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'The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' by Edgar Allen Poe, Part Four

2017-10-07

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[00:15.95]
  • Murder had come to the old house on the street called Rue Morgue!
  • [00:21.98]
  • Murder had come and gone and left behind the dead bodies of an old woman and her daughter.
  • [00:30.68]
  • It was a perplexing crime scene.
  • [00:35.02]
  • The damage to the daughter’s body suggested a killer of superhuman strength.
  • [00:41.84]
  • The knife that had killed the old woman, almost separating head from body, was in the room.
  • [00:50.19]
  • But the old woman’s body was outside, behind the house.
  • [00:56.20]
  • The door and windows to the house all firmly closed, locked on the inside.
  • [01:04.63]
  • Voices had been heard.
  • [01:07.17]
  • One voice was speaking in French; the other voice had not spoken even one word that anyone could understand.
  • [01:17.94]
  • And yet, there was no one in the room when police arrived moments after the attack.
  • [01:26.32]
  • My friend Dupin was now explaining to me what he had learned when we visited the scene of the crime.
  • [01:36.61]
  • “I knew that what seemed impossible must be proved possible.
  • [01:42.82]
  • The killer, and I believe there was just one, escaped through one of these windows.
  • [01:50.43]
  • After the murderer had left he could have closed the window from the outside; but he could not have fastened the nail.
  • [01:59.40]
  • Yet anyone could see the nails which held the windows tightly closed.
  • [02:05.33]
  • This was the fact that stopped the police.
  • [02:09.32]
  • How could the murderer put the nail back in its place?”
  • [02:13.60]
  • “That’s the problem, Dupin! Perhaps — perhaps if you pulled out the nail…”
  • [02:20.25]
  • “Yes! That is just what I thought.
  • [02:23.43]
  • Two things seemed clear: first, there had to be something wrong with the idea that the nails were holding the windows closed.
  • [02:32.82]
  • Second, if it was not the nails which were holding the windows closed, then something else was holding them closed, something hard to see, something hidden.
  • [02:44.97]
  • So, I checked the first window again.
  • [02:48.45]
  • I removed the nail.
  • [02:50.71]
  • Then I again tried to raise the window.
  • [02:55.02]
  • It was still firmly closed.
  • [02:57.25]
  • There had to be a hidden lock, I thought, inside the window.
  • [03:03.09]
  • I searched the window frame. Indeed, I found a button which, when I pressed it, opened an inner lock.
  • [03:12.88]
  • I raised the window with ease.
  • [03:15.65]
  • “Now I knew that the killer could close the window from outside and the window would lock itself.
  • [03:22.69]
  • But there was still the nail.
  • [03:25.77]
  • So, I returned the nail, pressed the button and again tried to raise the window.
  • [03:32.82]
  • The nail held the window closed!”
  • [03:36.51]
  • “Then…the window could not have been the means of escape!”
  • [03:41.87]
  • “That window, no. The killer did not escape through it.
  • [03:46.41]
  • But I went again to the other window.
  • [03:49.82]
  • The nail there looked the same as the one I had just seen.
  • [03:54.33]
  • I moved the bed so that I could look closely.
  • [03:58.52]
  • Yes. There was a button here, too.
  • [04:01.41]
  • I was so sure I was right that without touching the nail I pressed the button and tried to raise the window. And guess what happened?”
  • [04:13.76]
  • I knew the answer but I let Dupin have the satisfaction of reporting.
  • [04:20.34]
  • The window went up, he told me.
  • [04:23.83]
  • “As the window went up, it carried with it the top part of the nail, the head.
  • [04:30.14]
  • When I closed the window, the head of the nail was again in its place.
  • [04:36.61]
  • It looked just as it had looked before.
  • [04:39.50]
  • The nail was broken but looked whole.
  • [04:43.34]
  • And, what is impossible is proved otherwise.”
  • [04:48.84]
  • “So the murderer went out that window. Did he arrive in the room by that path as well?"
  • [04:57.09]
  • Dupin answered, although it seemed he was speaking more to himself than me.
  • [05:04.38]
  • “It was a hot summer night. Would the victim have opened the window to get some fresh night air? Most likely.”
  • [05:15.06]
  • “So, the killer found it open and entered, I said.” Dupin nodded.
  • [05:22.09]
  • “And, as he came, the window locked when it closed.
  • [05:26.11]
  • The lock held the window closed not the nail, as it appeared to investigators.
  • [05:31.99]
  • Again that which seemed impossible was actually possible.”
  • [05:36.66]
  • Dupin’s eyes were shining with the satisfaction discovery brings.
  • [05:44.31]
  • He was analyzing evidence and his unusual reasoning ability had found a great purpose.
  • [05:52.88]
  • I suddenly understood:This is why going to the house on the Rue Morgue seemed “pleasing” to Dupin.
  • [06:02.51]
  • The use of his sharp mental abilities made him happy.
