January 19 is the birthday of one of the most famous authors of all time – Edgar Alan Poe. In a ritual which began some time in the 1940’s, and is almost straight from the pages of a Poe novel, a mysterious figure has visited his grave in Baltimore, Maryland every year on this date. Here, the black robed figure would leave three red roses and raise a toast of cognac to the master of the macabre. Then, leaving the rest of the bottle of cognac, he would quietly slip away.
Since 1978, Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, has watched the antics of the ‘Poe Toaster,’ and the unknown cognac drinker has gathered his own legion of followers.
But this most die hard of Poe fans, whose identity has never been discovered, failed to appear in 2010, and this year’s repetition makes it likely that the tradition of over 60 years may now have come to an end.
However, the multitude of Poe fans are not ones to be foiled by such a trivial occurrence as a no-show, and the absence of the figure was heralded by the appearance of no less than four ‘faux toasters!’
Two of these appeared to be women, one an older man, and the fourth made a grand entrance in a white stretch limo. All left roses and toasted Poe with cognac, but none arranged the roses in the particular pattern of the genuine toaster, and none gave Mr Jerome the secret signal that only he knows.
So, if this really is the end of the Poe Toaster, and along with it the chance to know his identity, it only adds to the mystery of the man who penned some of history’s most strange and disturbing tales.
He’ll be smiling in his grave!
Sources: baltimore.cbslocal.com, www.google.com, en.wikipedia.org, www.telegraph.co.uk