The body, as well as the head, was fearfully mutilated --the former so much so as scarcely to retain any semblance of humanity. Many individuals have been examined in relation to this most extraordinary and frightful affair. We give below all the material testimony elicited. The old lady and her daughter seemed on good terms --very affectionate towards each other.
They were excellent pay. Could not speak in regard to their mode or means of living. Believed that Madame L. Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any persons in the house when she called for the clothes or took them home. Was sure that they had no servant in employ. There appeared to be no furniture in any part of the building except in the fourth story.
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Was born in the neighborhood, and has always resided there. The deceased and her daughter had occupied the house in which the corpses were found, for more than six years. It was formerly occupied by a jeweller, who under-let the upper rooms to various persons. The house was the property of Madame L. She became dissatisfied with the abuse of the premises by her tenant, and moved into them herself, refusing to let any portion.
The old lady was childish. Witness had seen the daughter some five or six times during the six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired life --were reputed to have money. Had heard it said among the neighbors that Madame L. Had never seen any person enter the door except the old lady and her daughter, a porter once or twice, and a physician some eight or ten times.
No one was spoken of as frequenting the house. It was not known whether there were any living connexions of Madame L. The shutters of the front windows were seldom opened. Those in the rear were always closed, with the exception of the large back room, fourth story. The house was a good house --not very old. Forced it open, at length, with a bayonet --not with a crowbar.
Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom nor top. The shrieks were continued until the gate was forced --and then suddenly ceased. They seemed to be screams of some person or persons in great agony --were loud and drawn out, not short and quick. Witness led the way up stairs. Upon reaching the first landing, heard two voices in loud and angry contention --the one a gruff voice, the other much shriller --a very strange voice.
Could distinguish some words of the former, which was that of a Frenchman. Was positive that it was not a woman's voice. Could not be sure whether it was the voice of a man or of a woman. Could not make out what was said, but believed the language to be Spanish. The state of the room and of the bodies was described by this witness as we described them yesterday. As soon as they forced an entrance, they reclosed the door, to keep out the crowd, which collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour.
The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that of an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure that it was a man's voice. It might have been a woman's. Was not acquainted with the Italian language. Could not distinguish the words, but was convinced by the intonation that the speaker was an Italian.
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Knew Madame L. Had conversed with both frequently. Was sure that the shrill voice was not that of either of the deceased. This witness volunteered his testimony. Not speaking French, was examined through an interpreter. Is a native of Amsterdam. Was passing the house at the time of the shrieks. They lasted for several minutes --probably ten. They were long and loud --very awful and distressing. Was one of those who entered the building. Corroborated the previous evidence in every respect but one. Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a man --of a Frenchman.
Could not distinguish the words uttered. They were loud and quick --unequal --spoken apparently in fear as well as in anger. The voice was harsh --not so much shrill as harsh. Could not call it a shrill voice. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame L'Espanaye had some property.
Murders in the Rue Morgue: there'd have been no Sherlock Holmes without detective Dupin
Had opened an account with his banking house in the spring of the year eight years previously. Made frequent deposits in small sums. Had checked for nothing until the third day before her death, when she took out in person the sum of francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a clerk went home with the money.
Upon the door being opened, Mademoiselle L. He then bowed and departed. Did not see any person in the street at the time. It is a bye-street --very lonely. Is an Englishman.
Has lived in Paris two years. Was one of the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could make out several words, but cannot now remember all. The shrill voice was very loud --louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a German. Might have been a woman's voice. Does not understand German. Every thing was perfectly silent --no groans or noises of any kind. Upon forcing the door no person was seen.
The windows, both of the back and front room, were down and firmly fastened from within. A door between the two rooms was closed, but not locked. The door leading from the front room into the passage was locked, with the key on the inside. A small room in the front of the house, on the fourth story, at the head of the passage, was open, the door being ajar.
This room was crowded with old beds, boxes, and so forth. These were carefully removed and searched. There was not an inch of any portion of the house which was not carefully searched. Sweeps were sent up and down the chimneys. The house was a four story one, with garrets mansardes. A trap-door on the roof was nailed down very securely --did not appear to have been opened for years. The time elapsing between the hearing of the voices in contention and the breaking open of the room door, was variously stated by the witnesses. Some made it as short as three minutes --some as long as five.
