For 60 years, a mysterious man (or perhaps his sons) visited Edgar Allan Poe's grave on the writer's January 19 birthday and left him a bouquet of roses and a bottle of cognac. Last year, he didn't show up. And although several impostors visited last night, none gave the secret signal known only to Poe House and Museum curator Jeff Jerome. From The Globe and Mail:
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 sons didn't seem to take the duty as seriously as the father. One left a note in 2001 referencing the Super Bowl and another in 2004 implying criticism of France over its objections to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, upsetting many of the traditionalists. When the Poe toaster didn't show last year, Mr. Jerome theorized that the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth in 2009 might have been considered the appropriate stopping point.
Or, it was thought at the time, perhaps the toaster just had a flat tire on the way to the cemetery.
But that's the sort of happenstance unlikely to happen two years in a row. Mr. Jerome says he'll return one more year. If the visitor fails to show in 2012, he'll considered the tradition over and done.
"It's sort of like a marriage that ends," Mr. Jerome said. "Part of you still wants the warmth that was part of it, and you go looking for the same woman. No, it's over with. And if it's over with, it's over with. If people want to continue the tradition, it's going to be without me."