Tell Tale HeartTRUE!—- nervous—very,— very dreadfully nervous I had been — and am; but why will
you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses- not destroyed – not dulled them.
Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in heaven and on earth. I heard many
things below the earth.
How, then am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the whole
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted
me day –and night. Object—- there was none. Passion——-there was none. I loved the old man.
He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I
think—–it was——–his eye. Yes! it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture.—–a
pale blue eye——with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold. And so, by
degrees——very gradually—I made up my min to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself
of that eye——-forever.
Now this is the point. You fancy me Mad. Madmen know nothing! But you should have
seen me! You should seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—–with what
Caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work. I was never kinder to the
old man than during that the whole week before I killed him. And every night—–About
midnight—-I turned the latch of his door and opened it—Oh so gently. And then, when I had
made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light
shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I
thrust it in! I moved it slowly-very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It
took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay
upon his bed. Ha!-would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well
in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously – for the hinges creaked. I undid it
just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long
nights-every night just at midnight-but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to
do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning,
when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him calling him
by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have
been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon
him while he slept.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s
minute-hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of
my own powers-of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that
there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or
thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps the heard me; for he moved on the bed
suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back-but no. His room was as black as
pitch with the thick darkness, and so I know that he could not see the opening of the door, and I
kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin
fastening, and the old man spring up in the bed, crying out-?Who’s there?
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle and in the
meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening: just as I have
done, night after night, hearkening to the death-watches in the wall.
Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a
groan of pain or grief-oh,-no!-it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul
when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the
world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors
that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I
chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the slight noise, when he had
turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy
them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself- ?it is nothing but the wind in the
chimney-it is only a mouse crossing the floor, ?or ?it is merely a cricket whack has made a single
chirp.? Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in
vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before
him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that
caused him to feel-although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the
When I had waited a long time; very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to
open a little – a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it-you cant imagine how
stealthily-until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice
and fell upon the vulture eye.
It was open–wide, wide open– and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect
distinctness-all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones;
but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by
instinct, precisely upon the cursed spot.
And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of
the senses?-now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, much such a sound as a
watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old
man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I
tried to see how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the demonic tattoo of
the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old
man’s terror must have been extreme. It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!-do you mark
me well? I have told you I am nervous; so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the
dreadful silence of the old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror.
Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I
thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me-the sound would be heard by a
neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell I threw open the lantern and leaped into
the room. He shrieked once-once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the
heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to mind the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the
heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through
the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse.
Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there for many
minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.