The Raven author left New York City in 1849 bound for Richmond, but only made it as far as Baltimore, where a passer-by noticed the delirious and incoherent writer slouched in front of a bar on October 3. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died four days later. The local newspaper attributed his death to “congestion of the brain,” then a common euphemism for alcohol poisoning. But scholars later discovered that rumors of his drug and alcohol abuse were greatly exaggerated, especially by vindictive literary critics like Rufus Wilmot Griswold. The death certificate, if it ever existed, cannot be found.
Some historians believe Poe may have suffered from rabies, cholera or syphilis. But because he turned up on the streets the same day as a citywide election, others argue that Poe fell victim to “cooping,” a fairly common practice back then in which corrupt politicians paid thugs to kidnap men (especially the homeless), drug them, disguise them, and drag them to polls all over the city or state. This may at least explain why Poe turned up in Baltimore wearing clothes that weren’t his.