…wherein a half-century plus of tradition and tribute comes to an apparent end at the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe.
Last Tuesday, January 29, was the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. He’d have been 201. Try to picture all those candles.
But candles have not been the tribute of choice of one Poe devotee. For more than sixty years, a mysterious visitor dubbed the Poe Toaster appeared at the gravesite of the master of the macabre. On January 19, in the early morning hours, the Toaster paid his tribute. He wore a black cloak. He left behind three roses and a half-bottle of cognac. Every year, since 1949, the same traditional display. That’s a lot of flowers and booze, but who is more deserving of both the toast and the mystery than Poe?
If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region and read a newspaper, you’ll know that speculation about the Toaster has run rampant the past few years. It’s like Deep Throat—some people surely know his identity, but those people aren’t talking. I hope they don’t. I don’t want to know. If the Toaster wanted public recognition, he’d have sought it. He didn’t, so I respect that and hope the mystery of his identity will remain honored.
But that’s not to say the Poe Toaster does not deserve credit. Sixty years of doing anything consistently, particularly something that requires you to prowl around Baltimore in the wee hours in January, deserves some kudos.
So here’s to you, Poe Toaster. If you are to appear again nevermore, a grateful salut for your devotion.
The Toaster may have retired, but Poe continues to enthrall writers, both with his work and his mystique. I wrote the above post in my public library. When I was finished, I was curious about how many Poe works were included in the county collection. The monitor nearly blew up when I did a general search on Poe, so I limit searched and limit searched and limit searched until I came up with a list of fiction works about Poe. That’s right—only fiction written about Poe. Here are a few of the titles. If anyone has more or would like to recommend, please do so. A Poe Reading List is a good resource for the next midnight dreary.
The Pale Blue Eye – Louis Bayard
Entombed – Linda Fairstein
Not Quite Dead – John MacLachlan Gray
The Murder of Edgar Allan Poe – George Hatvary
In a Strange City – Laura Lippman
The Lighthouse at the End of the World – Stephen Marlowe
Poe & Fanny – John May
The Poe Shadow – Matthew Pearl
The Professor’s Wives Club – Joanne Rendell
For Edgar – Sheldon Rusch
The Mask of Red Death – Harold Schechter
Nevermore – Harold Schechter
The Facts in the Case of E. A. Poe – Andrew Sinclair
An Unpardonable Crime – Andrew Taylor