The Murder of Edgar Allan Poe
Public Performance Permission
For any public performance of this monologue, you need a written permission from the author. Please contact Patrick Bernauw / The Lost Dutchman for more information on Performing Rights Theatre Plays.
A Monologue by Mary Cecilia Rogers
This ghost story monologue raises the question if Edgar Allan Poe was not only a brilliant author, but also a demonic killer, who wrote The Mystery of Marie Rogêt to boast about a crime he committed… In his final hour, the ghost of Mary Cecilia Rogers appears before him, becoming the Raven as in his famous poem.
The Raven & The Murder of Marie Rogêt
And suddenly there will come a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at your chamber door. And it will be me, Eddie.
And I will command you to look at me. Don’t turn your back on me.
I will ask you: ‘Aren’t you glad to see me?’ – And I will answer the question myself. I will say that it has been such a long, long time. That it has been eight long years, since three men in a boat fished the dead body of a beautiful brunette out of the dark and muddy water near Castle Point, Hoboken.
And it was me, Eddie. Mary Cecilia Rogers, just 21 years old. My clothes were torn, my petticoat was missing, and a piece of lace from the bottom of my dress had been pushed up deep in my throat. I was brutally violated. And murdered.
Ah, do you still distinctly remember, Eddie? It is not a bleak December, and no separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. But still you are eagerly wishing the morrow, and vainly seeking to borrow from your books surcease of sorrow for the lost Lenore. For the rare and radiant maiden, Eddie, whom the angels named Lenore... she’s nameless here for evermore.
But my name is Mary Cecilia Rogers, and do you remember me working as a salesgirl for John Anderson? Do you remember his cigar shop, on Broadway? Eddie? The year was 1840, and New York was even more Victorian than London. Unmarried girls were not to be found behind shop counters. Particularly not, if the shops were frequented almost exclusively by young men. Many new customers came to the shop, only to see me - and I had to deal with their undue advances.
And do you feel the silken sad uncertain rustling of the purple curtain, Eddie? Does it thrill you? Does it fill you with fantastic terrors never felt before? t’s only this late visitor entreating entrance at your chamber door. It’s me Eddie. And nothing more.
I want you to remember this cold and windy day in January 1841, when I disappeared for the first time. My mother had no idea where I was. My employer had no idea. The newspapers reported my disappearance and the police searched for me, but hey Eddie: six days later, there I was again, looking very tired, and sick. I had visited some relatives in the country, I said. But the rumors said something entirely different. The rumors said I had been with a tall and handsome naval officer.
And you exclaim, Eddie: ‘Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore!’ – But when you open the door, there is darkness, nothing more. And there you are again, wondering and doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before, only whispering the word: ‘Lenore!’ And here I am again, nothing more than an echo, murmering back: 'Lenore!'
A few days after my return, I gave up my job. A month later, I announced my engagement to Daniel Payne, who was one of the boarders of my mother’s boarding-house in Nassau Street. On Sunday, 25 July, I knocked on my fiancé’s door, and said I was going to see my aunt in Bleecker Street. Daniel also wanted to spend the day away from home, but he would call for me that evening. And then there was this violent thunderstorm, and Daniel decided not to call for me, but to let me stay the night with my aunt. And when he returned from work, and learned I was still away, he rushed to see my aunt, and was even more alarmed when she told him she had not seen me in the past 48 hours.
And don’t you think the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer? And you may cry out loud: ‘Wretch! Thy God hath lent thee, by these angels he hath sent thee, respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!’ – And I will quoth: ‘Nevermore!’ – Cause when my corpse was found, Daniel did not came to see me. He had searched for me all over New York, but now he did not want to see me. And you did not want to see me either, Eddie.
Daniel was interrogated by the police, and released. A large reward was offered, but the week passed without any clues. Then the coroner received a letter from a Mister Anonymous, who claimed to have seen me, on the Sunday afternoon of my disappearance.
‘This girl, Mary Rogers, stepped out of a boat, with six rough-looking characters,’ he said.
‘And she walked with them into the woods, laughing and apparently under no kind of constraint,’ he said.
Soon afterwards, a boat with three well-dressed men came ashore. And these men asked if someone had seen a young woman in the company of six men. And when Mister Anonymous told them he had seen the girl, the trio turned their boat and headed back for New York.
And you may cry out loud: ‘Prophet! Thing of Evil! Whether Tempter sent, or tempest tossed thee here ashore, on this home by horror haunted, tell me truly, I implore! Is there balm in Gilead?’ – And I will quoth: ‘Nevermore!’ – Cause a stagecoach driver said he had seen me arrive on the ferry with a well-dressed man of dark complexion. They had gone to a roadhouse, he said. There the police was told that the couple had taken refreshment, and then gone off into the woods. And sometime later a scream was heard from the woods.
Do you distinctly remember, Eddie, how on a bleak September, my petticoat was found by children playing in the woods? And my white silk scarf? And my parasol? Soon after, my fiancé committed suicide. Now a gambler was arrested, because he was seen with me on the evening of my disappearance. But he could prove he had been that afternoon with another young lady, and he was released.
