Mystery of The Poe Toaster

Poe Toaster is a nickname given to a person who visits Edgar Allan Poe's grave every January 19 (Poe's birthday). Edgar Allan Poe is a famous American writer who was born on January 19, 1809. He is best known for his work on crime fiction and detective stories. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849 at the age of 40 under mysterious circumstances.

Edgar Allan Poe
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Some people chose to honor Poe’s legacy in unique ways. One of them was the mysterious figure who visited Poe’s grave on his birthday for more than 70 years. Every year, it was an annual tribute as mysterious as its honoree:, on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a masked man would leave three red roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave.

A bottle of Cognac and 3 Red Roses on Poe's Grave
Image Credit: Wikipedia

In the early hours of January 19, 1949, a mysterious figure with dark clothing, wearing a wide black hat, and also a white scarf entered a cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. This person then walked directly towards the Edgar Allan Poe's grave. He then toasts with a bottle of cognac. However, just before leaving, he left 3 red roses, supposedly dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia (Poe's wife), and Maria Clemm (Poe's in-laws) who were buried in the same place. Who is that mysterious Poe Toaster?

According to eyewitness reports and notes accompanying offerings in later years, the original Toaster made the annual visitation from sometime in the 1930s (though no report appeared in print until 1950) until his death in 1998, after which the tradition was passed to "a son".

Until 2010, many people had imitated this strange habit and claimed to be the Poe Toaster, but of course they failed. In the end, 2009 is believed to be the last year of this Poe Toaster tradition, because on January 19, 2010 there was no longer a mysterious figure coming to Edgar Allan Poe's grave.

The curator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum had worked out a signal with the real Poe Toaster, a signal that never came. By 2012, the curator declared the tradition dead.

But the riddle of the Poe Toaster's identity remains. Some say it was a father and son team. Others suspected an author who died in 2010. One Poe historian claimed to be the toaster, but the curator found information contradicting his claim.

According to wikipedia, in 2015, the Maryland Historical Society organized a competition to select a new individual to resurrect the annual tribute in a modified, tourism-friendly form. The new Toaster—who will also remain anonymous—made his first appearance during the daylight hours of January 16, 2016 (a Saturday, three days before Poe's birthday), wearing the traditional garb and playing Saint-Saëns' Danse macabre on a violin. After raising the traditional cognac toast and placing the roses, he intoned, "Cineri gloria sera venit" ("Glory paid to one's ashes comes too late", from an epigram by the Roman poet Martial), and departed.


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