The door was opened with difficulty. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation. Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice was that of an Englishman --is sure of this. Does not understand the English language, but judges by the intonation.
Heard the voices in question. Distinguished several words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not make out the words of the shrill voice.
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Spoke quick and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a native of Russia. By 'sweeps' were meant cylindrical sweeping-brushes, such as are employed by those who clean chimneys. These brushes were passed up and down every flue in the house.
There is no back passage by which any one could have descended while the party proceeded up stairs. The body of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye was so firmly wedged in the chimney that it could not be got down until four or five of the party united their strength. They were both then lying on the sacking of the bedstead in the chamber where Mademoiselle L. The corpse of the young lady was much bruised and excoriated. The fact that it had been thrust up the chimney would sufficiently account for these appearances.
The throat was greatly chafed. There were several deep scratches just below the chin, together with a series of livid spots which were evidently the impression of fingers. The face was fearfully discolored, and the eye-balls protruded. The tongue had been partially bitten through. A large bruise was discovered upon the pit of the stomach, produced, apparently, by the pressure of a knee.
In the opinion of M. Dumas, Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been throttled to death by some person or persons unknown. The corpse of the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones of the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The left tibia much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left side. Whole body dreadfully bruised and discolored. It was not possible to say how the injuries had been inflicted. A heavy club of wood, or a broad bar of iron --a chair -- any large, heavy, and obtuse weapon would have produced such results, if wielded by the hands of a very powerful man.
No woman could have inflicted the blows with any weapon. The head of the deceased, when seen by witness, was entirely separated from the body, and was also greatly shattered. The throat had evidently been cut with some very sharp instrument --probably with a razor. Dumas to view the bodies.
SparkNotes: Poe’s Short Stories: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” ()
Corroborated the testimony, and the opinions of M. A murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris --if indeed a murder has been committed at all. The police are entirely at fault --an unusual occurrence in affairs of this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a clew apparent.
Roch --that the premises in question had been carefully re-searched, and fresh examinations of witnesses instituted, but all to no purpose. A postscript, however, mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested and imprisoned --although nothing appeared to criminate him, beyond the facts already detailed. Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress of this affair --at least so I judged from his manner, for he made no comments. It was only after the announcement that Le Bon had been imprisoned, that he asked me my opinion respecting the murders.
I could merely agree with all Paris in considering them an insoluble mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible to trace the murderer. The Parisian police, so much extolled for acumen , are cunning, but no more. There is no method in their proceedings, beyond the method of the moment. They make a vast parade of measures; but, not unfrequently, these are so ill adapted to the objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Monsieur Jourdain's calling for his robe-de-chambre --pour mieux entendre la musique.
The results attained by them are not unfrequently surprising, but, for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail. Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser, and a persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations.
He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole. Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies.
To look at a star by glances --to view it in a side-long way, by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior , is to behold the star distinctly -- is to have the best appreciation of its lustre --a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but, in the former, there is the more refined capacity for comprehension.
By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought; and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmanent by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or too direct. An inquiry will afford us amusement," I thought this an odd term, so applied, but said nothing "and, besides, Le Bon once rendered me a service for which I am not ungrateful.
We will go and see the premises with our own eyes. This is one of those miserable thoroughfares which intervene between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. It was late in the afternoon when we reached it; as this quarter is at a great distance from that in which we resided.
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
The house was readily found; for there were still many persons gazing up at the closed shutters, with an objectless curiosity, from the opposite side of the way. It was an ordinary Parisian house, with a gateway, on one side of which was a glazed watch-box, with a sliding panel in the window, indicating a loge de concierge. Before going in we walked up the street, turned down an alley, and then, again turning, passed in the rear of the building --Dupin, meanwhile, examining the whole neighborhood, as well as the house, with a minuteness of attention for which I could see no possible object.
