ORLANDO – Say those three words, and chances are they’re going to conjure up images of horror in people’s minds.
David Mink can so clearly remember just how wowed he was as a teenager when he first read Poe’s classic tale of terror, “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story narrated by a killer who just murdered an old man with a “vulture eye,” and proceeds to hide the victim’s body by dismembering it and placing it under the floorboards. But is it the narrator’s guilt at work – or something far more sinister? – when he continues to hear the man’s heart beating under those floorboards?
Even though it was published in 1843, Mink said this short story still has the power to grip and terrify readers today.
“I certainly remember reading it in high school and being in awe of it,” he said.
Mink is the director of audience development at the Mad Cow Theatre in downtown Orlando, which is taking part this weekend in the Orlando Public Library’s month-long tribute to Poe, a celebration called “The Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe,” which pays tribute to the writer who invented the detective story and created some of greatest works in horror literature.
So far, special events like poet and author Carol Frost discussing Poe’s poetry, and a Halloween Makeup of the Macabre at the West Oaks Branch, have brought in crowds that know, and love, the Baltimore writer’s work.
”We have been getting great responses from people who have come to the program,” said Kris R. Woodson, the library’s program and promotions development manager.
That reaction includes responses from patrons like Billye Schafer, who sent Woodson an email praising the Poe events, writing “What a treat and how fun the library has been for me.”
“People are appreciative of the programs that are featured and sent in accolades for us doing it,” Woodson said.
The thrills continue this weekend when the Mad Cow Theatre will send two of its featured actors, Stephen Lima and Sarah Lockhart, to the library to perform some of Poe’s works, including “The Tell Tale Heart.”
“We’ve got two actors who are going to be doing some readings as part of the event,” Mink said. “They’re going to be on stage for about 30 minutes or so. We’re excited to have been asked to participate.”
What’s great about Poe’s writing, Mink said, is how the stories not only continue to scare audiences, but also have wonderful imagery that comes vividly to life in the reader’s mind through the author’s gift for detail and gritty descriptions.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to learn the works of Edgar Allan Poe,” Mink said. “The images you read are images you can see yourself in your mind. A library is a safe setting for this – but the kids are looking to be scared.”
In addition, on Saturday author Darlyn Finch will lead a discussion of Poe’s classic poem “The Raven,” in a program called “Deep into that Darkness Peering.” Finch is the author of Scribbles, a literary newsletter.
Woodson said she hopes these events connect young readers with great literature – and the joy of reading.
“We want to use this as a way to reintroduce leisure reading to the community,” she said. “We felt it would not only bring people back to leisure reading, but also classical literature.”
And when the library first applied for a grant to fund this program during October, they knew Poe was the perfect author to highlight in a month that also brings us Halloween.
“It’s all of that mystery and that intrigue and suspense that draws people in,” Woodson said.
On Halloween day next Monday, the library will also host “Edgar Allan Poe Movie Madness” with a showing of the movie version of his classic horror tale, “House of Usher,” at 6 p.m.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.