And in the following year, you published The Mystery of Marie Rogêt in Snowden’s Ladies Companion. You situated the story in Paris, and changed the Hudson in the Seine – but the details of the extraordinary story would be recognized by all your readers as those of the murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers, at New York. The girl was not murdered by a gang, you argued, but by a single individual: 'Don’t you have seen then the signs of a struggle in the woods, the battered state of her face? There would not have been a struggle between a gang and a weak and helpless girl!'
You were right, Eddie. A gang would have overpowered me easily.
You spoke of a strip from my skirt, that had been wound around my waist and, with a sailor’s knot, afforded a handle for carrying my body. Your hero, the Chevalier Dupin, thought of a fatal accident on the spot where my petticoat was found. Maybe the result of an abortion that was made up to look like a brutal murder. Or was I murdered by a lover with a somewhat dark complexion? The sailor’s knot, and the dark complexion of the well-dressed man who was seen with me, pointed to a seaman above the grade of the common sailor. During my first disappearance, you argued, I also had been seen in the company of a young naval officer, notorious for his excesses.
‘Let us know the full history of the officer, with his present circumstances, and his whereabouts at the precise period of the murder,’ you wrote. ‘And let us carefully compare with each other the various communications sent to the evening paper, in which the object was to inculpate a gang.’
You are an author who is known for his brilliant endings, Eddie. But at this point you ended your so-called article with a cheap trick. The publisher declared in a footnote that it was inappropriate to reveal the truth and the identity of the perpetrator, also known as the naval officer with the dark complexion. Maybe because you yourself, Eddie, knew all about the sailor’s knot?
And you may shriek: ‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore! Take thy form from off my door!’ – And I will quoth the Raven: ‘Nevermore!’ – Because once you were admitted to the military academy of West Point, Eddie, and sometime later sent away! But you still had your military overcoat, when you rented a few rooms in Manhattan from a bookseller. He had a shop on Broadway, near the tobacco-store of John Anderson, that soon became your office and your meeting place.
Your childish wife was very sick, Eddie. Virginia suffered from tuberculosis, while you were doing intense readings of The Raven, the poem that dealt so eloquently with the questions raised by love and death. You had good reasons to flee your dying blood-spitting wife, Eddie. Her death would give you – in your ‘spirit of the perverse’ – ‘poetic chills’.
And then there you were at last, Eddie! Once upon a midnight dreary, in October 1849, eight years after I was murdered, wandering around weak and weary on the scene of the crime, looking for a Mary.
You finally landed in the arms of your youth girlfriend Mary Devereaux, but a few days later you disappeared, without leaving a trace – because there I was, Eddie. And there you were, perfumed in alcohol, opium and laudanum.
Some say that, in the face of death, you called repeatedly for a certain Reynolds. Was this Reynolds the explorer whose expedition to the Antarctic Ocean encouraged you to write the story of Arthur Gordon Pym? I don’t think so.
The late G.W.M. Reynolds, as the literary editor of Snowden’s Ladies Companion, played an important role in The Mystery of Mary Cecilia Rogers. In his papers an alternate ending of The Mystery of Marie Rogêt was found, the ending that never got published by G.W.M. Reynolds. It said that the various letters one could read in the newspapers, dedicated to the mystery of Marie Rogêt, and although they showed a certain degree of diversity in the design and size of the letters, also had undoubtedly a number of characteristics in common. The style of the letters, in which the soul of the writer was revealed, confirmed this conclusion. Symptomatic was the frequent use of inversion: for example, all these writers did not speak about ‘a superhuman strength’, but of ‘a strength, superhuman’. Their letters were the result of a literary tour de force. Here, in other words, had been a man at work with an exceptional talent in the field of imitation!
‘It is precisely this consideration,’ Chevalier Dupin said, ‘that brings us one step further on the road to the unmasking of the culprit. At the time of Marie’s first disappearance, among the faithful visitors of the perfume shop of Monsieur Le Blanc, was the infamous poet Edouard Foubert. If I had to describe this man, I would say he is about thirty years old, good looking, always well dressed. His complexion is pale, but his skin has a bright, olive-colored tint. This pale face shows a sharp contrast with his dark eyes and almost black hair, fine as silk. I think his dark eyes and black hair are accentuated by his pale complexion, and not vice versa. Now, we have already pointed out that the killer of Marie Rogêt has to be a naval officer, and not a poet. But our description of monsieur Edouard T. Foubert is not yet complete. He likes to wear a black coat, with the collar of a cadet or a soldier, the only remnant of his training as an officer. Monsieur Foubert however had to leave the Navy, on charges of alcohol abuse. I have already informed the prefect of my findings and if I am not mistaken, one of these days a newspaper will report that the police has finally solved the mystery of Marie Rogêt!’
So here I am, Eddie, sitting near the pallid bust of Pallas, and my eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming. And the lamplight that is streaming, throws my shadow on the floor. And your soul from out that shadow shall be lifted nevermore.