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Friday, August 17, 2007

Poe Toaster a Hoax?

Each year on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, a mysterious figure dressed in black lays roses and booze on his grave in Baltimore. Sam Porpora, 92, a former ad executive, is claiming that he created the legend.

Mr. Porpora's story begins in the late 1960s. He'd just been made historian of the church, built in 1852 at Fayette and Greene Streets. There were fewer than 60 congregants and Mr. Porpora, in his 60s, was one of the youngest. The overgrown cemetery was a favourite of drunken derelicts.

The site needed money and publicity, Mr. Porpora recalled. That, he said, is when the idea of the Poe toaster came to him. The story, as Mr. Porpora told it to a local reporter then, was that the tribute had been laid at the grave on Poe's Jan. 19 birthday every year since 1949. Three roses - one for Poe, one for his wife and one for his mother-in-law - and a bottle of cognac were placed there, because Poe loved the stuff even though he couldn't afford to drink it unless someone else was buying. [Link]
Critics say that Porpora may have popularized the legend, but that the mysterious stranger was showing up long before he became involved.

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