The Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe's Midnight Visitor

Posted on January 24, 2006

To date, no one has solved the decades-old mystery of the midnight visitor who leaves roses and cognac at the grave of Edgar Allen Poe on the poet's birthday.
Some of the 25 spectators drawn to a tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore for the ceremony climbed over the walls of the site and were "running all over the place trying to find out how the guy gets in," according to Jeff Jerome, the most faithful viewer of the event. Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said early Thursday he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor's ceremony.

"In letting people know about this tribute, I've been contributing to these people's desire to catch this guy," Jerome said. "It's such a touching tribute, and it's been disrupted by the actions of a few people trying to interfere and expose this guy."

The cryptic visits began in 1949. Jerome has seen the ceremony every January 19 since 1976. Poe was born in 1809. "They had a game plan," Jerome said of the spectators. "They knew from previous years when the guy would appear."

But Jerome declined to reveal details of what the Poe toaster was wearing, what he did at Poe's grave, and whether he left anything besides the roses and cognac, such as a note. It was a the crisp, cold, clear night. "I was hoping for wind and rain in keeping with a Poe story," Jerome said. But the museum curator was saddened by the disrespectful spectators.

"I hope to preserve this tribute. It's one of those things that make Baltimore so unique," he said. For decades, 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," died October 7, 1849 in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern.
Who is the mystery visitor? Why does he/she leave roses and cognac at the grave? It's quite peculiar.
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