Will You Visit The House of Usher?

Are you brave enough to enter the world of Edgar Allen Poe and visit ‘The House of Usher’? How will you capture your experience of visiting this famous house?

Usher House – The work of Ozmur Dogan

Extract from ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allen Poe

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, a sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain— upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows— upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil.

There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom, I now proposed to myself a sojourn of some weeks.

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway.

Perhaps you will begin by making artistic impressions of what you see as you approach the House of Usher.

Consider using visioning and visualization to approach and enter this place. What doorways will you pass through? Which parts of the house will you explore? Who will meet you in this gothic house? What truths will emerge?

The Spooky House
by Joseph Gagaridis Grade 5/6

When I walked into the house something didn’t feel right. I went to pick up the phone. There was no electricity. I saw stairs so I went up the stairs into a room. Suddenly the door closed behind me. There was no way out. I went to jump out of the window but there were spikes and swords sticking up. When I looked out of the window, a long distance away from here, I could see a truck had crushed my Ferrari into bits.

I realized that I shouldn’t have come to this house. I heard the door upstairs open. I hid in a closet waiting for someone to leave the house. After I heard the door open and the person leaves the house I tried to get out of the closet but the door was stuck. I looked behind me and saw two people hanging on the hooks in the closet. Dead! I screamed! I pushed the closet door hard. It opened.

I ran to another room. It was too dark to see anything. But then I turned around and saw two red eyeballs. I couldn’t see the body so I ran away from it. It was throwing heads covered in blood. One of them hit my eye. I couldn’t see. I fell on the floor and something bit me on the neck.

After a couple of hours, I woke up and I said to myself. “It was all just a dream.” I looked around me and I saw dead people who had been bitten on their necks. Spider webs were all over them. I tried to get out but it was all a maze. “I would need a book of mazes to get out of here,” I thought.

Then I heard footsteps coming closer and closer. I looked behind me but I didn’t see anyone. I could still hear footsteps. I ran from the noise, but I lost more and more energy because of the bite on my neck.

I looked behind me and I bumped into a dead person with spider webs on him and holes in his body. When I bumped into him I got very dizzy and I didn’t know where I was going. Suddenly I bumped into an invisible person and he said, “Go away and don’t touch me.”
Then he ran away. Then I saw the two red eyeball again.

“What do you want from me,” I said to the red eyeballed person. The red-eyed person told me that he wanted my brain but I told him he would have to come and get it and ran away. I turned my back to see if he was behind me but I didn’t see anyone. I stopped running.

Suddenly the two red eyeballed people said “BOO!” I almost had a heart attack and I had nearly lost all my energy. I couldn’t run any further and thought that this was the end of me. So I hid. In my hiding place, I found a book of mazes. I followed the pictures o the book and I walked until I saw a light. I walked towards the light and then I noticed that the red eyeballed person was going away from the light. Two zombies were guarding the way out. I picked up a sword and slew them and ran outside.

Unfortunately, all my energy had run out. I smelled the air and dropped dead on a big rock.

More Edgar Allen Poe Stimuli

The Masque of the Red Death

Tapping At Our Chamber Door – Begin A Raven Project

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this, and nothing more.”
Edgar Allen Poe

Raven has come tapping at the chamber door, urging everyone to include her in some writing or art.

When I work with young children I always introduce myself as a word magician who has the power to draw writing from each of them. One of my favourite activities is to produce some Animal Oracle Cards and Edgar Allen’s famous poem, particularly emphasising the idea of a raven having come tapping at our chamber door.

As I chat with them, as we listen to a reading of Poe’s ‘The Raven’  I suggest that everyone begin to draw, to write down words, identify feelings and  consider sketching a raven.

My students at LaTrobe Secondary College really loved it when we gathered up our workbooks and went outside to observe the raven colony that called the school grounds home, watching, looking for leftovers from lunch.

While they were outside I told them to set up a vocabulary page in their workbook,

metallic black feathers
raucous, mischievous
Suspicious and confident beasts 
Steadily on jagged wings 
Feathers black against a burning sky
Spread your wings and ride the wind 
Feathers spread wide, leaning into the wind, beak raised to the sky. 

to draw an abandoned site and to imagine that it is inhabited by a murder of ravens.

At the completion of all of this activity, I ask students to share some of the words that have appeared on what were blank pages. Then I ask them what the magic trick was. They invariably say that the secret was that they were given an idea to work with.

We discuss how we might build upon a base idea.

  • gather pictures and taking photographs
  • keep sketching and build-up material before trying to write anything substantial.
  • browse through the internet, research and find out about the symbolism of birds and the symbolism of the raven in particular.
  • read about the Raven in mythology. For example, in the ‘Seven Ravens’ the little girl is prepared to endure a challenging pilgrimage to find her brothers.
  • read the landmark gothic tale, The Birds, by Daphne du Maurier or watch the movie version. In this chilling tale the bird’s revolt against humankind. The story later became a Hitchcock movie – dated maybe, but still a good movie.
  • keep adding to a vocabulary page.
  • play with magnetic poetry to form some more ideas.

Having done all of this we write freely for twenty minutes making sure not to worry if the initial piece is incoherent or full of grammatical errors for this is only the beginning of the process. There are many more decisions to be made!

 

Raven and Donkey Dansing With Death by Heather Blakey 2018

Perhaps you will, like me, be happy to find expression and make a statement by drawing. Or you might choose to take a series of photographs.

Maybe you will end up creating a graphic novel, write a play, make a video of reading a poem or whatever. The possibilities are endless.

Examples:

Standing on a Literary Legend’s Shoulders

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal–the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour…
Edgar Allen Poe Masque of the Red Death

In her book ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’, Clarissa Pinkola Estes recalls a numinous dream in which she found herself standing on the shoulders of an old woman. When she suggested that she was young and that she should carry the older woman on her shoulders the woman quite firmly told her that “this is the way it is meant to be”.

All writers stand on the shoulders of those who have walked before them. The art of story writing is a very old medium and so new young storytellers are entering a medium that has been going on for millennia! When working with the start of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’ young storytellers are not only learning from a master story writer. They are also learning to stand on the shoulders of others and to reference those who have influenced their writing.

Children love the ‘Masque of the Red Death’ and they know, from the outset, that this is not going to end well, that the Prince is not going to defeat the Red Death.

For this task, we listened to the beginning of the story and then

  1. Spent time drawing the castle and what we thought Red Death looked like.
  2. Brainstormed and thought about how Red Death would enter Prince Prospero’s fortress.
  3. Projected a week ahead and arrived on the scene as investigative news reporters.
  4. Wrote a headline!
  5. Submitted a news report!
  6. Considered other ways that we could use this information. Suggestions included writing a ballad or a poem, creating a graphic novel, producing a television script and preparing a feature article exploring ways in which Red Death was finally contained.
  7. Designed costumes for the ball.

More Edgar Allen Poe Stimuli

Would You Visit the House of Usher?