Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!

Last year was the first year that the mystery visitor to Edgar Allan Poe's grave did not visit to leave the traditional gifts. Sadly, today marked the second year that the tradition has not occurred. Nonetheless, it is a good day to celebrate Poe and his writings, many of which have kept me up at night.

Edgar Allan Poe's cognac-carrying admirer fails to materialize again

How appropriate for the creator of the mystery novel.

The shadowy visitor who left roses and a half-full bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore grave on the writer's birthday, every year for 60 years, has failed to appear for the second year in a row. And no one knows why.

The tradition began on January 19, 1949, according to the Edgar Allan Poe Society. The last visitation came two years ago, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Poe, the author of such dark classics as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Telltale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and the poem "The Raven."

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and unofficial head of the annual vigil, waited in the dark and cold overnight before declaring it over at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Jerome took as many media calls as he could handle Wednesday morning, then went to bed.

"This is Jeff Jerome. I can't talk to you. I've been up for 25 hours straight, I'm exhausted and I need sleep," his voice mail at the Edgar Allan Poe House says.

Before he went to bed, Jerome told the Sun he's just about done with waiting for Poe's secret admirer.

"I will be here in 2012, but that will be it," he said. "If he's a no-show, I will officially pronounce the tradition dead."

The identity and motivation of the "Poe Toaster" has always been a mystery, as is the reason for the ritual's apparent end.

As crowds for the annual stakeout at Westminster Burying Ground have grown, the Toaster may be finding it harder to go in and out unnoticed. Perhaps the stealthy Poe admirer simply decided it was time to stop.

Or perhaps he died under mysterious circumstances. (Cue scary music.)

"It is a great, kind of unique Baltimore story and tradition. Baltimore is full of those quirky and unique traditions," said Sara Hisamoto, director of public relations for Visit Baltimore.

"It's always sad to see a tradition go away, but knowing Baltimore, we'll come up with some other kind of quirky celebration to take its place."

Toaster or no Toaster, the Poe society will still hold a birthday party this weekend at Westminster Hall.


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