Wednesday, the new Tim Burton detective mystery thriller on Netflix centering around Wednesday Addams (yes, from the Addams Family) being sent to boarding school, is chock-full of Edgar Allen Poe references, both overt and some more subtle.
Edgar Allen Poe, one of the most prolific poets and authors of the 19th century, is interesting in his relation to the show for a number of reasons. Most obviously, and woven throughout the entire series, Poe’s signature macabre style is a perfect fit for a show about Wednesday Addams. Further, Wednesday is a Detective Mystery thriller at heart, pitting Wednesday against various adversaries around town as she uncovers a mystery about a monster in the woods that has been murdering people. Poe, with his short story Murders in the Rue Morgue, is considered to have literally invented the Detective Fiction genre.
The boarding school in the show itself is literally named “Nevermore Academy”, a nod to Poe’s infamous poem The Raven. The website for Nevermore Academy lists Edgar Allen Poe as “Notable Alumni”, creating an odd question; Did the academy get its name from Poe, or did Poe (fictitiously) get the raven’s catch-phrase from the academy? It had to certainly be the latter, as the Academy was founded in 1791 and Poe himself wasn’t born until 1809, a significant anchor in Addams lore tying the fictitious family’s world to the real, literary world. It doesn’t get any more overt than that.
There are many, many more references to Poe throughout the series, which have already been detailed elsewhere and we won’t comprehensively list here. We will however focus on one particular scene of interest to our community:
The show draws on one of Poe’s less well-known tropes, employing a cipher puzzle as a plot point, centered around a statue of Poe in the school. Poe was the first author to use a cipher in the prose of literature, as well as coined the term “cryptograph” in his short story The Gold Bug (TW: use of the n-word and southern black dialect of the period).
Beware, puzzle spoilers begin on the next page: