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Mystery Visitor returns to Poe's grave


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#1    Kira

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 08:59 PM

                                                  Mystery Visitor Returns to Poe's Grave


BALTIMORE - With his face hidden beneath a dark hood, a man crept into a bitterly cold downtown graveyard before dawn on Sunday and raised a solitary birthday toast to Edgar Allan Poe.

Continuing a 54-year tradition, the man, whose identity remains unknown, put his hand on Poe's tombstone, bowed, placed three red roses and a half-empty bottle of Martel cognac on the grave and then silently slipped back into the shadows.

A huge, pale-white moon glowed over the city, yet the man still eluded dozens people who waited in their cars or huddled together on the sidewalk outside the cemetery.

"To me, it's magic," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, who spent the night tucked inside a former Presbyterian church nearby with a small group of Poe enthusiasts he invited to watch the ritual. "It would be very easy to step out from our hiding place and expose him, but no one wants to ruin this mystery."

No one, not even Jerome, who has watched the cemetery every Jan. 19 since 1976, knows the identity of the so-called "Poe Toaster." The visit was first documented in 1949, a century after Poe's death. For decades, Jerome says, it was the same frail figure.

Then, in 1993, the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, "The torch will be passed." Another note left later told Jerome that the first man in black, who apparently died in 1998, had passed the tradition on to his sons Jerome thinks there are either two or three. Such notes are the only communication anyone has had with the visitor.

A combination of respect, the visitor's cunning, and the chill of Baltimore on a January night have kept the curious from uncovering the secret.

"It's just this incredible rush of adrenaline when you see that he's made it again," said Anita Gruss, an athletic director at a high school in Centreville who has seen 12 toasts. "Even after all these years, it's a thrill."

Poe, who is best-known for poems and horror stories such as "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," died in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing, delirious, in a tavern. The circumstances of his death remain unclear: some researchers have blamed a fever, while others point to the late stages of alcoholism or to rabies.

The visitor's three roses are thought to honor Poe, his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, and his wife Virginia, all of whom are buried in the graveyard. The significance of the cognac is a mystery.

"That he has kept this secret for over 50 years is just so fascinating to me," said Joe Sainclair, a high school English teacher from Mountaintop, Pa., who was seeing the toast for the first time Sunday. "For a fan of Poe, for a fan of mystery, it just doesn't get any better than this."                                                  

We do what we do because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.

#2    j6p

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 09:43 PM

                                                  Thanks Celt, thats about 50 miles south of where I live. I hope I remember next year, I'd like to go. Poe is one of my favorites, I've even named my guardian angel Annabell Lee.                                                  


#3    Kira

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 09:52 PM

                                                   cool.gif u are welcome jp6. If you do go tell us all about it..... I like Poe my favorite is 'The Raven'                                                  

We do what we do because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.

#4    The Council of Nine

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Posted 27 February 2003 - 10:55 AM

                                                  
Thanks CW..This is a really special  tale...I love mysterious stories like this...The respect is to be admired...a REAL urban legend.                                                  

"Death makes Angels of us all"
  Jim Morrisson

#5    SpaceyKC

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Posted 27 February 2003 - 04:39 PM

                                                  
          Great find CW!
    Poe has always been one of my favorite writers too.  
     I'd like to make that trip next year myself ~ just hope
    my daughter understands,  since that's also her
      birthday.   smile.gif                                                  


#6    Homer

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Posted 27 February 2003 - 06:38 PM

                                                  That is a great find. Although I'm not really a big fan of the guy, I have read quite a lot of his writings as well as seen some documentaries. What a sad life he lived.                                                  

אַ֭תָּה אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׁעִ֑י




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