The first major theory is that he died from rabies. Dr. R. Michael Benitez, a cardiologist says that Poe was seen in a bar in October 1849, not drunk, but possibly wearing someone else’s ruined clothes (Benitez). According to Benitez, Poe entered the hospital unconscious from falling. The next day he could not remember falling. Poe began to become confused and belligerent (Benitez). Benitez believed it was a case of rabies. He couldn’t drink water which was a side effect of rabies. Later Dr. Henry Wilde, who treats rabies said Poe “had all the symptoms of encephalitic rabies,” which was an inflammation of the brain. Jeff Jerome, the administrator of the Edgar Allan Poe Poe’s and Museum said that Poe almost surely didn’t die from alcohol and that he was sensitive to alcohol.
The second theory of his death is that he died from alcoholism, becoming to drunk to drunk to protect himself from the wind and rain. Poe had been a drinker all of his life and his wife’s death caused him to drink more. On October 3, Poe was found in at Gunner’s Hall by a printer, Joseph Walker, semiconscious. To Walker Poe seemed to be “in great distress” (Silverman 222). Poe ended being transferred to Washington Medical Hospital by his uncle. At the hospital Poe’s doctor, Dr. John J. Moran, had diagnosed him with delirium, a mental disturbance marked by confusion, disturbed speech, and hallucinations (Silverman 223). Poe then, ended up raving for over a day, repeatedly calling out someones name believed to be “Reynolds,” or his uncle-in-law Henry Herring (Silverman 224). Moran saw him moving his dead quietly say “Lord help my poor soul” and died (Silverman 224).
Burton R. Pollin and Robert E. Benedetto wrote a letter in response to Dr. Benitez a week after him. They stated that Poe was found outside of a saloon in Baltimore drunk on October 3 and that Dr. Benitez lacked evidence of a bite or scratch. Poe’s cat was left in his home in New York, uninfected, showing no signs of rabies, dies of starvation after Poe’s death. They also stated that there was no need for Benitez to cover up Edgar’s alcohol issue that he had.
Dr. Benitez came back the next following writing a letter in response to Pollin and Benedetto. He didn’t believe that the lack of a scratch or bite was a weakness to his theory. He revealed that over the past twenty years (from 1996) there were only thirty-three reported cases of human rabies and that symptoms may not show up for a year. Dr. Benitez additionally added that he never said that Poe got rabies from his cat, Caterina.
The more reliable cause of Poe’s death seems to be his alcohol issue and not rabies. Reading the letter that Dr. Benitez wrote to Burton R. Pollin and Robert E. Benedetto it seems that he has dug himself into a hole by attempting to defend himself the information he provided was picked apart. For example, Pollin and Benedetto said that Poe lacked evidence of a scratch or bite and that Poe’s cat wasn’t infected with rabies and Benitez responded saying that didn’t affect his theory even though it is one of the easiest and first ways to tell if someone has rabies combined with symptoms. He ended up further stating that there have been only thirty three reported cases of rabies in the past twenty years making it seem as if the chances of getting rabies is extremely low basically not likely at all.
All of Poe’s symptoms while in the hospital with Mr. Moran, indicated delirium tremors, mania à potu, an alcoholic state in which the victim behaves irrationally and sometimes violently, hallucinates, and trembles (Silverman 224). Poe could drinking more alcohol after his wife died due to
depression because he wanted to not think about what was going on in his life and get away from it and thought alcohol was the best way.
Burton R. Pollin and Robert E. Benedetto also affirmed that Poe was drunk outside of a saloon, which is a tavern or hall, and Poe was at Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore. So Poe was drunk at Gunner’s Hall and didn’t care to protect himself against the wind and rain the same day that he was discovered by Joseph Walker semiconscious and later transported to Washington Medical Hospital.
In conclusion, as of now Poe’s death still remains uncertain after over one-hundred and fifty years. As of now alcoholism seems to be the most reliable and credible cause.