This is one of three of Poe's tales that deal with mesmerism, an increasingly common practice of the early nineteenth century. This tale evolves around a young gentleman of Virginia, who has developed a rapport, a dependent relationship centered on mesmerism, with a physician who had been converted to the practices of Mesmer.

One day, after taking his usual morning dose of morphine, the gentleman leaves for his daily walk in the Ragged Mountains. He returns with the tale of a bizarre foreign encounter in which he dies from a snake bite to the temple.

As the "dead" man tells his tale, the doctor confirms that it was not a dream despite the fact that the subject seems quite alive. Within a few days the gentleman is dead, presumably because of the accidental application to his temple of a poisonous leech. The twist at the end of the tale, which includes allusion to reincarnation, will not be revealed here.


Poe's interest in issues of science and medicine are well known to his readers. He produced three prose pieces which focused on the animal magnetism theory developed by Franz Anton Mesmer, which eventually led to the development of hypnotism.

The other two Poe mesmerism pieces are The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (see this database) and "Mesmerism Revelation." They are useful to review the impressions created by the newly revealed practices of mesmerism as a therapeutic modality, generally considered in the 19th century as a form of "quackery."


First published: 1844 (written in 1843).

Primary Source

Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vol. III


Harvard Univ. Press: Belnap

Place Published

Cambridge, Mass.




Thomas Ollive Mabbott