BALTIMORE, MD – A mysterious figure who honors Edgar Allen Poe’s life every year has failed to show!
The Poe Toaster is the nickname given to an unidentified person who visits author Edgar Allen Poe’s original grave marker every year on his birthday, January 19. The tradition begain in 1949, exactly a century after Poe’s death.
A man dressed in black, carrying a silver-tipped cane, would enter the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground very early in the morning. He would stand at Poe’s stone and raise a glass of cognac as a toast. He would then leave three red roses and half a bottle of Martell cognac and depart.
It is believed the three roses represent the three people interred there, being Poe, his wife Virginia and mother-in-law Maria Clemm. The meaning of the cognac is unknown, but is often taken and preserved by the Edgar Allen Poe Society, who supports the tradition.
The Toaster’s identity was never discovered. In the 1990s, he began leaving cryptic notes about passing the torch, leaving some to believe the man knew he was dying. In 1999, a note left stated that the original Toaster died in 1998, and was now being carried on by a son.
By 2008, the ceremony was being watched by nearly 150 people, all of whom observed without interference. But this morning, the Poe Toaster failed to show!
Said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allen Poe House, “I’ve been doing this since 1977, and there was no indication he wasn’t going to show up.”
Many attendees had flown from other states to see the ritual. A Chicago grad student working on her MFA in writing had shown up to write a story about the event. “I got a story, but it’s a disappointing story,” she said. “It’s really sad that the ritual was broken.”
Jerome said he plans to keep watching over the site on January 19 at least through 2012.
“After two years if he doesn’t show up, I think we can safely assume the tribute has ended,” Jerome said.

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