The Man Who Leaves Roses on Edgar Allan Poe's Grave Every Year Has Disappeared Poe Toaster a No Show in 2011

For the second year in a row, the mysterious Poe Toaster failed to celebrate Poe's birthday in the traditional manner. Is he dead?

One of the best pieces of arcana of American letters is the man known as the "Poe Toaster." Every year on January 19 (Edgar Allan Poe's birthday), the toaster appears in the Baltimore graveyard where the author is buried and leaves a half-empty bottle of cognac and four roses. No one knows his identity or his motives. Last year, for the first time in 60 years, the mysterious man did not show up. Last night, he failed to show up again, leaving many to think that the tradition is now over.

Four impostors showed up, each leaving the roses and the cognac. But Jeff Jerome, the curator of the Poe House and Museum, who watches the grave in secret from the neighboring church, said none of the claimants gave him the special signal that the real Poe Toaster gives him every year, nor did they arrange the roses correctly.

In fact, the Poe Toaster already passed on his legacy to his sons, but they never seemed to have taken it seriously, and now may have just given up entirely (it was very cold last night):

In 1993, the visitor began leaving notes, starting with one that read: “The torch will be passed.” A note in 1998 indicated the originator of the tradition had died and passed it on to his two sons.

The sons didn't seem to take the duty as seriously as the father. One left a note in 2001 referencing the Super Bowl and another in 2004 implying criticism of France over its objections to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, upsetting many of the traditionalists. When the Poe toaster didn't show last year, Mr. Jerome theorized that the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth in 2009 might have been considered the appropriate stopping point.


I like to imagine the sons of the Poe Toaster feeling incredible guilt and meeting some sad punishment for not carrying out their father's legacy, as would befit people tied up in a Poe story. As is, you have to imagine the impostors will continue. Perhaps we can anoint one of them the new Poe Toaster, as this tradition is simply too poignant for us to give up. And, really, the poor soul needs his cognac.

Image, of a 2009 imposter's attempt, via Wikimedia Commons.

via Jason S Campbell / Twitter

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