Goof: Ghost of Edgar Allan Poe hosts poetry night in Hege Library

Poe prepares for his reading by haunting students frantically studying for Tim Kircher’s Elizabethan Age class. They reported that facing Poe was far preferable to facing Tim. // design by Maira Vandiver

Poe prepares for his reading by haunting students frantically studying for Tim Kircher’s Elizabethan Age class. They reported that facing Poe was far preferable to facing Tim. // design by Maira Vandiver

Disclaimer: This story is a part of our April Fool’s edition, The Goofordian. This story was created by Guilfordian Staff and is not based in fact.

It was a midnight dreary on Thursday, March 18, when Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost graced the Guilford campus to host a poetry night in Hege Library. The event was open to all, but only three individuals attended: senior James Mitchell, a self proclaimed Poe fanatic; poetry professor Jennie Malbeouf, who hosted the event; and me, who was forced to report on the evening. 

“It was so incredible,” Mitchell gushed the following afternoon in an interview. “It was, erm, a bit lengthy, as we had to use a Ouija Board to read the poems. ‘The Raven’ took over three hours. And we couldn’t exactly see him, either. To be honest, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure he was there at all.”

Poe contacted Malbeouf three months ago via writing on a steamy mirror, an event which the professor described as “terrifying, then annoying.”

She went on to say that he required all the planning for the event to be done in iambic tetrameter and demanded a blood sacrifice in order to seal the contract which would raise him from the depths of hell for the night. Malbeouf was initially reluctant to agree to the event, both because of the blood sacrifice and because she was heavily pregnant at the time, but stated that he was “…regrettably too famous to ignore.” 

On a separate note, I haven’t been able to get into contact with Heather Hayton in days—has anyone seen her on campus?

The reading was held in Hege’s Carnegie Room and commenced at midnight, per Poe’s request. Mitchell brought a small shrine to Poe, which he spent a good four hours arranging. Perhaps the most interesting item in the shrine was a Virgin Mary prayer candle. Mitchell had cut out the Madonna’s head and replaced it with an image of Poe’s. 

Poe opened the evening by giving us a brief autobiography and waxing poetic for about an hour or so on the topic of inevitable doom. (All of this was communicated through the Ouija Board, of course.) At 1:30 a.m., he began his reading of “The Raven,” which concluded around 4:30. Mitchell offered to recite the poem for Poe instead of spelling it on the Ouija Board, as he had memorized it, but Poe said it would be too inauthentic without his own voice. 

After a short recuperation break for the poet, he began his recitation—er, spelling—of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The protagonist, Roderick, had barely begun his descent into architectural horror at 9 a.m. when the three human participants sadly had to take their leave (Mitchell had a Gothic literature class to attend, I booked double therapy to deal with the previous night’s events and Malbeouf unfortunately went into labor). 

Though Poe was upset by our departure, he was mollified by Mitchell’s offer to devote his posthumous existence to Poe and become one of his followers in the afterlife. Poe apparently has garnered a large group of disciples in hell—the Venn diagram of individuals who greatly enjoy Poe’s work and those who are bound for Hades are apparently completely overlapped. 

“It was…lengthy,” said Malbeouf in a Zoom interview two days later, now with a newborn baby in tow. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Poe is a literary god, but the language barrier made it a little difficult. And I think I may have messed up that contract by leaving early—the baby recited the whole of ‘Annabell Lee’ two minutes after exiting the womb.”

“Yeah, we’re definitely cursed,” added Mitchell. “I don’t know about you guys, but there’s this weird thumping in my floorboards that’s been going for days.”

No thumping on my end, but my Spotify has been playing “Crossroad Blues” on repeat for days, and a giant black dog keeps showing up outside my window. If anyone has any advice on how to solve this issue, contact me at [email protected]. Please.

Next up on our Dead Poet Speaker Series: Sylvia Plath! Join us on April 3 at noon in the trans-dimensional pit of fire and agony behind Archdale. A note about this event: Ms. Plath has requested that no men attend this reading, unless they wish to die a terrifically painful death, which, she added, she would be more than happy to facilitate.