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The Pit and the Pendulum

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  53,992 ratings  ·  846 reviews
Get set for true terror in one of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous short stories.

We enter the mind of a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. The dank prison room is without light and he begins to feel his way around the walls. Later, as a little light enters the room, he discovers two things: a deep and dangerous pit in the centre into which he had almost fallen when he explo
Paperback, Penguin 60s Classics, 56 pages
Published 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1842)
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Johnny As of 2022, apparently, there have been quite a handful:

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
IMDb#tt0055304 - 1h20m - 7.0/10 - Low-Med Popularity
The Pit…more
As of 2022, apparently, there have been quite a handful:

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
IMDb#tt0055304 - 1h20m - 7.0/10 - Low-Med Popularity
The Pit and the Pendulum (1964) (TV Movie)
IMDb#tt0206227 - 0h37m - 7.4/10 - Low Popularity
The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)
IMDb#tt0062235 - 1h24m - 5.9/10 - Low Popularity
The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)
IMDb#tt0100369 - 1h37m - 5.9/10 - Low-Med Popularity
The Pit and the Pendulum (2009)
IMDb#tt1311082 - 1h27m - 2.7/10 - Low Popularity

And this isn't even listing all of them! The list would have been well over 20 if student films or TV episodes of fleeting transcendence were included. None seem to have gained mainstream prominence, however.(less)
Natalie If you love Poe, I'm sure you'll love this one. It seems to be one of his most popular. …moreIf you love Poe, I'm sure you'll love this one. It seems to be one of his most popular. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  53,992 ratings  ·  846 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
”The entire surface of this metallic enclosure was rudely daubed in all the hideous and repulsive devices to which the charnel superstition of the monks has given rise. The figures of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms, and other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the walls.”

 photo pit-and-pendulum20Harry20Clarke_zps9moy5muo.jpg
Simply superb illustration by Harry Clarke.

Our nameless narrator has been condemned by a panel of black robed, white lipped, stern faced judges. His crime is unknown, but then this is th
The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe

The story was remarkably suspenseful and chilling. It's a story about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. Because of the atmosphere, it inspired fear in the reader's mind. Notwithstanding a little book, it's long enough to be carried away to the gloomy, extreme dark, and horrifying dungeon.
I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all is madness - the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things.

Glenn Russell
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing

At age twelve I was given my first introduction to the world of literature by my mother who read me Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. I can still vividly recollect living through the horrors of the chamber with the unnamed narrator, wondering why Christian monks would construct such a room and why Christian monks would inflict such torture. I still wrestle with a number of the story’s themes.

Why do such a thing? The story’s torture chamber is not a makeshift construction slapped together; ra
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A classic of sensational horror, The Pit and the Pendulum is also, for me, one of the Poe stories that most closely resembles (and certainly influences) later writers such as Franz Kafka. Here we have several Kafka-like elements: a judgment pronounced by distant, stern, inhuman judges, with no sense of what crime, if any, may have been committed, and then a devious punishment that gets more devious as time goes on. The narrator is also utterly alone in the world, save the hungry rats, and this l ...more
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
As the doorbell rings nearly incessantly and the frigid air seeps into my living room, I am all tucked up in a corner of the couch with my fluffy blanket, a glass of The Velvet Devil Merlot, and a book of tales from the master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. I'm leaving the job of distributing candy to everyone else. I can't think of a better way to spend the evening!

The Pit and the Pendulum is a classic - one that keeps you in the grip of horror while the tension mounts relentlessly. The torture ch
Sean Barrs

Time conquers all; it is an inescapable fate for all men: it cannot be defeated or avoided. It’s a powerful, unshakable, enemy and a recurring theme across many of Poe’s stories. I’ve seen it a few times now. This time it is a tormenter and a reminder of the incoming doom in the dark pit that is death. This is represented by the pendulum, sweeping like a minute hand, getting faster and faster as it approaches the narrator; it symbolises that death will be the end
Book Review
3+ of 5 stars to The Pit and the Pendulum, a short story written in 1842, by Edgar Allan Poe. As in the tradition of Poe's other Gothic and gory tales, this one takes the fear of death to new heights. Poe tells the story of a man facing punishment during the Spanish Inquisition, a death like no other. At first, he's strapped to a wooden table while a pendulum swings from above with a saw, getting lower and lower until it's nearly about to start ripping into his flesh. But
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Pit:
and the Pendulum:

3.75 stars. In this 1842 short story by Edgar Allen Poe, an unnamed prisoner details the ghastly and elaborate tortures he endures at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. He begins with his sentencing by black-robed judges, a nightmarish sequence of images that culminates in his loss of consciousness. When he awakes, he's in a pitch dark room, free to move about, but unable to see a thing. And there his true tortures begin.

Poe, despite a supreme disregard for any hist
A brilliant, awe-full, awful portrayal of torture taking a man to the brink of the abyss. It’s sensual (the senses - not sexy), visceral, and real - not in terms of historical accuracy, but because there’s no trace of the supernatural: all the evil comes from unseen humans.

I’ve read it before, but had forgotten that it’s utterly ruined by its ending.

The narrator has been sentenced to death by the black-robed, white-lipped Inquisitors of Toledo. Seven tall candles, like “white and slender angel
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you see Poe's pit and pendulum as metaphors for the psychological state of being trapped between two bad choices, it makes sense in much less dramatic situations than the one he chose.

Should I stay in an environment that is toxic, or jump into the unknown pit?

Should I sell the rotten stocks or should I keep them?

Should I speak up or stay quiet?

Should I work for another hour or open a bottle of wine?

Should I buy the book or save the money (though that is not really a choice!)?

Should I let mys
Tristram Shandy
Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

At least not as late as in the Napoleonic Wars, when it was technically still operating – until Napoleon put a stop to it – but when it would be highly improbable that so much pain would have been taken by the Dominicans to inflict so much pain on one prisoner, especially when nobody was there to witness the plight. Nevertheless, these were thoughts that hardly occurred to me when I read Poe’s tale The Pit and the Pendulum for the first time. I must have be
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a reread. The story gets better every time
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
What makes this one a bit more hair-raising is its radical two-point climax curve. The guy nearly dies at the pit, then nearly dies at the pendulum. SAT words galore as well as the best known anecdote of death at the Inquisition, at least for me, makes it easily an essential read. Just for horror writers: Here's a wealth of adjectives & verbs that describe dread & the absolute horror of an impending death! ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Third Read, 8/2017: The story overwhelms me with such excited emotion. The work reads like a painting with more vivid reality that a digital picture. Out if this emotion I must say. Wow! What unbelievable talent! Why did I wait so long to get into Poe?

"It was hope that prompted the nerve to quiver- the frame to shrink. It was hope- the hope that triumphs in the rack- that whispers to the death- condemned even in the dungeons of the inquisition." My favorite line, perhaps a main theme, and one th
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A brilliant example of embodied writing.

“They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I was half stifled by their thronging pressure; disgust, for which the world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled, with a heavy clamminess, my heart.”

You feel it first—the fear, the horror. Then your mind follows. The word torture has lost its edge. This is torture. And also, this is why it is important to hope.

Must. Read. More. Poe.
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
3.5 stars

In Masque of the Red Death, Poe excelled at dread through a pronounced description of setting. Here, setting is present but it's mainly dread through the creative viewpoint of the man's internal monologue and desperation.

“I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all is madness - the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things.”

Emotion is high and strong throughout during the terrible ordeal - The Inquisition has taken place, the man has been sentenced, and he
Jose Moa
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, teror
Putting aside the histhoric context of the tale that is a accesory frame for the picture,the narration, we pass to review.

The tale is one of the greatest romantic horror tales,told in first person by a condemned to death by the Toledo Inquisition, with the great prose of Poe.
Is a tale about subjetive pass of time,about the subjetive terrorific reality in a sensorial deprived situation,a nightmarish voyage to the unknown next torture, and told in a sort of conscious stream of hopeles fear and ter
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Apart from The Tell-Tale Heart that I read for class in junior high; this was the first Poe that I ever really read.....and I was immediately in love! His language was the most beautiful that I had ever come across. I was so entranced by the way he used words that the horrific depiction wasn't quite coming through as I sat there fascinated with the way he could string words into a sentence like pearls onto a chain. But then, I began to get queazy, forgetting to take a breath....it was a beautifu ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
"To the victims of its tyranny, there was the choice of death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most hideous moral horrors. I had been reserved for the latter. By long suffering my nerves had been unstrung, until I trembled at the sound of my own voice, and had become in every respect a fitting subject for the species of torture which awaited me."

Really good, suspenseful little story, told with Poe's deft touch of the macabre. Unlike most of Poe's other stories, though, this on
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-long-ago
I love the poems and books of Poe. So atmospheric, compelling and unique
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it


"...I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. And there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain i
Jenny Baker
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Readathon: This is part of a readathon to help me lower my TBR to a reasonable number. I may have to continue this readathon for five years to achieve this goal.
I hadn't realised quite how long ago this was written - 1842.
This Penguin 60 collection contains 4 short stories from Edgar Allan Poe, and I struggle to say I was overly taken by any of them.

I found the writing overly complex and wordy, and took total concentration on each sentence just to filter to the point being made. All these complaints are explained at least partly by the age of the writing I expect.

Irrespective, the 4 stories are not all the same - the titular story about a prisoner of
Jack Heath
4 Stars. Horror stories have never been my genre. As a youngster I recall being frightened by a TV production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and Washington Irving's headless horseman. Poe's story, just 15 pages, is pure horror but it drew me in just as effectively. So vividly written and emotionally charged. Poe's genius is ensuring the reader lives the experience side-by-side with his protagonist. It first appeared in 1842 in "The Gift" for Christmas, and was in a 1960 collection, "The Fall o ...more
Shirley Revill
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this short story some time ago but must admit it is one of my favourite stories.
There is just something about this story that put fear into my very soul when I imagined the scene portrayed.
Absolutely adore Edgar Allen Poe such a talented author and as my mam liked to say he had a way with words you know.
If you haven't yet read this story you are really missing out. Recommended.
Katarina Antonia
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dark, terrifying and reminds me on a long forgotten nightmare- truly a masterpiece.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
“...the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long and final scream of despair.”
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
the blurb: this tale of poe's emphasizes reality over the supernatural.
me, who just had the most surrealist, hellfire-esque experience of my life: weird flex but ok

in all seriousness: this is an interesting one.

poe's stories often do focus the supernatural, or at least the narrator's perception of it. this is a balls-to-the-walls (burning metal torture walls, mind you) sentenced-to-death kind of tale, in which a prisoner is tortured by the inquisition.

narrowly escaping his first intended method
Haifa Grar / Mercurielle_
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
A man sentenced to death is put in a dungeon to meet the destiny set to him by his torturers.
Doomed. Tic toc, tic toc.

As a helpless spectator of the horrifying sight, the tumult of feelings kept unreeling before my eyes.
“all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, night were the universe.”

Torn between Fear and Hope (though the latter only seemed to emphasize the dreadfulness of the situation) the agony is palpable.
A. Dawes
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The Pit and the Pendulum 4* As a reader who enjoys dark fiction, fantasy and historical fiction, this imaginative tale of torture during the Spanish Inquisition really intrigued me. The strong aural imagery throughout takes us almost into the realm of the ghostly too. I feel as though this story had a great influence on gothic horror tales in general. While not as complicated as some other of Poe's tales, it's still a captivating narrative.
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The name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and The Fall of the House of Usher. This versatile writer’s oeuvre includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundreds of ...more

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