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Southie History Lesson: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”

Written by Anna White

If you’ve taken an English class in high school, I’m sure you’ve read Bostonian Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado.” In case you don’t remember the basics, let me refresh you: in an unnamed Italian city, one man lures another to a basement with the promise of a cask (barrel) of Amontillado (sherry). The man then bricks him up alive, behind a wall, for some unnamed insult, where he dies.

Creepy, right? Well Poe, maybe, spun his tale from a story he heard while in the Army, stationed at Southie’s own Fort Independence in 1827. Lieutenant Robert Massie was killed in a duel on Castle Island, on Christmas Day, over a card game in 1817. According to the legend that Poe heard, his friends then took revenge on the killer of Massie by getting him drunk, luring him to a secluded place in the Fort, and then sealing him alive behind a wall.  Yikes!

Poe published “The Cask of Amontillado” almost twenty years later in November 1846. You can read “The Cask of Amontillado” here: http://archive.org/stream/thecaskofamontil01063gut/1063.txt and this time, instead of Italy, picture the action taking place on Castle Island!  You can tour Fort Independence on Thursdays at 6:30pm and every Saturday and Sunday from 12-3:30pm during the summer! 

“Fun” Fact — the fear of being buried alive is called Taphophobia

Photo: Ian with Edgar Allan Poe Statue

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  1. Judy says

    I believe when they were renovating the Fort many years ago, they actually came upon a Skelton behind some walls giving further credence to the story….