Poe's Mysterious Toaster Continues to be a No Show
A mysterious visitor's annual ritual of leaving cognac and roses at Edgar Allan Poe’s graveside appears to have come to an end after more than sixty years.
Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. His early life was difficult – his father abandoned the family when Poe was young and his mother died a year later from consumption.
Poe moved to New York in the early 1830s, which is when his publishing career took off. He would become known for his macabre tales and poems. While Poe enjoyed prominence, he had difficulty supporting himself as a writer and would frequently have to borrow money. Over time, his behaviour started to become erratic and he developed a drinking problem (apparently fuelled by the sudden death of his wife). Poe died in 1849, at the age of 40 under mysterious circumstances – his cause of death is still unknown and theories have included suicide, murder, alcoholism, and hypoglycemia.
The mysterious visits to Poe's grave apparently started in the 1940s (and were first referenced in print in the Evening Sun, a Baltimore paper, in 1949.) The “Poe toaster”, as the visitor was called, was always dressed in black, and wore a white scarf and a wide-brimmed hat. The visits continued every year on the anniversary of Poe’s birth, with the visitor leaving a half-empty bottle of cognac and three roses on Poe’s gravestone.
In 1993, the visitor started leaving notes and one left in 1998 indicated that original Poe toaster had died and the tradition had been passed to his two sons. Apparently, the sons didn’t take the duty seriously and in 2009 the visits stopped. Why is unclear, although the fact that 2009 was the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth might have had something to do with it.
It remains to be seen whether the Poe toaster will reappear. In the meantime, various “faux Toasters” have taken up the mantle and have been trying to reenact the ritual themselves.