First the Poe Toaster. Now the Baltimore Poe House in Peril?

In Baltimore, even those who aren’t aspiring writers or horror fans like myself feel a unique attachment to Edgar Allan Poe.  In the early 1830s, the writer lived briefly in Baltimore with his cousin and wife-to-be Virginia and his aunt. Although his time in Baltimore was brief, he is said to have done some of his best writing here, and was buried in Baltimore’s Westminster Hall and Burying Ground after his death in 1849.

The brick city home where Poe and his family resided is now the Baltimore Poe House and Museum. Located at 203 Amity Street (yes, I always loved the fact that Poe’s Baltimore address reminds me of a pea-soup-spitting horror movie), the house is open to the public at various times throughout the year.

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The Poe House

I have toured the Poe House several times over the years – first as a child on a high school field trip, later as a college student, and another time or two as an adult. While the artifacts in the house itself are very interesting, it is the colorful and mood-setting history shared by the curator and the melancholy feel of the place that I remember most from these visits.

The house is well-preserved and quaint, but as a writer you cannot meander through the rooms and not feel some of the dark and tragic outlook that made Poe so talented seep into your bones a little. At least, I can’t.

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Poe’s Grave and The Poe Toaster

The grave where Poe is buried with his cousin-wife and aunt is within walking distance of the Poe House. I have also visited the grave over the years.

The most interesting bit of lore surrounding the writer’s grave is the Baltimore Poe Toaster. In 1949, exactly a century after Poe’s death, a mystery person began appearing at Poe’s Grave each January 19th. Carrying a cane, the mysterious visitor would drink a toast and then leave a bottle of cognac and three red roses at the gravesite. The bottles of cognac left over the years are part of the display at the Poe House.

The mysterious Poe Toaster has gathered his own following over the years. Many Baltimore locals would gather to witness this tradition. My college advisor, who was also a freelance journalist, was one of them. He told his students colorful tales of the cold nights he lurked at the Poe Grave, awaiting the Toaster.

There has been speculation that the Mystery Toaster passed the tradition on to someone younger in the late 1990s.

Sadly, the Poe Toaster has not been spotted since 2009.

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“Nevermore!”

Poe’s most famous work is arguably “The Raven.”

When Baltimore acquired the team that is now the Baltimore Ravens years ago, there was much hoopla about selecting their name. The “Ravens” won hands down, as a tribute to the writer who, although here only a short time, left much of his mystery here in our hometown.

The original raven mascots for the Baltimore team were named “Edgar, Allan and Poe.” Poe is the only one remaining of the original three.

As a Steelers fan, I like to quote Poe’s famous raven and say that the Baltimore mascots chirp “Nevermore” when they discuss when they’ll knock my team out of the playoffs. Lee and everyone else around here say they’re actually telling me when my team will have another Superbowl win. Which of us are closest to the truth varies year to year.

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Fun Fact

Over the years, the Poe Toaster was known to leave notes as well as cognac and roses. As I was researching this post, I learned an interesting tidbit from this article:

Baltimore Lore and The Poe Toaster 

The article reports that:

“The toaster occasionally leaves a note with his tribute. In 2001, shortly before Super Bowl XXXV, he puzzled the town by revealing he was not a Baltimore Ravens fan in this message: “New York Giants. Darkness and decay and the big blue hold dominion over all. The Baltimore Ravens. A thousand injuries they will suffer. Edgar Allan Poe evermore.”

Of course, he was wrong. The Ravens beat the Giants 34-7.”

Maybe the hometeam IS on to something with those Ravens …

———-

The Poe House in Trouble

The Poe House is always just a short drive from my backyard. But it is something I tend to think about more often when the air gets crisper and the Halloween displays start showing up in the stores. I had been thinking about doing a post on the Poe House for a while now, but kept putting it off.

Then I received this week’s “Funds for Writers” newsletter, which included a call for submissions from Literary Landmark Press. I clicked on the link and learned that the Poe House has lost funding. While the building itself is protected as a historical landmark, this could very well mean the demise of the public’s ability to tour the house and all the educational opportunities it has offered Baltimore locals and visitors over the years.

A “Spirit of Poe” anthology is being published, with proceeds to go to preserving the Poe House. The publishers are seeking horror submissions. Unfortunately, the October 1 deadline is looming, but if you have an appropriate piece on the backburner that is seeking a good home, I’d encourage you to submit it. This is a paying market and your piece would be going towards a wonderful cause.

I’d also encourage readers to order the anthology. It promises to be a great read for the spooky season, and you’ll be helping to preserve a wonderful tradition in Baltimore.

More Information on Submitting to or Ordering the Anthology  

I would hate to see “Nevermore” become what is said about this historic landmark.

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Baltimore, Fiction, Football, Haunted Hawleyville, Markets for Fiction Writers, Weird and Spooky Stuff, Writer's Resources, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to First the Poe Toaster. Now the Baltimore Poe House in Peril?

  1. Shelly says:

    Very nice informative piece.

  2. l'empress says:

    Of course, the Ravens and the Vikings put me in mind of GolfWidow’s short story — which has absolutely nothing to do with football.

  3. Interesting post–I wasn’t sure what to expect. Someone burning the works of Poe in a toaster? My mind works in wonky ways…

    Have you ever read “Annabelle Lee?” It is my all time favorite poem by any poet. Poe was a genius.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      If your mind is wonky, then mine is too, because I can completely see why you’d think that from the title of the post! I read “Annabelle Lee” years ago and remember it really sitting with me in a beautiful but very sad way for a long time. It has been sooo long, though (college or very shortly after). Time for a re-read!

  4. Catie Rhodes says:

    Man, i enjoyed this. I’ve always wanted to tour Poe’s Baltimore. What a shame that the toaster has not been seen in a few years. Wonder why he (or she) let the tradition lapse? And what an even sadder shame about the Poe House. I wish I had enough money to fund it. I totally would. It’s important. Thanks for all the time and effort that went into this post. it was very informative. 😀

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I wonder too … I’m assuming that the first toaster passed on the tradition because he (I always think “he” because of the way the toaster is described, but I guess it very well COULD have been a she) was growing to old and perhaps ill to continue it. But I wonder what happened to the second too – if the 1999 “passing of the torch” thought it true, then the new toaster only kept the tradition going for 10 years or so before letting it fade away. I often wonder if something bad and unexpected happened to him or her before the torch could be passed, and if someone else will pick it up …

  5. Lafemmeroar says:

    I need to pass this on to the younger generation so they can read an informative and entertaining article about Edgar Allan Poe. Well done 🙂

  6. Marcia says:

    Love this, Pam. I haven’t read Poe since school, but may just pick up The Raven, my favorite.
    The history is fascinating. I hope the place stays open..would love to come visit, just a 6 hr drive. 🙂

  7. Aurora says:

    Well written, Pam, I love Poe’s work and yours as well. Have never been to the house but was there with you because your imagery is so masterful. Thanks for another great read and visit 🙂

  8. Jeff says:

    I learned something today. I never knew the Baltimore Ravens’ name was a tribute to Poe!

  9. We are working hard to save the museum. Please take a look at http://www.facebook.com/TheSpiritofPoe

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I am now following this page and will spread the word to friends and family – for both a writer and a city I love! Will be ordering the anthology this weekend and can’t wait to read it. Thank you for all your efforts.

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