Just in Time for Halloween: A Review of the Annual Clarke House Edgar Allan Poe Reading

Shari By Shari Guenther, Contributing Writer for The Underground

This past week I had a great desire to embrace the season and fall full-force into the Halloween spirit. After doing some research on Chicago Halloween attractions, I came across a unique experience: the Edgar Allan Poe Reading at Chicago’s historic Henry B. Clarke House Museum.

I knew this event was not to be missed because:

a) it was a fitting literary event for the holiday season,

b) I actually know where the Clarke House is, ensuring I wouldn’t get lost (which happens frequently for me),

The man himself.

and c) I absolutely love Edgar Allan Poe! His stories are so truly terrifying even for our day and age. Poe’s tales are all about our inherent fears, guilty consciences, and events that cannot be explained using rational thought. Edgar Allan Poe is the father of American Gothic horror stories–the perfect author for a spooky night!

The Clarke House Museum: photo credit Michael Beasley, cityofchicago.org

The Clarke House is a stunning Greek Revival style mansion located on S. Indiana Avenue. It sits right by the Glessner House, another beautiful and historic Chicago mansion. Being a museum first and event center second, we were allowed a short tour of the first floor.

A room at the Clarke House: photo credit James Caulfield, openhousechicago.org

Built in 1836, the Clarke House is one of the oldest mansions in Chicago and certainly gives an air of scare when walking through the door. I immediately felt transported back to the time Edgar Allan Poe would have been writing the stories, poems, and tales I would hear later that evening during the reading. Most of the furniture at the Clarke House is antique. When remodeling they tried to stay true to the era, making it the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe reading.

At 5:00 p.m., three readers—actors from the Lifeline Theatre—came out in front of the audience. And actors they were! They put such emphasis and vigor into their readings that it felt as if they were acting out a script. Their delivery and tone perfectly captured the terror in each of Poe’s legendary tales! Each actor read two stories each on their own and two additional stories using more than one actor. The actors also used a book to read from, which initially disappointed me. But when they truly brought the story to life how can I complain of their method!

Seven spooky stories and poems were selected from Poe’s numerous works:

“Alone” — This 22-line poem about the torment of isolation is thought by many critics to be autobiographical.

“Hop-Frog” — After a cruel king humiliates a captured dwarf and strikes another, the dwarf institutes his own brand of revenge. Let’s just say things get a little weird, even for Poe.

“The Cask of Amontillado” — Catacombs, revenge, and a live burial: the perfect tale to read this Halloween!

“A Dream Within A Dream” — Poe’s poem asks whether it is as easy as one might think to distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy.

“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” — Only the great E.A.P. could write a comedic story that takes place in a mental institution.

and two of my absolute favorites:

A Harry Clarke illustration from the 1919 edition of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

“The Raven” — This popular poem is classic Poe, and will have you wondering just what could rap at your chamber door this Halloween night.

and “The Tell-Tale Heart” — Guilt is certainly eating away at the narrator’s sanity in this spooky Poe tale about murder and what exactly is making that thump-thump sound coming from the floorboards….

The event ended at 6:30 and kept you entertained down to the last minute. All in all this was an outstanding Halloween occasion who anyone with a love of good horror stories will enjoy. The Clarke House did require a reservation for this event, which surprised me a bit. They had limited seating, about 25 or 30 seats, and every single seat was filled. Admission was $25–not exactly a cheap excursion for a college student on the ramen noodle diet–but well worth the dough because of the quality of the event. For those of you looking for a good literary scare come next October, I highly recommend you make a reservation for the 2014 Clark House Edgar Allan Poe Reading!

For more information about the Clarke House Museum, check out their Facebook page today. If you’d like to tour this Chicago gem for yourself and get a small glimpse of what I experienced, the Clarke House offers tours to the public Wednesday through Saturday at noon and 2:00 p.m.

Some Reminders, Sweet Deals, and Upcoming Events

Here’s a quick reminder for you research-loving undergraduate students: the deadline to apply to the upcoming Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar is tomorrow, Friday, October 18. Get those applications turned in ASAP!

The DePaul P.O.E.T.S. (or, as their close friends prefer to call them, Presenters of Enlightenment Through Spoken-Word) will be holding their very first open mic of the year on Monday, October 21 from 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in the Brownstone’s Annex! Come and perform your own poetry, rap, music, and more — or just come and listen while the P.O.E.T.S. peeps spit some spoken-word magic. And did I mention there’s free food involved?

1.th_.th_.ve_.GoodmanTheatreAnd finally, as all of us DePaul students already know, Chicago is known for many awesome things, but two in particular come up again and again: Chicago is home to the world’s best pizza and a fantastic theatre scene. On Wednesday, October 23, the Goodman Theatre, one of Chicago’s absolute gems for live stage performances, is inviting college students to come and enjoy both — pizza and a play— for only $10 per ticket! From 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., enjoy some Chicago pizza and pop in the Goodman’s 2nd floor lobby. Then, at 7:30, settle into your seats and enjoy the Goodman’s production of Pullman Porter BluesTake a music-fueled trip with back in time to the luxurious Pullman trains of the 1930s and see classic blues favorites like “Sweet Home Chicago” come to life with a live onstage band.

