Feb 17, 2023

The Pale Blue Eye

February 17, 2023

The Pale Blue Eye is a mystery thriller movie. It stars Christian Bale as a retired detective who is hired in 1830 to solve a series of gruesome murders at the United States Military Academy. He is aided by a young cadet, who will go on to become the world-famous author Edgar Allan Poe. While Edgar Allan Poe did spend some time as a West Point Cadet, the film is fictional.


West Point is situated on the Hudson River in New York. However, the movie was filmed in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania. It was filmed in several historic cabins and mansions during the winter of 2021-2022. A small college in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania stood in for West Point because it still features original architecture that resembles West Point in 1830.


I don’t suppose that the producers of this dark, twisty film meant it to evoke genealogy. However, for me, that’s exactly what it did. I had ancestors who lived in New York and Pennsylvania in the time period of the movie, and I could imagine that their daily lives were like those of the characters in the movie.


Of course, my ancestors didn’t live in an eerie, gothic style village where murders abounded. Nevertheless, winter in the 1830s in New York or Pennsylvania was probably similar to what is shown in the film. In one scene the detective is shown enjoying a drink in a local tavern. Despite a roaring fireplace, the room looked cold with its stone walls. Lighting was supplied by candles which left the room filled with gloomy shadows.


Another aspect of the film that recalled life in earlier times was the amount of time that the characters spent outdoors. In our modern lives, we seldom need to be outside in the winter if we don’t choose. In the 1830s people walked far more than we do today, and many spent the day outside taking care of animals or bringing in wood for fireplaces.


The use of historical buildings and scenes makes this a rare glimpse into life in the winter of 1830. You can watch this movie for its gothic horror plot if you want, but for me, it’s a genealogy glimpse into the past.


You never know where you might get your genealogy fix. Maybe even in an Edgar Allan Poe themed movie!




Carol Stetser