of his main character.
Many have heard the story of Phineas Gage and how he survived an iron railroad spike to his skull in 1848. However, he did not come out unscathed. Gage’s personality became drastically different. This was the first time the medical community was able to comprehend how the frontal lobe relates to social cognition.
Keep in mind, when Poe wrote this story 8 years earlier, there were practically no resources to gain comprehension on how traumatic brain injuries affected one physically or behaviorally. However, Poe imparted intimate and precise knowledge of how frontal lobe syndrome could onset personality changes.
“There’s a dozen symptoms and he knows every single one…There’s everything in that story, we’ve hardly learned anything more.” –Eric Altschuler
Present-day neurologist Eric Altshuler was completely baffled by this. He noted that Poe’s story had encompassed all the current knowledge available about this condition, and it was eerie accurate.
Altshuler stated that the only way for Poe to have had access to that knowledge was if he had a childhood friend that suffered from frontal lobe syndrome and spent his life ‘descending into orderly madness.’
“It’s so exact that it’s weird, it’s like he had a time machine.” –Altschuler
Then there is the little matter of Eureka, a 150-page prose poem, published in 1848. It is probably one of Poe’s most convoluted and controversial pieces describing the origins of the universe eighty years before modern science would hatch the Big Bang Theory. Poe was no astronomer, but no astronomer in his day could conceive of a non static universe.
Poe’s prescience transformed him into a mad man of his time, but modern science proves his notions to be bizarrely valid. He was even the first, on record, to solve Olbers Paradox about why the sky is dark at night.
Considering all his loss and hardships that plagued this amazing author, it’s no wonder Poe was more familiar with the unusual offerings that surface in his writings. During his life, Poe was underappreciated and undervalued for so long, there’s no telling what other gems might be awaiting discovery in his writing. I personally enjoy the notion that Poe was out of his time, disturbed, and had quite possibly tapped into the secret of time travel.
“Once confined to fantasy and science fiction, time travel is now simply an engineering problem.” — Michio Kaku
Was Poe a time traveler, or is all this just the musings of a mad man? You decide. #timetravelingpoe