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Medical Quiz #7 – Answers

by Suzanne Daniluk, RN on October 28th, 2011

Answers to last week’s Mystery Patient quiz:

1.   Name the mystery patient.

Edgar Allan Poe

The renowned author of early horror, science fiction, and detective novels and short stories; a poet, editor, and critic, Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Boston. Orphaned at an early age, he was raised by the Allans. He attended West Point but was expelled. Marriage to his 13-year-old cousin Virginia ended when she died of TB in 1847 at age 24. Modern medical writers have noted that Poe’s characters’ traits often show similarity to conditions such as TB (in The Masque of the Red Death); porphyria (in The Fall of the House of Usher); neuropsychiatric disorders, and Marfan’s syndrome; Poe had been way ahead of his time in publishing descriptions of disease.


2.   What was the cause of death?

An entire book exists on this subject. The exact circumstances surrounding Poe’s illness and death at age 40 remain mysterious to this day, but the consensus holds that he died of alcoholism. Plagued by personal tragedy, poverty, and depression throughout his lifetime, Poe was known as a binge-drinker and user of opium. Alcohol features prominently in his famed stories, The Black Cat and The Cask of Amontillado. The symptoms he displayed at the hospital resemble alcoholic withdrawal, and prior to being in the street, he appeared drunk in a tavern wearing clothing not his own.

However, other theories persist. Poe was found in Baltimore following travels to New York, near a polling place on election day, raising the possibility of a head injury from assault as voting violence sometimes occurred in those days. Other suggested causes include epilepsy, rabies, encephalitis, or pneumonia.


3.   Where is his grave located?

Edgar Allan Poe Grave

Baltimore, Maryland. Another mystery befitting a Poe tale: He was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Years later, a body, presumably his, was exhumed for reburial at another site. However, urban legend has it that someone else’s body was moved, not Poe’s, and his actual final resting place is uncertain. More mystery surrounds the so-called “Poe Toaster” – an unidentified cloaked figure who (until recently) made annual visits to the grave on Poe’s birthday, always leaving gifts of cognac and three roses.


4.   Which famous work cost $15.00 ?

The Raven, one of the world’s most familiar and beloved poems, which Poe was post-humously accused of plagiarizing by a physician friend who claimed it was he who thought of the line: “Nevermore!” Enjoy it here.


  • Lowenfels, Albert, MD (2011). The Case of the Thirsty Writer who Lives No More.
  • Patterson, Robert, MD. (1992). Once upon a Midnight Dreary: The life and addictions of Edgar Allan Poe. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 147(8), pp. 1246-8.
  • The Poe Society website,
  • Walsh, J.E. (1998). Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
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