A recent trip to Baltimore found me
at the grave site of Edgar Allan Poe. I have always been a huge fan of his work and the aura of mystery
surrounding his life. Poe passed away on October 7, 1849 in Baltimore, but his popularity has continued
to grow. A great number of people visit his grave every year; a testimony to his accomplishments as a writer.
The burial site is located in Westminster
hall and Burying Ground. The First Presbyterian Church established the graveyard in 1786. The
monument for the grave can easily be seen from the busy city streets; a strange location indeed for a graveyard, but then
again, there was nothing conventional about Poe. As I stood there contemplating the peculiar site, I remembered
his quote, “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion”; and, strangeness there is,
you see, this was not the original burial plot for Poe.
An unmarked grave became Poe’s resting place in 1849.
The grave, not cared for, became a shameful mess. Word of the abandoned grave reached his cousin,
Nelson Poe. Nelson tried to take care of the problem and ordered an expensive marble headstone.
Unfortunately, as fate would have it, calamity struck. The train carrying the headstone derailed
and the marble marker bit the dust.
could not afford to replace the ridiculously expensive headstone. In 1865 was born the movement by friends
and family, to raise money for a proper tribute to the dearly departed author. The group raised enough
money to hire designer George A. Frederick, the same designer of the Baltimore City Hall.
Once they chose the new site and the monument erected, more controversy erupted over
the exhumed remains. Rumors began to surface about the identity of the remains placed in the new grave.
The family managed to squelch most of the rumors, but human nature and the love of a good mystery, prevailed.
To this day, many believe Poe is not in the new grave.
Adding to the mystery surrounding Poe’s grave is the
Poe Toaster. For years, an enigmatic figure visits Poe’s grave, on January 19, the writer’s
birthday, and leaves a partial bottle of Cognac with three roses. Although the last visit to the
grave by the mysterious stranger was in 2009, Poe’s grave is never lacking in gifts, flowers, and hand written notes.
It is amazing to be a witness to the amount of people who visit yearly. The Edgar Allan Poe House
and Museum is in Baltimore and was on my agenda to visit, but unfortunately, it was closed while I was there.
Poe dared to dream and dared to write
what was in his heart. His memory lives on in his stories and poetry. He is very much
an integral part of our culture. His courage to try to make a living solely from writing during a difficult
time in American publishing, speaks volumes about his passion for the craft. My favorite quote of Poe’s
is “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever
dared to dream before”, and it is my favorite because it inspires me to dream, although it comes from one of his
most famous dark poems, The Raven.
My visit to
Baltimore is a trip I will not soon forget.