The Black Mass: Two Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Join us on Fri­day at a lit­tle after 12 noon or 4pm Pacif­ic time, 8pm or mid­night in the UK , for anoth­er episode in the land­mark radio dra­ma series The Black Mass, cre­at­ed by the late Erik Bauers­feld and his col­leagues at the Paci­fi­ca radio sta­tion KPFA in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, over fifty years ago. In 30 chill­ing tales of mys­tery, imag­i­na­tion and the human mind, The Black Mass brings you some of literature’s most haunt­ing sto­ries, by mas­ters of the craft — many of whom are best-known in oth­er fields. Many thanks to John Whit­ing, co-pro­duc­er of many of these record­ings, and Erik Bauers­feld him­self, for per­mis­sion to broad­cast these clas­sic recordings.

Note that the pro­gramme will not begin until the track play­ing at the top of the hour has fin­ished, so the actu­al start time of the episode will be a few min­utes after the hour.

Illus­tra­tion for “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Har­ry Clarke (1919)

Today: “A Predicament” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (Jan­u­ary 19, 1809 – Octo­ber 7, 1849) was an Amer­i­can writer, poet, edi­tor, and lit­er­ary crit­ic. Poe is best known for his poet­ry and short sto­ries, par­tic­u­lar­ly his tales of mys­tery and the macabre. He is wide­ly regard­ed as a cen­tral fig­ure of Roman­ti­cism in the Unit­ed States and of Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture as a whole, and he was one of the coun­try’s ear­li­est prac­ti­tion­ers of the short sto­ry. He is also gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered the inven­tor of the detec­tive fic­tion genre and is fur­ther cred­it­ed with con­tribut­ing to the emerg­ing genre of sci­ence fic­tion. Poe was the first well-known Amer­i­can writer to earn a liv­ing through writ­ing alone, result­ing in a finan­cial­ly dif­fi­cult life and career.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” was first pub­lished in 1843. It is relat­ed by an unnamed nar­ra­tor who endeav­ors to con­vince the read­er of the nar­ra­tor’s san­i­ty while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly describ­ing a mur­der the nar­ra­tor com­mit­ted. The vic­tim was an old man with a filmy pale blue “vul­ture-eye”, as the nar­ra­tor calls it. The nar­ra­tor empha­sizes the care­ful cal­cu­la­tion of the mur­der, attempt­ing the per­fect crime…

The sto­ry was first pub­lished in James Rus­sell Low­ell’s The Pio­neer in Jan­u­ary 1843. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is often con­sid­ered a clas­sic of the Goth­ic fic­tion genre and is one of Poe’s best known short stories.

“A Predica­ment” is a humor­ous short sto­ry, orig­i­nal­ly titled “The Scythe of Time”. The sto­ry par­o­dies the Goth­ic sen­sa­tion tale, pop­u­lar in Eng­land and Amer­i­ca since the ear­ly 19th century.

The Black Mass art­work was cre­at­ed by Ter­ry Lightfoot.