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Controversy doesn't deter 'Poe toaster' from annual visit to Edgar Allan's grave

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, walked away from original grave of Edgar Allan Poe on Saturday with a bottle of cognac and roses left by a mysterious visitor in Baltimore. Since 1949 someone has marked Poe's birthday by mysteriously leaving the items by the writer's grave.
Associated Press
BALTIMORE -- Undeterred by controversy, a mysterious visitor paid his annual tribute at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe early Saturday, placing three red roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac before stealing away into the darkness.

Nearly 150 people had gathered outside the cemetery of Westminster Presbyterian Church, but the man known as the "Poe toaster" was, as usual, able to avoid being spotted by the crowd, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum.

The tribute takes place every Jan. 19, Poe's birthday.

The visitor did not leave a note, Jerome said, electing not to respond to questions raised in the past year about the history and authenticity of the tribute.

Sam Porpora, a former church historian who led the fight to preserve the cemetery, claimed last summer that he cooked up the idea of the Poe toaster in the 1970s as a publicity stunt.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," Porpora said in August. "It was a promotional idea."

Porpora said someone else has since "become" the Poe toaster.

Jerome disputes Porpora's claims and says the tribute began in 1949 at the latest, pointing to a 1950 article in The (Baltimore) Evening Sun that mentions "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle [of excellent label]" against the gravestone.

In 1993, the visitor left a note reading, "The torch will be passed." A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his two sons.

This year's visitor was the same man who has come to the grave site many times in the past, Jerome said.

"We recognize him from his build, the way he walks," he said. "It would be very easy for us, visually, to see if this were a different person."

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories including "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," died Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern. Next year will be the 200th anniversary of his birth.

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Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of "never--never more!"~~The Raven


And all with pearl and ruby glowing

Was the fair palace door,

Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,

And sparkling ever more,

A troop of Echoes,

whose sweet duty

Was but to sing,

In voices of surpassing beauty,

The wit and wisdom of their king. ~~Haunted Palace

-- Posted by coke zero on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 4:09 AM

"half-filled bottle of cognac"

Filled with mingled cream and amber;

I will drain that glass again;

Such hilarious visions clamber;

Through the chamber of my brain;

Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies;

Come to life and fade away.

What care I how time advances?

I am drinking ale today.

~ Edgar Allan Poe

-- Posted by coke zero on Sun, Jan 20, 2008, at 4:52 AM

The publicity stunt sounds truthful... the other guy is probably a freak hoping, deep down, to attract media attention.

-- Posted by OlderEagle on Mon, Jan 21, 2008, at 12:30 AM

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