One of my all time favourite writers is Edgar Allan Poe. I will never forget when I was having a slumber party many years ago, and my mother read “The Tell Tale Heart” aloud. Even at that age, (I was about twelve at the time) I could see that this was a serious twist of someone’s psyche..and I immediately began reading the numerous short stories and poems this amazing author created. However, with all the tales of thrill and terror that he put to paper…none was more fascinating than the very true mystery that surrounded his death..and the visitor that comes to his grave each year.
Edgar Allen Poe lived only 40 years…and in those years he graced us with such classics as the haunting poem “The Raven” and America’s first “whodunit” detective story with “The Murders of the Rue Morgue”. In his lifetime however, he was plagued by bouts of depression and a severe addiction to alcohol. He was known to be erratic in his behaviour, with many associations with unsavory characters. His ill-fated marriage to his cousin, along with other romances gone awry added to his melancholy. This theme carried over into his stories and poems, many of which included the death of a young woman.
Poe died on October 7 of 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland under very mysterious circumstances. It is universally accepted that he died of alcoholism (most likely of a cerebral inflammation) but the truth is…no one really knows. Accounts speak of him being found delirious on the streets on October 3, wearing clothes that were someone else’s…and, in his delirium, calling out the name “Reynolds”. All official records of Poe’s death have been “lost”.
The mystery around Poe and his death intensified when an unknown visitor began showing up at his gravesite every January 19 (Poe’s birthday) with a bottle of cognac and three roses. This visitor would show up in the wee hours of the morning each year with the same tribute. This person became known as the Poe Toaster…and the tradition has been protected for decades. Although a former historian of the church where Poe is buried claims that it was a money-making scheme that was conceived in the 1960’s, there were many of his statements that were shown to have discrepencies.
This year, January 19 came and went with no visit from the Poe Toaster. This is the first time that anyone can remember the grave not having the cognac and the roses…so perhaps the tradition is at an end. The mystery of the Poe Toaster, much like the life and death of Edgar Allan Poe himself, will most likely remain that way.