Retracing our steps, we came again to the front of the dwelling, rang, and, having shown our credentials, were admitted by the agents in charge. We went up stairs --into the chamber where the body of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been found, and where both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room had, as usual, been suffered to exist. I saw nothing beyond what had been stated in the "Gazette des Tribunaux. We then went into the other rooms, and into the yard; a gendarme accompanying us throughout.
The examination occupied us until dark, when we took our departure. On our way home my companion stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the daily papers. It was his humor, now, to decline all conversation on the subject of the murder, until about noon the next day. He then asked me, suddenly, if I had observed any thing peculiar at the scene of the atrocity. There was something in his manner of emphasizing the word "peculiar," which caused me to shudder, without knowing why. But dismiss the idle opinions of this print.
The police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive --not for the murder itself --but for the atrocity of the murder. They are puzzled, too, by the seeming impossibility of reconciling the voices heard in contention, with the facts that no one was discovered up stairs but the assassinated Mademoiselle L'Espanaye, and that there were no means of egress without the notice of the party ascending.
The wild disorder of the room; the corpse thrust, with the head downward, up the chimney; the frightful mutilation of the body of the old lady; these considerations, with those just mentioned, and others which I need not mention, have sufficed to paralyze the powers, by putting completely at fault the boasted acumen , of the government agents. They have fallen into the gross but common error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse.
But it is by these deviations from the plane of the ordinary, that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search for the true. In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked 'what has occurred,' as 'what has occurred that has never occurred before. Of the worst portion of the crimes committed, it is probable that he is innocent. I hope that I am right in this supposition; for upon it I build my expectation of reading the entire riddle. I look for the man here --in this room --every moment.
It is true that he may not arrive; but the probability is that he will. Should he come, it will be necessary to detain him. Here are pistols; and we both know how to use them when occasion demands their use. I have already spoken of his abstract manner at such times. His discourse was addressed to myself; but his voice, although by no means loud, had that intonation which is commonly employed in speaking to some one at a great distance.
His eyes, vacant in expression, regarded only the wall. This relieves us of all doubt upon the question whether the old lady could have first destroyed the daughter, and afterward have committed suicide. I speak of this point chiefly for the sake of method; for the strength of Madame L'Espanaye would have been utterly unequal to the task of thrusting her daughter's corpse up the chimney as it was found; and the nature of the wounds upon her own person entirely preclude the idea of self-destruction. Murder, then, has been committed by some third party; and the voices of this third party were those heard in contention.
Let me now advert --not to the whole testimony respecting these voices --but to what was peculiar in that testimony. Did you observe any thing peculiar about it? You have observed nothing distinctive. Yet there was something to be observed. The witnesses, as you remark, agreed about the gruff voice; they were here unanimous. But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is --not that they disagreed --but that, while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that of a foreigner. Each is sure that it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen.
Each likens it --not to the voice of an individual of any nation with whose language he is conversant --but the converse. The Frenchman supposes it the voice of a Spaniard, and 'might have distinguished some words had he been acquainted with the Spanish. That the story hinges on this beast may seem absurd, but it is splendidly presented. I loved how the whole story depends on the ape picking up his master's razor because he wished to emulate him, and have a shave.
Such glorious, hideous absurdity. And while I might have doubted Dupin's deductive powers, the way he solves the story's conundrum of the sealed room and works out that the orangutan's master was a sailor from a Maltese vessel is exhilarating and brilliant. Of course, the most exciting thing about this story is witnessing a new genre spring fully formed into the world. There may well have been detective stories without Dupin and his continually astounded companion, but there would definitely not have been any Holmes and Watson.
The duo are so like Conan Doyle's in their attitude towards each other, in their manner of speaking and in how they solve problems together that reading the word "Dupin" in the text becomes a stumbling point. Isn't this Holmes speaking? Why does he utter a French tag instead of retreating to Baker Street? Conan Doyle's debt to Poe is hard to estimate — as is our own. The Murders in the Rue Morgue has changed the face of popular culture, and is essential reading for that reason alone.
