An 1838 Fictional Tale by Edgar Allan Poe Eerily Predicted an 1884 Reality

Poe's only complete novel was very similar to an actual event, even though it was written almost half a century earlier.

max-millerby max-miller

Read any of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales and it won’t take long for you to realize that the guy’s writing tended towards the twisted and the creepy.

But did you know that Poe had the ability to predict the future? All right, maybe that’s going a little too far, but he did write a story that very closely resembles an event that took place 46 years after he wrote it.

In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe wrote his only complete novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” The book follows the life of the title character, Arthur Pym, a child who stows away on a whaling ship with his friend Augustus. Since this is a story by Poe, you can’t expect it to be a typical nautical adventure. While Pym is hiding aboard the ship, a mutiny occurs resulting in the slaughtering of much of the crew. Together, he and Augustus team up with a regretful mutineer named Dirk Peters to reclaim the ship.

They managed to kill all of the mutineers except Richard Parker, a man they kept alive to help them control the ship. However, after a terrible storm, the remaining four find themselves without adequate provisions or food. To avoid starvation, Parker suggests that they draw straws to decide which one of them should be killed for the others to consume and survive. Parker probably would not have made that suggestion had he known that he would end up with the shortest straw.


In May of 1884, 46 years after Poe’s cannibalistic tale was published, four men traveling from England to Australia found themselves fighting to survive aboard a lifeboat after their yacht was taken out by a huge wave. For a short while, they were able to live off of turnips, a turtle they snagged from the water, and by drinking their own urine. One of the men — the cabin boy — refused to drink his urine and opted instead for seawater. This made him sick and he eventually slipped into a coma. While he was unconscious, his sailing buddies became increasingly hungry and eventually chose to draw straws to decide who should be sacrificed and consumed for the sake of the crew. Since the cabin boy was out cold, his straw had to be drawn for him and “coincidentally” ended up being the smallest.

The cabin boy, whose name was — wait for it — Richard Parker, was killed and then eaten before the rest of the men were eventually rescued. This led to the remaining men being tried for murder in one of the most famous criminal cases in English history (R v. Dudley and Stephens).

The men all received serious sentencing, but after some time, they were pardoned due to sympathy from the public about the particular situation. However, all three men lived less than happily ever after. One died from the plague, one drank himself to death and the third ended up working for a traveling freak show.

All because of that wicked black magic that Edgar Allan Poe possessed.