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Reviving a Poe Tradition

Will you be his next Toaster?

Who was the Poe Toaster?    
    No one is fessing up to being the mysterious stranger who visited Edgar Allan Poe’s final resting place at Westminster Hall every year on his January 19 birthday, beginning sometime in the 1940s. The hatted stranger, dressed in black but for his white scarf, would lay down three red roses, raise a glass of cognac to Poe’s memory and disappear, leaving the open bottle and the flowers on the memorial.
    The three flowers presumably symbolize the three bodies buried there: Poe, his wife Virginia Clemm Poe and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm. The cognac needs no explanation, and several of the bottles have been kept at the Baltimore Poe House and Museum.
    Then the Toaster’s annual ritual ended, to the dismay of Poe fans and the curious who would gather in the cemetery in hopes of a glimpse. The mystery of the Toaster has led to a variety of stories and the Maryland Historical Society’s curious contest in search of a new Toaster.
    Do you have what it takes?
    Think America’s Got Talent meets The House of Usher.
    In tryouts, Wannabe toasters get three minutes to perform a Toast of their choosing, whether dramatic reading, song, dance or what you will. Three judges comment, with the audience determining the winner.
    The Poe Toaster is expected to perform graveside in Westminster in January as well as at other society events throughout the year.
    Submit a 75- to 100-word proposal before Oct. 23 to media@mdhs.org. In true Poe Toaster-style, aliases are encouraged. Finalists will be announced on Halloween and will then take to the stage for the final judgment Nov. 7, 8:30-11:30pm, at the Maryland Historical Society: mdhs.org/poetoaster.