Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Poe Toaster Nevermore?

For sixty years, the mysterious black-clad figure known as the Poe Toaster would make an appearance at the Old Westminster Burial Ground on the anniversary of author/poet Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. The unknown individual (who is assumed to be male) pays a yearly tribute to Poe by laying three red roses and half-empty bottle of Martell Cognac upon the author's gravestone. The gift is occasionally accompanied by a note from the mysterious mourner. Last year, for the two-hundredth birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, the Toaster failed to leave a note. This year, on January 19, 2010, the Poe Toaster failed to show up at all.

A crowd of around fifty people stood vigil throughout the night (a larger crowd than had been present for the year prior), keeping an eye out for the Poe Toaster and occasionally singing Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe. They were disappointed when the Toaster did not arrive with his annual tribute. It has led to speculation on what may have happened.

Some have wondered whether the Poe Toaster may have died or was in ill health. A week earlier, David Fanks, a local poet and performance artist known for his pranks passed away, leading some to speculate that the Poe Toaster had been him. Others have speculated that the tradition may have just ended at the sixty year mark, on the two-hundredth birthday of Poe. ESPN reporter Cam Martin even suggested that the Poe Toaster may have failed to show because he was upset about the Indianapolis Colts beating the Baltimore Ravens in a football game on the Saturday prior to Poe's birthday.

Whatever the reason for the Poe Toaster's absence this year, Jeff Jerome, curator for the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum (see Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum), has said that he will continue to watch for the Poe Toaster until 2012. If the Toaster fails to return by January 19, 2012, Jerome will give up the vigil he has kept since the 1970s.

Pay a visit to the Old Westminter Burial Ground to learn more.

-Tom G

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