The Mysterious Legacy of the Po Toaster

The eerie fascination of Edgar Allan Poe and his works has reached far and wide for centuries. But the Poe Toaster is proof of how deep it runs in the veins of his followers.

The Poe Toaster was an anonymous entity that started the mysterious annual tradition of toasting Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday with a bottle of Cognac and three red roses at his grave. Steeped in an element of his own mystery, Toaster has attracted public attention for years, peeping at the edges, though no one has ever tried to discover his true identity.

Grave

The famous American poet and writer died in 1849, leaving behind a great storehouse of literary works, but buried only under weeds and blades of grass. A few years later, George W. Spence had a sandstone burial built for him. It was not until 1875 that a movement led by Miss Sarah Sigourney Rice successfully built a memorial monument – ​​worthy of the man’s remains – where he lay at the Westminster Burial Ground.

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Photo: Chadirish/Flickr

a 100 years later

In 1949, when Poe’s birthday was to begin at 12 p.m. on January 18, a stranger was first seen delivering toasting essentials at Poe’s original grave. It was around midnight, and the event probably only came to mind because it happened on the 100th anniversary of his death. But many members of the church have claimed that the philosophy began much earlier, in the 1930s. Somehow, since then the Poe toaster phenomenon has become a routine. He always came between midnight and the morning of January 19 dressed in a completely black outfit with a white dupatta and a big cap.

It was believed that the three roses were for buried persons—Poe, his wife Virginia Klemm Poe, and his mother-in-law Maria Klemm—but the significance of the cognac is not understood to this day, as the spirit never knew any of Poe’s. also featured in the work. Yet many have waited for the custom to appear each year, lurking on the edge of the cemetery by the Gothic church as toasts were left on the grave. One of them was Jeff Jerome, who personally followed the practice of tradition, and over time became the keeper of the notes that the toaster left with the items. Jerome’s obsession was common sense, and in 1993 a note was left for him, suggesting that the toaster was probably dead, as it said “the torch will pass.”

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Cognac and roses were found at Poe’s grave on January 19, 2008, possibly left behind by a copycat. Photo: MidnightDry/Wikimedia

Jerome went on to become curator of the Baltimore Poe House and Museum, and is sometimes acknowledged to have publicly kept minor notes and details to keep copycats out of the limelight. Even the sons of the real Po Toaster, in their opinion, did not take the tradition seriously: the uniform was sometimes replaced with casual street wear, or the notes left were off target. These were two young men, often seen at the grave, probably in honor of their father’s passion. But in 2009 these views completely stopped. Over the years, many known as ‘fox toasters’ left similar material near the grave, but none had the same influence of the original fan, or well-wisher as he might have been.

The tradition was so revered that in 2016 the Maryland Historical Society announced its return by calling for auditions for “Baltimore’s Next Poe Toaster.” Since then the event continues as a public festival.

Reference

, Edgar Allan Poe Society

, Smithsonian Magazine

, Washington Post

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