Edgar Allen Poe, 1845

If Poe's poetry captured the growing idealization of the dead which lay close to the heart of Spiritualism's popular appeal, several of his short stories explored the popular fascination with mesmerism. "Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis," later retitled "THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR," was originally published in 1845 and created something of a sensation. English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to a friend that the story was "going the rounds of the newspapers, about mesmerism, throwing us all into the most admired disorder or dreadful doubts about whether it can be true."* Poe returned to the theme several years later in "Mesmeric Revelation." Here, instead of exploring the shock value of the idea of putting a dying person into a trance, he offered a view from beyond the grave that echoed -- historian Robert C. Fuller says that caricatured -- that of Spiritualism.

According to Fuller's Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), Poe first encountered mesmerism by attending a lecture of Andrew Jackson Davis, one of the founders of Spiritualism. So it is not surprising that his "Revelation" should resemble Davis's descriptions of the Spirit World. Not so in "THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR." There, as in Poe's poetry, death is irrevocable.