(photo @ poestories.com)
This weekend, a movie was released called 'The Raven.' The plot revolves around Edgar Allan Poe (played by John Cusack) helping the police track down a serial killer who is emulating the killings and/or death that could be found in Poe's writings. Eventually, the serial killer makes things personal and goes after Poe's love interest, Emily, played by Alice Eve.
The entire story is a complete work fiction (including the character of Emily) and by nearly all accounts, the movie itself is absolutely terrible.
An awful script, however, will never convince a movie
studio to pass up the chance to show Alice Eve in a corset
I have not seen the movie myself; $20 is far too steep a price to pay for the slim chance that Cusack might thrust a phonograph playing Moonlight Sonata into the air and make the film worth the admission price (and if you don't get that reference, please continue enjoying your youth).
Besides, if the filmmakers really wanted to tell a story about Poe's art being imitated by life, there already was a great (and very unsettling) true story right there for them to base a movie on.
In 1838, Poe published his only complete novel, 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.' The book's protagonist, Arthur, is an adventurous child that decides to stow away on a whaling ship. The story start off fairly normal (or as normal as they can be for a kid that sneaks onto a whaling vessel), but much like Edgar Allen Poe, things become strange and demented as the end nears.
The grisliest scene, however, comes about halfway through the book. Through mutiny and a terrible storm, only four crew members remain alive, and they have run out of food. A character named Richard Parker suggests that to stay alive, one of the group should be sacrificed and eaten by the others.
Though he did not offer to sacrifice himself and
his "gammy leg" like the brave Monty Python captain did.
After drawing straws, Richard Parker instantly regretted his decision. He had drawn the shortest one, making him a meal for his fellow surviving crew to kill and cannibalize. Fortunately, this was all just a work of fiction...for a few more decades, at least.
46 years later
On May 19 of 1884, four men set sail on yacht called the Mignonette for a leisurely trip from Southampton, England to Sydney, Australia. On July 5, the yacht was struck by a powerful wave, forcing the crew to abandon ship in an incredibly flimsy lifeboat.
For weeks they drifted aimlessly, surviving on turnips, a random turtle they were able to snag out of the water, and by drinking their own urine. The group's cabin boy, who had very little sailing experience, decided to bypass drinking his own pee and instead attempted to hydrate himself with seawater (which is REALLY bad for you).
This caused the cabin boy to slip into a coma. In the meantime, the remaining crew members had not been able to catch any food and were going hungry. They decided to draw straws to decide which one of them would be sacrificed and eaten by the others. Conveniently, someone drew a straw for the unconscious cabin boy...that also happened to be the shortest one. The crew then killed and devoured their fellow crew member.
Oh yeah, one more thing: The name of the cannibalised cabin boy was also Richard Parker.
The men were eventually rescued, confessed to what they had done (and seemed to genuinely feel incredible guilt and despair about it), and became involved in one of England's most famous legal cases.
Two of the men were sentenced to death (the other man was used as a witness for the prosecution), but they were eventually pardoned after six months imprisonment due to rising public sentiment in their favor. Despite ultimately not receiving a death sentence from the courts, their lives were seemingly cursed into oblivion.
The ship's captain, Thomas Dudley, died a few years later from bubonic plague. His fellow defendant, Edwin Stephens, saw his marriage fail as he drank himself to death. Edmund Brooks, who had been the witness for the prosecution, found incredibly depressing work as a feature in a traveling freak show that constantly reminded him and others of what happened that day on the life boat. Parker, of course, was simply digested.
One can only imagine just how much this trio of men spent the rest of their lives being crushed by the burden of that horrible action of last resort they decided to take on an ill fated boat trip.
Especially if they also took some of Richard Parker home in a "to go" box.
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