"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a short story by the American horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published on December 20, 1845, appearing simultaneously in that day's issue of the New York City newspaper The Broadway Journal and in the December edition of the magazine The American Review: A Whig Journal. In The American Review, the story appeared under the title "The Facts of M. Valdemar's Case". The story was first published in Great Britain in the form of pamphlets that bore the titles "Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis" and "The Last Days of M. Valdemar".
The story's title character is a dying man who agrees to let the story's narrator hypnotize him at the moment of his death. The narrator wants to find out if it is possible to hypnotize a dying man and if it is possible to use hypnosis to temporarily extend a dying man's life. The narrator's experiment results in Monsieur Valdemar being left in a state in which he is neither truly alive nor dead for seven months.
When the story was first published, no indication was given that it was a work of fiction. Consequently, many readers believed it to be a genuine scientific account. Readers who wrote to Poe asking him if the story was true, however, received replies in which he told them that it was not.
There have been several adaptations of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" to other media.
The story's narrator, known only as P-, is very interested in hypnotism. He finds out that nobody has ever been hypnotized at the moment of death. He wonders if it would be possible to hypnotize someone at the moment of death and if that person would be more or less susceptible to hypnotism than anyone else. He also wonders if it would be possible to temporarily keep a hypnotized dying person alive and for how long. P- hopes to hypnotize a dying person in order to find out.
A possible subject for P-'s experiment is presented in the form of Monsieur Eric Valdemar, an acquaintance of P- who is slowly dying of tuberculosis. Monsieur Valdemar has written medical reference books and has also translated works of French and German literature into Polish under the pseudonym of Issachar Marz. Although he does not have any relatives living in that country, Monsieur Valdemar has emigrated to the United States and has been living for a few years in Harlem, New York. P- has hypnotized Monsieur Valdemar in the past and, although he found it easy to get him to go to sleep, he was unable to get him to do much while he was in a trance. Monsieur Valdemar is quite happy to let P- carry out his experiment on him. He agrees to send for P- about twenty-four hours before he is expected to die.
P- receives a note from Monsieur Valdemar which says that his two doctors, known as Dr. D- and Dr. F- only expect him to live for about a day. P- goes over to the place where Monsieur Valdemar lives. It is about seven o'clock on Saturday evening when P- arrives. Although Monsieur Valdemar is obviously dying, he is sitting up in bed and writing and still speaks clearly. Dr. D- and Dr. F- confirm that they both expect Monsieur Valdemar to die at about midnight on Sunday. The two doctors had not intended to see Monsieur Valdemat again but they both agree to return the following evening to observe P-'s experiment.
Shortly before eight o'clock on Sunday evening, P- begins to hypnotize Monsieur Valdemar in the presence of the two nurses (one male and one female) who attend him and a medical student known as Theodore L-. It is a long and slow process and is not fully completed until after midnight, by which time Dr. D- and Dr. F- have also arrived. On examining Monsieur Valdemar, both doctors agree that he is till alive and in a deep hypnotic trance. P- is able to get Monsieur Valdemar to move his right arm but is unable to get him to do anything else. Dr. D- decides to stay for the night. Dr. F- leaves but says that he will return in the morning.
At three o'clock in the morning, P- asks Monsieur Valdemar if he is asleep. After some time, he slowly answers that he is. He adds that he does not want to be wakened but wants to die while sleeping. P- asks Monsieur Valdemar if he feels any pain. He slowly replies, "No pain.-I am dying." After Dr. F- returns before sunrise, P- asks Monsieur Valdemar again if he is sleeping.. He slowly replies, "Yes, still asleep-dying." Dr. D- and Dr. F- agree that it is best to leave Monsieur Valdemar under hypnosis and that he will probably die within a few minutes.
P- decides to speak to Monsieur Valdemar one more time. He begins by asking him again if he is asleep. It takes some time and effort for Monsieur valdemar to reply. While he is trying to reply, he dies. He then answers in a very strange voice, "Yes-no.-I have been sleeping-and-now-I am dead." He repeats the word 'dead' several times. Although his mouth does not open, his tongue can be seen to be moving. Theodore L- faints and it takes some time to revive him. The two nurses flee the room in terror and never return.
