Scary Stories 2: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

One of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular short stories with the media today, The Tell-Tale Heart, is a narrative of self-destruction. From the beginning, the narrator can be recognized as an untrustworthy source of information, especially with his proclomation: “but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them.”

It’s just like Egard Allan Poe, master of horror, to leave us at the mercy as a mad-man-narrator. But what really drove him insane is the beating of what the narrator thinks is the old man’s heart. “It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! — do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am.”

Sound of the Tell-Tale Heart – click to hear the heart!

However, this is where the narrator begins to give us false information.  It is not the old man’s heart he hears beating after all, since it still beats when he is dead, but the beating of his own, tell-tale heart, which tells of his hideous deed.

I believe Poe reveals this to us when he has the narrator inform us,  “for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye.” I take the eye to be a pun (metonymy) on I, thus what is really driving the narrator crazy, is himself, as he stated in the first sentence of the story.

If you would like to read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” click here. (it will only take you 5-10 minutes to read and will leave you delightfully chilled).

I really wanted to find The Simpsons episode of a “Tell-Tale Heart,” even a tiny snippet, but surprisingly, it was no where to be found (I love The Simpsons Halloween episodes!).  So instead, we must do with a 1953 short animated film that reminds me of The Nightmare Before Christmas with its use of Gothic neo-classical drawings. A very fine substitute; check it out!

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“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This short story is one of my number one favourite narratives. It adheres to my favourite genre: psychological and written in the first-person-narration.

It is narrated from a woman’s point of view, although her name is never given (it may or may not be Jane). This helps to allude to a woman’s position during the woman’s rights movement in the early 1900’s (identity was not important).  Yet it is an identity crisis that drives the narrator mad in the end.

Reminiscent of Edgar Alan Poe‘s psychological horror tales, “The Yellow Wallpaper” takes you on a disturbing journey through a mentally ill or oppressed woman of the Victorian era.

My favourite quote is the last sentence of the short story, and I don’t think sharing it here will ruin the plot in any way for you: “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”

To read a free online version of this text, click here. I promise, it will take all of 10 minutes from your life.

Movie: At one point there was speculation of a movie being made starring Julia Stiles, but it appears to have fallen through. There is supposed to be a 2010 thriller version of the story coming out, but I could not find any video clips to share.

There is, however, a 1989 made for TV movie that you can watch for free online here. It’s pretty good and done by the BBC, who always make the best made for TV movies.

Sidenote: If you live near the Toronto area, there is a great house to visit that reminds me of the one described in this story…creepy! GoogleMap ‘Rouge Valley Conservation Area” and look for a house just North West of that marker, just before another Toronto Zoo giant parking lot. You aren’t supposed to drive down, but you can park and walk, it is city property. No one lives in the house right now, but looks like the city is renovating it.