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Is 60-year-old tradition “nevermore”?

Every year, early in the morning on the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, a mysterious stranger visits the famous writer’s grave in Baltimore and leaves  a half-bottle of cognac and three roses.  The tradition was started by the unknown man nicknamed the “Poe Toaster” in 1949 until 1999, when apparently the tradition was carried on by a son.  Up to 150 people at a time will show up every year on Jan. 19 to witness the ritual, coming from as far away as Japan.  The appearance of the Poe Toaster has been an exciting and unexplained event for decades…until today.

Why the Toaster did not show up during his usual span of hours between midnight and before 5:30 a.m. is not known.  Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe house, said in a Baltimore Sun article, “I’ve been doing this since 1977, and there was no indication he wasn’t going to show up.”  Some are thinking that perhaps the Toaster decided to stop with the Poe bicentenniel last year.  But why, then, not leave some sort of the note at the grave, as had been done in previous years?

I’m hoping that unforeseen circumstances kept the Poe Toaster from reaching the gravesite.  It is too sad to think of such a fun and touching event just ending out of the blue.  Such a mysterious tradition was not only fitting for the memory of a writer like Poe, but by gosh it had romance, in the old-fashioned sense of the word:

Dictionary.com:  romance (r-mns, rmns).  2. A mysterious or   fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful.

The modern world doesn’t have much interest in romance, it seems.  It’s all hard-boiled “realism” (which can be every bit as imaginary as idealistic fiction) and cynicism.  Yet individuals such as the Poe Toaster remind us that romance is alive, as it’s always been throughout the generations, albeit in fewer places. 

I hope I’m not the only one who would like to send a plea somewhere out there in Baltimore for this tradition to stay alive–for the sake of Poe and for the sake of romance-seekers everywhere.


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