Edgar Allen Poe Wrote About the Death of Dick Parker-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Edgar Allen Poe’s only complete novel, “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket,” tells the story of a sailor named Dick Parker who was eaten by his crew after they ran out of provisions. Decades later, a sailor named Richard “Dick” Parker was actually killed and eaten by his crewmates after a storm nearly destroyed their ship.
This one is true.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote about Dick Parker’s (fictional) death in a novel published 46 years before a real sailor named Dick Parker died in the same way.
“Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” tells the story of two boys who hide aboard a whaling ship that sets out to sea. While the boys are hiding, the crew mutinies and many end up slaughtered. The boys team up with the only two remaining crewmembers, one being named Dick Parker. After they run out of food, they decided to draw straws to see which one of them will be killed and eaten to keep the others alive. And, you guessed it, Dick Parker draws the short straw and is eaten by his crewmates.
An almost identical situation played out in 1883 — 46 years after the novel was published — when an unlucky sailor named Dick Parker was killed and eaten by his crewmembers. Their boat had been cast away in a storm 1,600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. After they ran out of water, Dick Parker refused to drink his own urine for hydration and opted for seawater instead. That made him sick. Shortly after he fell into a coma, his crewmates, Thomas Dudley and Edwin Stephens, decided to murder and eat him, according to a summary of a criminal case brought against the men:
That next day, the 25th of July, no vessel appearing, Dudley told Brooks that he had better go and have a sleep, and made signs to Stephens and Brooks that the boy had better be killed. The prisoner Stephens agreed to the act, but Brooks dissented from it. That the boy was then lying at the bottom of the boat quite helpless and extremely weakened by famine and by drinking sea water, and unable to make any resistance, nor did he ever assent to his being killed. The prisoner Dudley offered a prayer asking forgiveness for them all if either of them should be tempted to commit a rash act, and that their souls might be saved. That Dudley, with the assent of Stephens, went to the boy, and telling him that his time was come, put a knife into his throat and killed him then and there; that the three men fed upon the body and blood of the boy for four days; that on the fourth day after the act had been committed the boat was picked up by a passing vessel, and the prisoners were rescued, still alive, but in the lowest state of prostration.
The big difference between the fictional and actual stories is that the crews didn’t draw straws to decide who would die in the actual story. Rather, Dick Smith’s crewmates decided he should die because they both had families waiting for them back home. After Dudley and Stephens survived the ordeal, they were found guilty of murder in Parker’s death and sentenced to death.