P- is unable to get Monsieur Valdemar to move his right arm again. Monsieur Valdemar still responds to P-'s questions, speaking slowly and in a strange voice without moving his mouth. P-, the two doctors and Theodore L- all leave at ten o'clock in the morning. They all return in the afternoon and find Monsieur Valdemar still in the same condition. Dr. D and Dr. F- agree that waking Monsieur Valdemar would probably put a definitive end to his life and that he should therefore stay under hypnosis. Other nurses are found to look after Monsieur Valdemar. he remains in the same condition for seven months.
After seven months, P- decides that it is time to wake Monsieur Valdemar. In the company of Dr. F-, he goes to see Monsieur Valdemar again. P- asks Monsieur Valdemar if he can tell him what he feels or wishes for at that moment. Monsieur Valdemar replies, "For God's sake!-quick!-quick!-put-me to sleep-or- quick!-wake me!-I say to you that I am dead!"
P- brings Monsieur Valdemar out of his trance. At that moment, Monsieur Valdemar immediately begins to rot away rapidly until nothing is left of him but a "nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putrescence."
"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" was adapted as the 1936 Italian movie Il casso Valdemar ("The Valdmear Case") directed by Gianni Hoepli and Ubaldo Magnaghi. The first of the three segments that make up Enrique Carreras' 1960 Argentinean horror film Obras maestras de terror is an adaptation of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". The film was released in the United States in 1965 as Masters of Horror. The last of the three segments in Roger Corman's 1962 American horror film Tales of Terror is a loose adaptation of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". The segment stars Vincent Price as Monsieur Valdemar and Basil Rathbone as the hypnotist. The 1990 Italian-American horror film Two Evil Eyes (Due occhi diabolici), directed by Dario Argento and George A. Romero, is made up of loose modernized adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of Monsieur Valdemar" and "The Black Cat". The 2002 American black comedy film The Mesmerist, directed by Gil Cates Jr., is a loose adaptation of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" It stars Neil Patrick Harris as the hypnotist and Howard Hesseman as Mr. Valdemar. The 72 minute animated film Extraordinary Tales (Belgium/Luxembourg/Spain/USA 2015), directed by Raúl García, is made up of adaptations of five short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, including "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". The segment based on "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" in Extraordinary Tales is narrated by the British actor Julian Sands.
Two episodes of the Spanish television horror anthology series Historias para no dormir ("Stories to Keep You Awake") are adaptations of "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar". The first adaptation, entitled "El pardo" ("The Deal") originally aired on TVE-1 on March 25, 1966. The second adaptation, entitled "El caso del Señor Valdemar" ("The Case of Mr. Valdemar"), was first shown on TVE-1 on September 6, 1982.
There is a reference to "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdeamr" in the British TV docudrama Dickens that originally aired on BBC Two between May 11 and May 25, 2002. In the docudrama, a fictionalized Charles Dickens (played by Anton Lesser) visits the United States and is shown a man who was hypnotized some time earlier at the moment of death. When the man is brought out of his hypnotic trance, he decomposes until nothing remains of him apart from a pile of maggots.
"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" was adapted as an episode of the American syndicated radio drama series The Weird Circle. The episode, entitled "The Case of Monsieur Valdemar", was first broadcast in 1943. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" was adapted as an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Radio Tales. The episode, entitled "Edgar Allan Poe's Valdemar", first aired on NPR on March 14, 2000.
- ↑ The other segments in the 1960 film Obras maestras de terror are based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amontillado".
- ↑ The other segments in the 1962 film Tales of Terror are based on Edgar Allan Poe's "Morella" and a combination of "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado".
- ↑ Other segments in the 2015 animated film Extraordinary Tales are based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Tell-Tale Heart', "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Masque of the Red Death".