For inventing such a fully realised detective before the word "detective" even existed, it's tempting to label Poe a genius. Or does that take things too far? Over to you …. The sentences are frequently tangled and the dialogue, well, it's like this: "Being both, apparently, occupied with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for 15 minutes at least. He was cut down in almost the agonies of death.
Herald, September 23, , p. The next year, , both papers reported on the infamous murder of Helen Jewett at a house of ill repute. Robinson is guilty…. In sum, penny dailies offered no shortage of real murders in the s to inspire short fiction. In the story the amateur detective C. Whether or not the public was justified in its growing fear of violent crimes, those fears were amply fed by a proliferation during the s of cheap, mass-produced newspapers, many of which specialized in sensational stories of violent urban crime.
A search was made of the chimney, and horrible to relate! Upon the face were many severe scratches, and, upon the throat, dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails, as if the deceased had been throttled to death. The technological advances and associated drop in printing costs that allowed the penny newspapers to flourish allowed a greater number of less sensational periodicals to appear as well.
Many weekly or monthly magazines published fiction, serializing novels or presenting the relatively new publishing phenomenon of the short story , which now took its place as a distinctively American literary form. Many of the stories written by Washington Irving , Nathaniel Hawthorne , Herman Melville , and other American writers of the period first appeared in magazines.
Unlike those authors, Poe wrote many of his stories for magazines that he himself edited.
“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
Despite his success in publishing, Poe long remained impoverished. Like the growth of cities, the related urban tensions, and the rise of mass media, advances in science also accompanied the industrial revolution in the early s. As later scholars have observed, Darwin delayed publication for some two decades out of fear that people would not accept it. So Darwin was not a direct influence on Poe, but their creative ideas emerged from the same intellectual and scientific context, a milieu in which evolution was an increasingly discussed concept.
Darwin based his ideas partly on the work of earlier scientists, such as British geologist Charles Lyell , who perceived that natural forces can work gradually over immensely long periods of time, and French paleontologist Georges Cuvier , who was the first to use fossils in classifying extinct species. Auguste Dupin also relies on Cuvier. To illustrate his ideas he brings up a number of games, suggesting, for example, that to the truly analytical mind, chess is less profound than either draughts checkers or the card game whist.
Poe himself loved riddles and especially relished cryptography. As a magazine editor, he challenged his readers to send in codes and ciphers, against which he tested his wits—succeeding every time. Hieroglyphics was another fashionable intellectual topic of his day. The ancient Egyptian pictograms pictorial writing had only recently been deciphered, owing to the discovery in of the famous Rosetta Stone , a block of basalt now in the British Museum with the same text inscribed in both Greek and hieroglyphic characters.
Since Greek was well understood, the Greek text offered a key to the hieroglyphic text. Using that foothold, other hieroglyphic texts were then painstakingly deciphered by the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion whose dictionary of hieroglyphics was published in After the shrieks stopped, a crowd of onlookers forced its way into the locked apartment, which was in a shambles and appeared empty.
A subsequent search of the apartment located her daughter, who had been strangled and stuffed, feet first, up the chimney. A safe was open, and a large pile of cash lay on the floor. The case is especially baffling because the door and windows of the apartment were all locked from the inside. The following day another newspaper article gives the accounts of a number of witnesses, several of whom overheard a loud, angry conversation after the shrieks stopped, a crowd of onlookers forced its way into the locked apartment, which was in a shambles and appeared empty.
The following day another newspaper article gives the accounts of a number of witnesses, several of whom overheard a loud, angry conversation after the shrieks stopped between a Frenchman and what sounded like another person speaking a foreign language. None of the witnesses, who are of various nationalities, can agree on what language the other person was speaking, but agree in describing the voice as harsh.
A third article states that one of the witnesses, a bank clerk named Adolphe Le Bon, has been arrested for the crime. There, as the narrator watches, Dupin carries out a detailed examination of the entire neighborhood as well as the apartment itself. On the way home, he stops briefly at a newspaper office. The next day Dupin shocks the narrator by announcing that he has solved the crime.
Moreover, he says that he expects a visit momentarily from, if not the murderer, someone who at least played a role in the murders. He and the narrator wait and prepare to detain the visitor, pistols at the ready.