  • [06:07.70]
  • And, I had more work to provide that great brain.
  • [06:12.15]
  • “Dupin — the windows are on the fourth floor, far above the ground. Even an open window…”
  • [06:22.42]
  • Dupin shook his head up and down slowly.
  • [06:26.56]
  • “Yes…yes. That is an interesting question: how did the murderer go from the window down to the ground and vice-versa?
  • [06:37.76]
  • But I had looked around carefully outside you recall.
  • [06:42.22]
  • And I knew a way.
  • [06:44.61]
  • And the answer to this question told me still more about the identity of the killer.
  • [06:50.73]
  • Do you remember, friend, the lightning rod attached to the house?”
  • [06:56.21]
  • I paused. “Yyy…yes. A metal pole, and quite narrow. It protects the building from lightning strikes. But it is so tall and thin.”
  • [07:09.90]
  • “True. It would take great strength and agility to get up the pole.
  • [07:15.76]
  • Some kinds of animals might climb it easily, yes?
  • [07:20.63]
  • But surely not every man could.
  • [07:24.16]
  • In fact, maybe very few men.
  • [07:27.57]
  • Those of very special strength and special training.
  • [07:31.75]
  • “This helped create a better picture of the murderer.
  • [07:36.39]
  • But still not sharp enough to recognize. I still had the question: who?
  • [07:43.39]
  • “We know the killer climbed the pole, entered the room through the window, murdered and destroyed all order in the room.
  • [07:53.11]
  • He managed to push one body up the chimney.
  • [07:57.73]
  • He threw the other, almost headless, out the window.
  • [08:02.88]
  • Then he left the way he came. We can answer the how of the crime.
  • [08:09.71]
  • But who? Such unspeakable viciousness…what human could do this to another?”
  • [08:17.88]
  • Dupin continued, trancelike again, seeming to speak to himself as much as to me.
  • [08:26.34]
  • “Perhaps we can come closer to answering the question of who by exploring the question of why.”
  • [08:35.99]
  • “But Dupin, the police said the motive must have been robbery.”
  • [08:42.25]
  • “But my friend, what was taken?
  • [08:46.07]
  • The police said they could not answer the question.
  • [08:49.33]
  • They said they did not know what the women had.
  • [08:53.19]
  • Maybe clothes and jewelry, the investigators proposed.
  • [08:58.24]
  • But neighbors described the women as nearly hermits, rarely if ever, leaving the house.
  • [09:06.18]
  • Of what use would fine clothes and costly jewelry be to them?”
  • [09:13.27]
  • Dupin’s eyes were glistening, his brows pointing sharply down, as he circled me, thinking aloud.
  • [09:23.15]
  • “But, what is more telling than what the killer might have taken is what he left behind…conveniently in bags in the center of the room…”
  • [09:33.70]
  • “Of course, the money. You are right, Dupin.
  • [09:38.01]
  • It makes no sense.
  • [09:40.20]
  • All the money delivered from the bank to the old woman.
  • [09:44.59]
  • Right there on the floor.
  • [09:46.84]
  • Why would the attacker have passed on the riches?
  • [09:50.55]
  • A thief certainly would not.”
  • [09:53.39]
  • “So, I want you to forget the investigators’ claim that the killer acted out of a desire for money.
  • [10:01.62]
  • They thought this only because they knew the money had arrived just three days before the killings.
  • [10:08.66]
  • But that was just chance.
  • [10:11.32]
  • If gold was the reason for the murders, the killer must have been quite a fool to forget and leave it there.
  • [10:18.67]
  • “No. I think that there was no reason for these killings…except, perhaps, fear. The wild nature of the attack leads me to a motive of fear.”
  • [10:31.47]
  • “Hmm, an interesting theory, Dupin. Fear can bring out the crazed beast in a person…”
  • [10:39.54]
  • “In any living thing. Now let us look at the murders themselves.
  • [10:46.21]
  • A girl is killed by powerful hands around her neck, then the body is placed in the opening over the fireplace, head down.
  • [10:56.63]
  • Unusual, even by the standards of the most terrible criminals.
  • [11:01.71]
  • Think, also, of the great strength needed to put the body where it was found.
  • [11:07.88]
  • It took several men to pull it out!
  • [11:11.33]
  • Also the hair pulled from the head of the old woman.
  • [11:15.78]
  • You saw it on the floor yourself, and you saw the blood and skin still attached.
  • [11:22.30]
  • It takes great force to pull out even twenty or thirty hairs at a time.
  • [11:28.61]
  • But this was hair AND scalp!
  • [11:32.80]
  • And there was no reason to almost take off the woman’s head just to kill her.”
  • [11:41.34]
  • “It is extremely odd, I agree. Especially since there is no evidence that the killer knew the victims.
  • [11:50.48]
  • No one could hate a stranger enough to carry out such torture.”
  • [11:56.22]
  • Dupin’s eyes narrowed.
  • [11:59.98]
  • “Exactly.”
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