“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary ...”
These are the first lines to one of the most famous poems in the world by one of America’s most famous and influential writers. His name was Edgar Allen Poe.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- The Life and Death of Poe: Where Myth Meets Man
- Where is Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave?
- Was Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave Ever Moved?
- What Was Left on Edgar Allan Poe’s Gravesite?
Edgar Allan Poe was an enigma, but not of his own accord. The legacy Poe has left behind is a blend of his prolific literary work, the reputation of a brilliant writer, and a person with depression and anxiety. Poe wrote a huge body of short stories, poems (including poems about death), a novel, essays, and literary critiques. But he was not the madman his obituary and subsequent biographies proclaimed.
While his stories often evoked strong images of the macabre, gloom, and sadness, it may not be as commonly known where this famous literary figure is buried. Poe gave literature “quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore,’” but where can people pay their respects to the man that gave us the creation of the horror genre?
The Life and Death of Poe: Where Myth Meets Man
Edgar Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809. In December of 1811, both of his parents died, leaving him and his brother and sister orphans. The children were then separated and raised with different families.
Edgar was taken in by John and Frances Allan, though they never officially adopted him. Though John became wealthy later on after receiving his uncle’s inheritance, he left Edgar out of his will.
He was accepted to the University of Virginia, but was unable to stay past one year because of a lack of money and received no financial support from the family that raised him. According to the Poetry Foundation, he was able to bolster his fledgling writing career by working as an editor for several magazines and newspapers in New York City and Baltimore.
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The man’s work
Edgar Poe’s writing includes such gothic and spooky stories as The Tell-Tale Heart, Masque of the Red Death, and The Fall of the House of Usher.
Poe’s infamous poem, The Raven, earned him “some degree of fame and fortune” when it was published in 1845. While his fame spread internationally upon publication of The Raven, he was unable to continue writing to support himself.
According to the Poe Museum, he is “credited with inventing the modern detective story with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, [and] completely transformed the genre of the horror story with his masterful tales of psychological depth and insight.”
So where is this literary inventor and innovator buried now?
The sad, strange death of Poe
Poe went missing in the early days of October in 1849, after showing up without notice in Baltimore in late September of that same year, according to Poetry Foundation. Though he was planning to get married a second time, he was found unwell and confused. He was taken to the hospital and died only a few days later. He was only 40 years old.
For a man whose writing would become famous worldwide, Poe’s death on October 7, 1849 came and went with very little fanfare. His funeral was attended by only seven people, according to Reuters.
It wouldn’t be until 160 years later when he would receive the funeral he deserved. It was organized by the Poe Museum in Baltimore and held at the Poe House. It was complete with a “life-size replica of Poe’s body...on display in a pine casket.”
The event was attended by fans from all over. After paying their respects, they followed an old-fashioned hearse to the cemetery where his famous grave(s) are located.
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Where is Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave?
Poe’s current grave is located in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. You’ll find it just inside the gate at the corner of the cemetery on West Fayette Street and North Greene Street. The substantial, white, marble gravestone stands out, with a bronze portrait relief of him on one side.
To find a grave such as his, you can often follow the many others seeking him out.
Was Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave Ever Moved?
Yes. Poe’s grave was indeed moved, though he never left the Westminster Presbyterian Church burial ground. He was originally buried in lot 27, which was part of his grandfather’s family plot. It’s located near one of the walls in an out-of-the-way spot.
After Poe’s death in 1849, his original grave was unmarked for many years. At some point, as time went by, the site was neglected and overgrown with weeds. The cemetery sexton eventually placed a small sandstone block on the grave. But it didn’t have his name on it.
Eventually, Poe’s Aunt Maria Poe Clemm convinced Edgar’s cousin, Neilson Poe, to have a gravestone made. Unfortunately, it never made it to the cemetery. It was destroyed when a train derailed and ran through the monument yard, according to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.
Around 1864, Miss Sara Sigourney Rice organized a fundraising campaign for a gravestone. It was a community endeavor. The monument was dedicated Nov. 17, 1875, in the new and more prominent location (his remains were moved to this location as well). His birthdate was incorrectly carved as Jan. 20 instead of Jan. 19, though.
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore also notes that his first burial location was marked with a gravestone of its own. That took place in 1913. It has a relief of a raven carved on it under the words, “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.”
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What Was Left on Edgar Allan Poe’s Gravesite?
To answer what was left on Poe’s gravesite, first we must address who left it. Rudolf Valentino isn’t the only one who had a mysterious stranger leave roses at his grave.
Every year on Poe’s birthday, a man “dressed all in black, with a white scarf and wide-brimmed black hat” left three red roses and a note on Poe’s grave. But not only that, he would also bring a bottle of cognac, according to Katie Vernon of The Vintage News.
Vernon also noted that the mystery man would pour himself a glass of the cognac, recite “a brief toast, and after leaving the half-empty bottle of cognac next to the roses,” he’d leave. This tradition began on January 19, 1949, and continued every year for 70 years.
This man is known as Poe’s Toaster. Still no one knows who the original Toaster was. Also like Valentino’s original “Lady in Black,” who was replaced by other women, other Toasters wanted to keep the tradition alive.
‘Nevermore’ Becomes Eternal
Though others dismissed him from the moment he died, Edgar Allan Poe’s work is alive and well. And he will continue to inspire and influence to no end.
- “Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe
- “Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?” The Poe Museum. www.poemuseum.org/who-was-edgar-allan-poe
- Breyer, Melissa. “13 Odd Facts About Edgar Allan Poe.” TreeHugger, 17 May 2020, www.treehugger.com/odd-facts-about-edgar-allan-poe-4864323
- “Edgar Allan Poe Gets Funeral 160 Years After His Death.” Reuters, 11 October 2009, www.reuters.com/article/poe-funeral/edgar-allan-poe-gets-funeral-160-years-after-his-death-idUSSP43375320091012
- Zappia, Susie. “Influence of Edgar Allan Poe on American Culture.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, education.seattlepi.com/influence-edgar-allan-poe-american-culture-5573.html
- Semtner, Christopher P. “13 Haunting Facts About Edgar Allan Poe’s Death.” Biography, 28 October 2019, www.biography.com/news/edgar-allan-poe-death-facts
- “Chronology of the Life of Edgar Allan Poe.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, 26 February 2012, www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poechron.htm
- “Edgar Allan Poe and Rufus Wilmost Griswold.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, 22 January 2009. www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poegrisw.htm
- “Poe’s Original Burial Place.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, 29 January 2009, www.eapoe.org/balt/poegravd.htm
- “Poe’s Memorial Grave.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, 4 August 2016, www.eapoe.org/balt/poegrave.htm
- Vernon, Katie. “Mysterious ‘Poe Toaster’ left Booze and Roses at Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave for 70 Years.” The Vintage News, 9 September 2018, www.thevintagenews.com/2018/09/09/poe-toaster-unknown/