The Murders in the Rue Morgue  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841. Poe referred to it as a "tale of ratiocination" featuring the brilliant deductions of C. Auguste Dupin; it is today regarded as one of the first detective stories and is almost certainly the first locked room mystery. It has a sequel of sorts in "The Mystery of Marie Roget."

Plot summary

The story surrounds the baffling double murder of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter in the Rue Morgue, a fictional street in Paris. Newspaper accounts of the murder reveal that the mother's throat is so badly cut that her head is barely attached and the daughter, after being strangled, has been stuffed into the chimney. The murder occurs in an inaccessible room on the fourth floor locked from the inside. Neighbors who hear the murder give contradictory accounts, claiming they hear the murderer speaking a different language. The speech is unclear, they say, and they admit to not knowing the language they are claiming to have heard.

Paris natives Dupin and his friend, the unnamed narrator of the story, read these newspaper accounts with interest. The two live in seclusion and allow no visitors. They have cut off contact with "former associates" and venture outside only at night. "We existed within ourselves alone", the narrator explains. When a man named Adolphe Le Bon has been imprisoned though no evidence exists pointing to his guilt, Dupin is so intrigued that he offers his services to "G–", the prefect of police.

Because none of the witnesses can agree on the language the murderer spoke, Dupin assumes they were not hearing a human voice at all. He finds a hair at the scene of the murder that is quite unusual; "this is no human hair", he concludes. Dupin puts an advertisement in the newspaper asking if anyone has lost an "Ourang-Outang". The ad is answered by a sailor who comes to Dupin at his home. The sailor offers a reward for the orangutan's return; Dupin asks for all the information the sailor has about the murders in the Rue Morgue. The sailor reveals that he had been keeping a captive orangutan obtained while ashore in Borneo. The animal escaped with the sailor's shaving straight razor. When he pursued the orangutan, it escaped by scaling a wall and climbing up a lightning rod, entering the apartment in the Rue Morgue through a window.

Once in the room, the surprised Madame L'Espanaye could not defend herself as the orangutan attempted to shave her in imitation of the sailor's daily routine. The bloody deed incited it to fury and it squeezed the daughter's throat until she died. The orangutan then became aware of its master's whip, which it feared, and it attempted to hide the body by stuffing it into the chimney. The sailor, aware of the "murder", panicked and fled, allowing the orangutan to escape. The prefect of police, upon hearing this story, mentions that people should mind their own business. Dupin responds that G– is "too cunning to be profound."

Adaptations

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" has been adapted for film and television many times. The first full-length film adaptation of Poe's story was Murders in the Rue Morgue by Universal Pictures in 1932, directed by Robert Florey and starring Bela Lugosi, Leon Ames, and Sidney Fox, with Arlene Francis. Another adaptation, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, was released in 1954 by Warner Brothers, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Karl Malden and Patricia Medina. A film in 1971 directed by Gordon Hessler with the title Murders in the Rue Morgue had little to do with the Poe story. A made-for-TV movie, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, aired in 1986. It was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starred George C. Scott, Rebecca De Mornay, Ian McShane, and Val Kilmer.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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