During my research for Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, which involves a mystery wrapped around the nineteenth-century American writer Edgar Allan Poe, I uncovered a fascinating, real-life mystery. If you’re a fan of Poe, you probably know that he died in 1849 at the age of 40. His cause of death is unknown, and his death certificate is lost–befitting the Master of the Macabre.
Since the 1940s, an unidentified man dressed in a long black coat, mask, white scarf, and wide-brimmed black hat would make his annual pilgrimage to Edgar Allan Poe’s original Baltimore gravesite in Westminster Church and Burying Ground to toast the writer on his January 19th birthday.
The “Poe Toaster,” as this figure came to be known, would arrive on foot between midnight and 5:30 a.m. each year with a bottle of Martell cognac and three red roses, one each for Poe, his wife, and her mother. He would lay the roses in a particular pattern on Poe’s grave, say a few words in Latin, sometimes leave a written note, and toast Poe with a glass of the drink. After leaving the rest of the bottle at the site, he would depart as mysteriously as he had arrived. Intrigue. Mystery. Solemnity.
A Poe Toaster continued this tradition until 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. The Toaster had indicated in a note left at the gravesite in 1993 that his son would someday take over the annual ritual. It is believed that the original Toaster died in 1998, his identity unknown to this day, though speculation still runs rampant, and some “faux Toasters” have tried to claim the title.
A perhaps “new” Toaster continued the ritual from 1999 to 2009. But in 2010, no toaster appeared!
What’s happened to this beguiling annual ritual? Has a successor stepped forward? Who was/is the Poe Toaster? If you’d like to read much more about this real Baltimore mystery, you can Google the topic or click HERE.
So, get a clue, Readers. Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy lives on through his spine-tingling works and adoring fans. Writing, like most art, can bestow a kind of immortality on an artist, with or without a “Toaster.” But I’m still glad that Poe had/has one. Happy 214th Birthday, Mr. Poe! (Photo credits: geeksided.com)