Don’t miss out on your chance to join the Goodman gang as the world-class theatre kicks-off its students-only 10Tix College Night season. Use promo code COLLEGE for online tickets or call the Goodman Theatre box office at 312.443.3800. A student ID must be presented at the event. For more information or to purchase your ticket, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/CollegeNight today!


Enter the Guild Complex Writing Contest

Calling all writers! The Guild Literary Complex is accepting submissions for their Annual Prose Awards. Both emerging and established writers are encouraged to submit their fiction or non-fiction pieces for consideration. There are no restrictions on subject or theme, but submissions should be typed, limited to 1,000 words or less, and writers must be Illinois residents 18-years of age or older.

prose-contest-2013-digital-final-2The 2013 judges include Cristina Henríquez (Fiction) and DePaul’s own Prof. Miles Harvey (Non-Fiction).

Winners of the Annual Prose Awards will be announced live October 23 at the Guild Literary Complex Prose Awards event, which will take place at Chicago’s historic Chopin Theatre. A $250 cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each category.

To submit, send a single piece of short fiction or non-fiction to contest@guildcomplex.org. There is a $5 submission fee–which includes admission to the Prose Awards event–payable using the PayPal donation button on the contest page. All submissions must be sent by 5 p.m. on October 1, 2013.

Free Event: NWA presents “Body Wisdom”

In Chicago this December? Looking for something fun and free to do? Check out this great event, “Body Wisdom,” presented by The Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

When? Wednesday, December 5th, from 6-8pm
Where? Harold Washington Library Center, Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State St.

Join NWA in celebration of dynamic movement, creative community, and personal stories from neighborhoods throughout chicago. Directed by Zahra Baker. Come support Chicago’s Neighborhood Writing Alliance–This is a free, public event!

For more information and to view their video checkout:
Check out their Facebook page:

Free Admission–Printers Row Live!

Pulitzer Prize recipient, Julia Keller, will be discussing her new mystery novel, A Killing in the Hills, in an interview with Chicago Tribune’s Elizabeth Taylor.


Friday, Sept. 7th at 7:00pm
Tribune Tower
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL

FREE STUDENT ADMISSION! To receive the discount, you need to access the website and  use the discount code STUDENT15 on the ticketing site to claim your free admission:

Course Spotlight: ENG 367: American Literature and the Environment

garden on Chicago city hall building, depaulunderground.wordpress.com

I love the hills and the fresh wind, the desert and the sea, the forest, the swamps, the rural towns of America.  I am obliged, therefore morally obliged, to defend these things

—Edward Abbey, Journal, August 5, 1978

This spring, the department is offering ENG367: American Literature and the Environment, taught by Prof. James Fairhall. The course looks at American attitudes towards nature, with a special focus on Chicago. To read more about the course, check out the course spotlight.

National Poetry Month-We Hardly Knew Ye (Part 1)

We’ve reached the end of National Poetry Month (3 scant days left) and if you’re like me, you haven’t done much celebrating this month. Don’t worry, there are still a number of poetry events you can attend in and around the city , year-round poetry organizations that you can join, and, of course, a host of local bookstores that you can visit.

Poetry Events:

Poetry Fest

April 30, 2011 10:00-4:30pm

Price: Free!!

Where: Harold Washington Library

400 S. State St.

Chicago, IL 60605

Come on out for poetry workshops, readings, open mics, and a special reading by Nikki Giovanni (2:00-3:00). All events are free and open to the public, but seating is first come, first served. For more information and a complete listing of times, click here.


National Poetry Month Cram

April 30, 2011  7-9pm

Price: Free!!

                                Where: Café Ballou

939 N. Western Ave.

Chicago, IL 60622

Join the creators and editors of Cram as they celebrate the release of their 11th volume. Poets included in the edition will be reading and everyone who attends will receive at least one free copy of the volume.  

“In One Ear” poetry night

Wednesdays 10:00pm

Price $3  

Where: Heartland Café (Neighborhood: Rogers Park)

7000 N. Glenwood Ave.

Chicago, IL 60626


Five-minute performances range from spoken word and poetry to music and visual art. Pete Wolf hosts. Performances are videotaped unless otherwise requested. Food available for purchase.

Tuesday Funk

Every 1st Tuesday of the Month 7:30pm

Price: Free!!

Where:  Hopleaf (Neighborhood: Andersonville)

5148 N. Clark St.

Chicago, IL 60640


Hear fiction, poetry and essays from featured local writers.

For more poetry and literature events happening in and around the city check out Metromix or Poets.org.