Poe's mysterious stranger misses annual grave visit

Every single year for the last 60 years, a mysterious man would visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave on his birthday and leave a bouquet of roses and a bottle of cognac. Yesterday though, the man never showed up. From the Associated Press (Litho from E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore):
 Balt Zpoegrvo "I'm confused, befuddled," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. "I don't know what's going on."

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.

"Mystery visitor to Poe's grave is a no-show"


  1. Yesterday though, the man never showed up.

    Sounds like the premise for an amazing tale of mystery and macabre.

  2. ^ Well played, both! :)

    ..of course, you could further ask Ken Snider, the Poe toaster poster hoster.

  3. I think the Toaster is toast.

    The mystery here is how to solve the mystery of the missing Toaster, without ruining the mystery of the Toaster. Quite a jam.

  4. Ug… the guy didn’t want to give Poe a French cognac during the Iraq war? That sours the mystery for me a bit if that’s really true. I guess he could have brought him a freedom cognac instead… :/

    1. Or some amontillado.

      Yeah, I missed that part upon first reading. Keep your partisan pot-shots off the final resting place of Poe!

  5. a mysterious man would visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave on his birthday

    Whose birthday? The tombstone clearly says that Poe’s wasn’t yesterday.

  6. To be fair, this is precisely the sort of thing that gets a lot less romantic and interesting when the “mysterious figure” is staked out by a mob of people standing right there, probably tweeting the whole thing from their smartphone which also uploads video. Whoever had the job probably realized this was the year a bunch of people were just going to follow him back to his car and crowdsource his license plate number.

  7. Perhaps the toaster read the New Yorker’s recent piece on Poe — which pointed out his evil, greed and alcohol-fueled deeds — and decided to give it a pass this year.

  8. Damn! My annual: Free Roses and High End Cognac from Off of Poe’s Grave event is over.I feel a little less beautiful, and a lot less drunk. The roses are easy to come by, but the COGNAC!

  9. Brainspore beat me to it, but yes, what is pictured is not Poe’s headstone. He was born January 19th, 1809. What is pictured is just a marker for where he was originally buried. Poe’s current spot of burial has a large white marble edifice over it, w/ a bronze relief of Poe on the front of it. Honestly, it’s pretty classy.

    1. Well, the first date on the marker in the picture is two days after Poe’s recorded death, so maybe it’s a headstone for his zombie.

  10. The mystery will deepen when, many miles to the northeast, the Boston Police Department will report that a John Doe of approximately the same build as the Toaster was found last night lying in a state of delirium outside a polling place, before being taken to Massachusetts General where he was admitted in critical condition.

    Efforts to save him proved fruitless; his only words before he died were repeating the name “Scott Brown”.

  11. wasn’t this resolved last year when the “mysterious stranger” revealed himself to be a member of a local historical society engaged in a cross generational publicity stunt?

  12. Poe was a temperance man. Amontillado might make sense. Cognac feels stylish but pointless.

    What am I missing?

  13. The crowd stood spellbound still awaiting, palpable tension not abating,
    By the gravesite there in Baltimore.
    Looking for roses and the cognac that would tell them he had come back
    But what mind could ever fathom what for.
    Would the stranger be back as in the days of yore?
    Quoth the stranger, “Nevermore.”

  14. Wait;

    Poet Poe’s ghost’s morose ghostly toaster no show? Oh woe, fo’ sho yo. No mo’ Amontillado fo’ Poe? Oh no:(

  15. As soon as the “torch” had been passed, the notes left by the toaster start to get moronic.

    One about how he’s reluctant to leave a FRENCH product (the cognac). One predicting the outcome of the superbowl. It’s a shame the torch has been passed to a war-loving football lunkhead. Not sad to see the tradition end if it’s just gonna get stupided-up.

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