Monday, October 31, 2011

Spirit of Edgar Allan Poe - Old Western Burial Ground and other places in Baltimore, Maryland

Edgar Allan Poe was a relatively unknown poet while he was living.  He had a somewhat tragic life which may have contributed to the morbid theme of his writings.  This also may be what has contributed to his spirit still walking the streets of Baltimore to this day.

The spirit of Edgar Allan Poe is said to haunt the streets and graveyard of Baltimore, Maryland where he spent a good portion of his life

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1809.  His father had abandoned his family and shortly after he was born his mother passed away, leaving him orphaned.  He had a hard time holding a steady job as he was reported to be a very depressed individual and suppressed it or enhanced it, through drinking heavily.  In 1835 he married his thirteen year old cousin Virginia Clem.  However, in 1847 she became very ill as she had contracted tuberculosis.  She died that same year. 

Many believe that these series of events in his life made his poetry the memorable works that they are today.  He seemed to put his life's anguish into is writings and produced masterpieces such as The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell-Tale Heart just to name a few.  Ironically, his poem The Raven which made him a well known author almost overnight, only earned him nine dollars.

Two years after his wife passed away, Edgar Allan Poe was found lying in a street on October 3, 1849 in a dreadful state.  Delirious and extremely ill, he was taken to Washington College Hospital where five days later on October 7th, he passed away.  The exact cause of his death remains a mystery.  He did not live in Baltimore at the time and was simply passing through.  He was seen in in a bar toasting with friends five days prior to being found in the streets.  Poe was interred at the Western Burial Ground in Baltimore along with many of his family.  Today, the Old Western Burial Ground as it is known by is one of the most haunted cemeteries in the United States.

The gates of Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland where Edgar Allan Poe was laid to rest

The original grave of Edgar Allan Poe, his mother and his wife.  They were later moved to a larger monument near the gates of the cemetery.

Many say that the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe has been seen strolling the streets wearing his black frock and hat.  He frequently walked the streets and was a patron of many local pubs and taverns so it is no surprise that he would choose to linger in these places in the afterlife.  He is also thought to haunt the cemetery where he is buried.  His grave was moved from his original burial place in 1875 to a large monument that was erected in his honor close to the front gates of the cemetery.  Perhaps this move has disturbed his spirit and now roams the grounds as well as the catacombs of Westminster Hall which were created when the original Westminster Presbyterian Church was constructed over top of a portion of the graveyard in 1852.  In fact, many bodies were moved to the catacomb which many believe make the graveyard one of the most haunted in the country.

The spirit of Edgar Allan Poe has been seen strolling the streets of Baltimore, Maryland where he spent many evenings strolling

One of the more bizarre things that have occurred at the Old Western Burial ground is the visitation of what has become known as the "Poe Toaster".  One hundred years after Edgar Allan Poe's death, a late night visitor started leaving a half empty bottle of cognac and three roses on Poe's grave on his birthday January, 19th.  This was repeated every year afterward until recently, the last being in 2009, exactly 60 years after the late night visits started.  

For sixty years in a row, the "Poe Toaster" has crept into the Old Western Burial Ground, knelt by Edgar Allan Poe's grave and left a half bottle of cognac and three red roses.

This mysterious toaster has been witnessed walking through the grave yard wearing a black 19th century frock, top hat and carrying a cane.  The visitor knelt by the grave, briefly, then quickly disappeared. Many believe the visitor to be a real person who knew Poe, but for sixty years after his death?  However, Many believe this visitor to be the spirit of Poe himself, leaving a rose for each of the bodies under the tomb, his mother, his wife, and his own. Life magazine posted a photographer in the graveyard one year and using a radio triggered infrared camera, captured an image of the "Poe Toaster".  Upon examination of the infrared photo, experts claim that the figure in the photo left no heat signature and was not a real person!

A Life magazine photo shows the dark figure of the "Poe Toaster" kneeling by the original grave of Edgar Allan Poe.  The toaster's cane can be seen leaning against the tombstone.
The new monument (left center) where the remains of Edgar Allan Poe lies near the front gates of Old Western Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland

Today the writings of Edgar Allan Poe are synonymous with the macabre and mystery.  He may not have been that well known during his life, but his legacy will live forever.

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