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The following article entitled, “Legend links lettered olive seashell with Poe’s ‘The Gold Bug'” was published in StarsNewsOnline.com (The Voice of Southeastern North Carolina). The article tells the story of Edgar Poe & some of his work he wrote while living in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Here it is:

“It’s only a matter of time. Writers of such tales as The Da Vinci Code will find hidden messages in hieroglyphic-like markings of the lettered olive seashell. You can hardly blame them. How could such delicate, intricate scrolling occur by chance?

Yet history conceals even finer intrigue not so far from here. Are you in the mood for a good mystery? Sit back. Let your mind wander. What do a beetle, lettered olive and little island off the Charleston coast have in common? During the 1800s, Edmund Ravenel had a house and small medical practice on Sullivan’s Island, S.C. The three-mile long island was sparsely populated then, with scrubby trees and plenty of shore to roam, much like our South Brunswick islands.

Ravenel was also a renowned conchologist. In 1834, he published America’s first comprehensive seashell catalog and is credited with first documenting the lettered olive.

He named it “Oliva sayana,” after his friend Thomas Say. Its common name “lettered” conjures its resemblance to some ancient rune. But Ravenel wasn’t the only seashell lover on Sullivan’s Island. A young, little-known author came to be stationed at nearby Fort Moultrie.

Enlisted under the name Edgar Perry, his rightful surname was Poe. With a traveling actress for a mother and a father who vanished from fatherhood’s burdens, the youth would make several unsuccessful stabs at collegiate and military careers. It’s thought the alias may have resulted from gambling debts incurred as a sometime scholar.

In any event, the good doctor and young soldier shared the island’s solitude and quaint infamy as a possible old pirate domain. No solid evidence proves they ever met, or were acquainted, as many believe. Still, many Poe scholars insist it’s true.

In 1843, Poe won $100 in a magazine short story contest for The Gold Bug, set in Sullivan’s Island. To this day locals there insist the depicted narrator was their own Dr. Ravenel. They cite his seashell knowledge, referenced in the work, as well as being in the same place and time as Poe’s character.

Like your plot thicker? Supposedly Poe fell in love with Ravenel’s young daughter, Annabelle Lee. It’s said her disapproving father secreted her away, where she died of yellow fever. Legend holds he even bought decoy burial plots to conceal her grave from Poe.

Time’s a funny thing. Ravenel was the famous one then. Poe was little more than a wild-eyed tabloid hack and poet wannabe. Poe later joked, “The bird beat the bug,” comparing The Raven and The Gold Bug.

These days, although Ravenel remains famous around Charleston, Poe’s fame eventually eclipsed his. Still, lettered olive stands as South Carolina’s state shell, and a museum proudly displays Ravenel’s extensive shell collection.

Looking for a good winter’s read? Pick up a lettered olive. Hold it while rereading The Gold Bug for between-the-lines Carolina island similarities. Then go explore Poe Street and Gold Bug Lane on Sullivan’s Island. Mysteries, like fine wine, always improve with age. ”

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