"I'm confused, befuddled," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. "I don't know what's going on.""Mystery visitor to Poe's grave is a no-show"
The visitor's absence this year only deepened the mystery over his identity. One name mentioned as a possibility was that of a Baltimore poet and known prankster who died in his 60s last week. But there is little or no evidence to suggest he was the man.
The annual tribute began in 1949 – unless it started earlier, or later. The first printed reference to the tribute can be found that year in The Evening Sun of Baltimore. The newspaper mentioned "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label)" against the gravestone.
Every year since 1978, Jerome has staked out the grave at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. Year after year, he said, he and various friends and Poe enthusiasts would watch from inside the Presbyterian church as a figure dressed in black, with a wide-brimmed hat and a white scarf, would leave three roses and cognac and steal away.
In 1993, the visitor began leaving notes, starting with one that read: "The torch will be passed." A note in 1998 indicated the originator of the tradition had died and passed it on to his two sons...
The toaster's annual appearance has become a pilgrimage for Poe fans, some of whom travel hundreds of miles. About three dozen stood huddled in blankets during the overnight cold Tuesday, hoping to catch a glimpse. At 5:30 a.m., Jerome emerged from the church to announce that the toaster had not arrived.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.