It’s a mystery I think Edgar Allan Poe himself would have enjoyed. Every year on January 19 (Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday), a mysterious man comes to Poe’s grave located at the Westminster Hall and Burying Grounds of Baltimore, bringing three roses and a bottle of cognac. The visitor then drinks a toast to Poe’s memory and walks away, leaving behind the flowers and the unfinished bottle. The man has never been identified.
This Baltimore tradition has been going on annually for over 60 years, but for the last three years, the “Poe Toaster” has failed to make an appearance. According to some news reports, the Toaster may have gone to join Poe and the tradition is over.
What I find interesting is how the tradition got started in the first place. I like to imagine that Poe did something to help the Toaster’s family, rather like Edmond Dantes saving the Morrel family from ruin in The Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe they received some kind of legacy from him.
Or perhaps the Toaster’s ancestors were among the last people to see Edgar Allan Poe alive and the relatives thought they should make restitution in some way? Poe died in October of 1849 under strange circumstances. Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore in need of medical help and was taken to Washington College Hospital, but never recovered long enough to explain what happened to him.
I suppose we’ll always be wondering what happened to Poe and to the Poe Toaster. However, playing the guessing game is entertaining.
One thing’s for sure: Poe’s true legacy is the wonderful poems and stories he left us. Poe is also known as the father of detective fiction and you could say that he influenced many of the detective books, shows and movies in existence today.