It appears the famous Poe Toaster has given up his yearly visit to the original grave marker of Edgar Allen Poe. Every January 19 for six decades the Poe Toaster visited the grave in the dark of night to leave three roses and half a bottle of cognac. Below is one of many new stories concerning this:
After the holidays of December I always looked forward to January 19, the birthday of Poe, and reports of the Toaster’s annual pilgrimage to Poe’s grave. It seemed like an unofficial holiday for fans of the macabre. It added a bit of mystery and intrigue to the cheerless month of January. Who was the Poe Toaster?
Nobody knows. We can only make a few guesses about the Toaster’s motivations. The Toaster visited the grave of Poe from at least 1949 if not earlier. That was a lifetime of paying respects to Poe, a steadfast accomplishment. This was not done to gain attention, but a unique way to honor an author who at did not get the recognition he deserved in his lifetime. Did the Toaster realize this simple act of appreciation would eventually remind the world to remember Poe every year on his birthday? It did exactly that.
It is suggested the three roses left at the grave are for Poe, his wife and mother-in-law who were also buried there. As for the half bottle of cognac, what does that mean? Poe died from drinking at 40. Cognac is an ironic but strangely meaningful gift for Poe.
I had a good friend pass away from cancer a decade ago. My friend had his own problems with drinking, which he usually (not always) had under control, thanks to his wife who would give him endless grief if he veered off the rails. Yet he and I shared good times over some Goldschlager.
When my friend died he was cremated and his ashes scattered. I don’t have a place to visit to offer my respects; I wish I did. If I did, I could see myself leaving a miniature bottle of Goldschlager at his grave along with flowers as a personal gesture. I know he would have appreciated it. Perhaps the Poe Toaster was thinking the same thing, that Poe’s downfall was also his passion.
Why has the Toaster stopped this tradition? Eventually the Poe Toaster’s act of respect gradually turned into a media circus. A note said that the original Poe Toaster had passed away in 1998 and handed the task to his son. In the era of reality TV and celebrity wannabes doing anything to get on television, I really respect that father and son wanted to maintain their privacy. It seems the 200th anniversary of Poe may be the last visit by the Toaster. I don’t blame the son for not wanting the hassle anymore.
The Poe Toaster is now part of the story of Edgar Allen Poe. Will we ever see the Toaster again? I think others will take his place who have no relationship to the original. Wannabe toasters, pretend toasters. Maybe next year we’ll see three of four new Poe toasters trying to leave flowers and cognac. Is that a bad thing? Others can be inspired by the Toaster’s example.
I want to thank the Poe Toaster for bringing some light into the world every January 19. I raise a class of cognac and toast the Toaster. If I knew where he was buried, I would visit to leave a rose and perhaps a bottle of cognac as well. Salute!
January 19, 2011 update. This year the Poe toaster did not appear. It seems the tradition has truly ended: