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Naval Academy midshipmen bring on the spooky with a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven'

By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: October 30, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — The words of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" could be heard on stage, back before the coronavirus shut down most theaters. Or perhaps at Poe's grave in Baltimore.

But two days before Halloween, the words were uttered not by actors or graveside. They were spoken, in the spookiest tone possible, by a class of plebes.

Each year, Cmdr. Michael Flynn, a professor in the Naval Academy's English department, has his classes perform "The Raven" around the spooky holiday.

"It's just fun for Halloween," he said.

Usually, the class reads the poem by candlelight. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Flynn opted not to pass a candle around the two classrooms the students were divided into.

Still, the class turned off the lights, and the blue light from their computer screens gave it a somewhat spooky appearance.

Flynn gave his students a chance to practice reading the poem out loud, with a couple of brave souls volunteering to read the first paragraph so they could get their right spookiness.

Then they went around the room, with each midshipman reading a couple of lines.

Once done, Flynn asked for the class' opinion. Did they think they set a spooky enough tone while reading?

Not according to Midshipman Max Thibault, a plebe in the class. He gave the class a 4.32 rating, saying he was not very scared. They needed more emotion.

So the class performed the poem once more, with Flynn urging them to dig into the spooky. He kicked it off, reading the first stanza.

The second time had the oomph Flynn wanted.

"There were some pretty good readings," he said.

Reading the poem was a nice break from the monotony of classes, said plebe Holman Torno.

Some members of his class brought the spooky, Torno said. Other people didn't quite get there and came across a little more funny.

"It kind of boosts morale when you get to do something around the holiday," he said.

Flynn picked Poe and "The Raven" because of Poe's Baltimore ties and his military history. Poe attended West Point, although he was kicked out.

Rumor has it that Poe was kicked out after he showed up in just gloves and belt during parade, a tale Flynn shared with his class.

There are no records of that happening, according to a Stars and Stripes article. It's more likely that he was separated after he failed to show up to classes, parades and other cadet requirements.

Still, that Poe was kicked out of Navy's rival gives him bonus points.

"We don't like him because he went there, but we do like him because he got kicked out," Flynn said.

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