With a determined sweep of its muscular arm it nearly severed her head from her body. Gnashing its teeth and flashing fire from its eyes, it flew upon the body of the girl, and embedded its fearful talons in her throat, retaining its grasp until she expired. Its wandering and wild glances fell at this moment upon the head of the bed, over which the face of its master, rigid with horror, was just discernible. The fury of the beast, who no doubt still bore in mind the dreadful whip, was instantly converted into fear…
Thus were committed The Murders in the Rue Morgue, but really, Poe didn’t only scare me with his stories, which were spooky and unnerving, when they weren’t downright shocking, but also with his poetry.
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back to the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven. “Nevermore.”
I was directed to this one by an old movie full of strange tortures called The Raven, with both Bela Logusi and Boris Karloff. Oddly, Karloff also starred with Vincent Price in a shoddy Hammer film remake of The Raven in 1963, in which the bird spoke in the voice of Peter Lorre, a young Jack Nicholson ran around in green and purple tights, and the whole farrago was written by Richard Matheson who, by a truly silly literary coincidence, also wrote The Incredible Shrinking Man. But Price recited the poem at the beginning and end of the movie in his most fruity which almost made it worthwhile; add Hazel Court's awesome cleavage and Karloff's magnificent evil scorcerer and the result was possibly the most enjoyable truly rotten film ever made.
I’ve had nightmares about black birds ever since, and still do. Long before Alfred Hitchcock and Daphne du Maurier did their little number on me, Poe’s Raven had taken up residence in one of the most prominent shadowy corners of my brain. When they finally figured out that birds were originally dinosaurs, I was not surprised in the least. Cold-eyed crows and Tyrannosaurs always seemed pretty similar to me.