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Baltimore Lore: Edgar Allan Poe

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Grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore

Poe's Grave, Westminster Hall, Baltimore MD

Courtesy of Westminster Hall

Even Edgar Allan Poe, the man whose imagination conjured macabre tales of death and lost love, could not have envisioned that someday hundreds of thousands of people in Baltimore would cheer the antics of three human-size ravens named for him. And yet the Baltimore Ravens NFL team’s mascots are giant black birds called Edgar, Allan and Poe. Perhaps, he would be horrified.

But he might also be heartened to know that more than 150 years after his death, the city where his family roots ran deep still mourns him and marks his birthday with a solemn ritual.

The Poe Toaster

Just before dawn every January 19th, a cloaked visitor steals into the graveyard where Edgar Allan Poe is buried and drinks a toast in memory of the great author and poet. Carrying silver-tipped cane, the Poe devotee leaves three red roses (one for Poe, his beloved wife and mother-in-law) and the unfinished bottle of Cognac at Poe’s final resting place

The tradition began in 1949, exactly a century after Poe’s tragic and mysterious death in Baltimore. Though members of the press usually turn up to watch the tradition, a scarf obscures the toaster’s face so no one knows his identity. Many believe the originator of the ritual passed the torch to a new Poe disciple in 1999.

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.

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