The original American detective and horror writer, Edgar Allen Poe, despite being dead from alcoholism for over a century, has long enjoyed a coda to his death.
Since the 1940s, in classic Poe tradition, a strange visitor, known generally as the “Poe Toaster” has paid a midnight visit to Poe’s grave on the writer’s birthday. Traditionally, he left roses and cognac.
The appearance of the mystery person was generally: black, white scarf, wide brimmed hat to conceal the face. By the 70s, Poe fans took notice, and began holding vigils on the eve of Poe’s birthday to catch a glimpse of the stranger. Out of respect, very few photographs exist of the brief tribute. The watchman of the cemetery knows there is a particular signal that distinguishes the real Toaster from occasional fakers who have showed up.
In 1993, the whole thing took a strange turn when a note was left, indicating that the Toaster was near death, and that his duties of paying tribute would be passed on. Another note in 1998 confirmed that there was a new toaster, a son of the original. More notes started getting personal, such as in 2001 when the visitor left a note hoping that the Baltimore Ravens (named for Poe’s most famous character) would lose the Super Bowl (held a few days after the visitation) and in 2004 a letter was left taking shots at France for not backing the United States in the War on Terror.
2009 was a special year: the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. The visitor came and went … but in 2010 …. for the first time in 60 years, he was a no-show.
That takes us to today. Last evening was the eve of Poe’s birth, and again, the Toaster did not appear. The speculation is that the new toaster may have decided to call it off after the bicentennial of Poe’s birth.
A tradition, befitting a great author, goes by the wayside … a real shame it couldn’t be kept going.