Mystery visitor keeps up Poe graveside tradition

A mystery man made his 58th straight visit to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave on Friday morning and was watched by the largest group of onlookers to date, the event’s most faithful viewer said.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said 55 people braved a chilly morning to catch a glimpse of the annual ritual, in which a mysterious visitor known as the Poe toaster visits the writer’s grave.

“If I were the Poe toaster, and I saw and heard that crowd, I wouldn’t show up,” Jerome said before the ceremony.

As he had done previously to mark Poe’s birthday, the visitor arrived to place his half-empty bottle of cognac and three red roses at the grave, Jerome said.

Once it realised who he was, the crowd rushed to one of the cemetery’s entrances to get a glimpse, and the toaster slipped out another way, Jerome said.

He said this year’s crowd was large but well behaved, unlike last year when watchers tried to interfere with the tribute.

Jerome said he would no longer describe the visitor or what he was wearing because of last year’s unruly spectators.

One onlooker on Friday dressed up to look like the Poe toaster had in a previous year, said Jerome, who has seen the mystery visitor every January 19 since 1976.

Starting in 1949, a frail figure made the visit to Poe’s grave.

In 1993, the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, “The torch will be passed.” A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his sons.

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories such as The Raven and The Telltale Heart, was born in Boston and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He died on October 7 1849 in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern.—Sapa-AP

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