By Sarah Brumfield (Associated Press, 1/19/2011)
BALTIMORE (AP) — Edgar Allan Poe fans waited long past a midnight dreary, but it appears annual visits to the writer's grave in Baltimore by a mysterious figure called the “Poe Toaster” shall occur nevermore.
Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff Jerome said early Thursday that die-hard fans waited hours past when the tribute bearer normally arrives. But the “Poe Toaster” was a no-show for a third year in a row, leaving another unanswered question in a mystery worthy of the writer's legacy. Poe fans had said they would hold one last vigil this year before calling an end to the tradition.
“It's over with,” Jerome said wearily. “It will probably hit me later, but I'm too tired now to feel anything else.”
It is thought that the tributes of an anonymous man wearing black clothes with a white scarf and a wide-brimmed hat, who leaves three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac at Poe's original grave on the writer's birthday, date to at least the 1940s. Late Wednesday, a crowd gathered outside the gates of the burial ground surrounding Westminster Hall to watch for the mysterious visitor, yet only three impersonators appeared, Jerome said.
The gothic master's tales of the macabre still connect with readers more than 200 years after his birth, including his most famous poem, “The Raven,” and short stories such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Poe's “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is considered the first modern detective story.
Edgar Allan Poe's “The Raven” as performed by Vincent Price
Jerome, who was first exposed to Poe through Vincent Price's movies, believes people still identify with Poe's suffering and his lifelong dream to be a poet. He has kept a vigil for the “Poe Toaster” each year since 1978 and built up a team of other dedicated Poe fans who stay awake all night to scan the shadows of the burial ground for the visitor.
“I've been part of a ritual that people around the world read about,” he said. “I'll miss it.”
One Poe tradition may have ended, but Jerome said a reading of tributes by Poe fans at the gravesite planned for Thursday night may develop into a new ritual to mark the writer's birthday.
Jerome says that wherever he travels, he's asked whether the “Poe Toaster” is real. He believes the mystery of the “Poe Toaster” tradition will remain in the public consciousness despite the end of the visits.
Continue reading “Poe fans call an end to ‘Toaster' tradition” at Associated Press.