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

If you’ve taken high school English, 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 and this time, instead of Italy, picture the action taking place on Castle Island!

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

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About the Author

Anna White

Lower End homeowner since 2005. Mom of three BPS kids. Friend to all except those who don’t clean up after their dogs and/or who put their trash out in kitchen bags (seriously, people, it’s not that hard to use a barrel). Queen of the Nerds (okay that one is only in my dreams).


  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….