It used to be that each year on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a bescarfed man in a wide-brim hat would leave three roses and a half-drunk bottle of cognac on the poet’s grave in Baltimore. After a few recent no-shows, the tradition of the “Poe Toaster” was declared nevermore.
Both the origin story and identity of the “Poe Toaster” remain something of a mystery, but over the course of the last several decades, Poe groupies would gather after midnight and stand outside the grounds of Westminster Cemetery. Poe’s poems would be recited and revelers would drink amontillado—the infamous wine that did in Fortunato—and wait for the fabled toaster make his annual visit. Bearing a cane and wearing a cloak, the toaster would swoop in, leave a bottle of Martell cognac, arrange three roses the exact same way, and then steal away into the night.
"The visitor has occasionally left notes with his tributes, but they haven't offered much insight into the identity of the "Poe Toaster." A few indicated the tradition passed to a new generation before the original visitor's death in the 1990s, and some even mentioned the Iraq War and Baltimore Ravens football team, which was named for Poe's poem."
By most accounts, the tradition started in 1949 (the centennial anniversary of Poe’s death) and carried on until 2009, which was the poet’s 200th birthday. But after three consecutive years without an appearance by the toaster, last year fans said that the tradition would be nothing more than a dream within a dream.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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