Warehouse A
Fate Of Richard Parker
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Strange Prophetic Story By Edgar Allen Poe

By James Donahue

There is a gruesome story in the records of sailing ships involving the Mignonette, a yawl commanded by a Captain Tom Dudley that left Southampton, England, in 1884 on a long voyage to Australia, and foundered in a hurricane in the South Atlantic.

The crew of the Mignonette, Dudley, the mate, Edwin Stephens, and two deck hands, Edmund Brooks and Richard Parker, were cast adrift in an open boat, some 1,600 miles from land, with few provisions. After 19 days in that boat, with no food or water, the crew became desperate. After Parker drank sea water and became delirious, the other crew members decided to kill and eat him. Their reasoning was that Parker was near death anyway and he had no family.

As the story is told the three men lived on Parker's remains for 35 days until they were rescued by a steamship strangely named the Montezuma. (Montezuma was the last great ruler of the Aztecs in South America, who were known to hold human sacrificial ceremonies, and may have even eaten their victims.)

In the end, the British court found Dudley, Stephens and Brooks guilty of murder on the high seas and sentenced them to six months of hard labor. After that they left the country.

What was especially odd about the Mignonette story was that 40 years earlier, English author Edgar Allan Poe published his only effort at a novel, a failed book named The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The story line in the book was about Pym and a friend, who set sail from Nantucket. While at sea their boat capsized and the two men survive for several days on the floating hull with two other men.

After days of starving, the men decided that the only say for any of them to survive was for one to be sacrificed for cannibalism. The men drew lots to decide who should be killed and eaten. The cabin boy drew the short straw. And his name was Richard Parker.

The question here is if Poe, who was a known opium user who penned his great works of literature while under the influence of the drug, was in some way able to generate a prophetic view of a future event?

The similarities between the Poe story and the real killing of the young crew member Richard Parker some 40 years later were amazingly accurate. It was as if Poe saw this event in an opiate dream and then described it in his book.