BW BC 11: The Misremembered Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
Only one story this week because the Du Maurier was longer than expected. That’s okay because I’m slightly ahead of schedule so can slacken the pace a bit. That means we only have Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”.
This is actually one of my favorite Poe stories, but after this reread I have to admit very little of what remembered happening in this story actually happens in this story. And much of the cool shit I like about it is actually either made up whole cloth by my imagination or was from some movie version I saw somewhere.
So, let’s begin with the basic facts about “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”.
Valdemar is an invalid dying of tuberculosis. The narrator, a hypnotist, has convinced M. Valdemar to be hypnotized right at the point of death. There are a lot of descriptions of the sick room, done in that fever pitch purple prose Poe does well and which appeals to morbid teens of varying stripes. The plan goes off without a hitch, M. Valdemar dies, but his mind remains alive due to the hypnosis. There’s a creepy long passage about how M. Valdemar’s tongue lolls out of his mouth and speaks with a monstrous voice that comes from somewhere deep in the throat. It’s grisly. And the hypnotist keeps him in this state for seven months until he decides to see if it’s possible to wake Valdemar and return him to life. This does not succeed and as Valdemar’s tongue bursts with the word “Dead! Dead!” the body dissolves into a liquid mass of loathsome putridity. The End.
Now things I remember that aren’t in the story: the hypnotist has a motive for doing this beyond idle curiosity. He wants to know what happens after death, and his goal is to use the mesmerized Valdemar as a medium to explore the afterlife. Every day the hypnotist asks the corpse questions hoping to discover if the soul was immortal, and everyday the corpse replied that there was nothing, only void. The hypnotist refuses to accept this and continues to question Valdemar for seven months before the authorities force an end the experiment, at which point cue the putridity.
And none of that’s in the story. It might be in the Roger Corman version, but I don’t think it is. That version just has Basil Rathbone using hypnosis to get at Vincent Price-Valdemar’s wife and VPV rising from the death trance before Rathbone can seal the deal.
Maybe, I should write down my version.
Do you all have any story you misremember despite enjoying?