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Edgar Allan Poe Grave: Last Vigil On January 19 For Mystery Man (PHOTOS)

By SARAH BRUMFIELD | 01/17/12 05:51 PM ET | AP

BALTIMORE -- Is the "Poe Toaster" nevermore?

For decades, a mysterious man left a three roses and cognac on Edgar Allan Poe's grave to mark the anniversary of the writer's birth. But after the visitor, dubbed the "Poe Toaster," failed to appear two years in a row, Poe fans are planning one last vigil this week before calling an end to the annual Jan. 19 tradition.

The gothic master's tales of the macabre still connect with readers more than 200 years after his birth, including his most famous poem, "The Raven," and short stories including "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Pit and the Pendulum." Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is considered the first modern detective story.

Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff Jerome, who has kept watch for the "Poe Toaster" since 1978, believes that it's Poe's suffering and his lifelong dream to be a poet that people still relate to. While the midnight tribute has a touch of the theatrical, it's also an honest expression, Jerome said. Wherever Jerome travels in the world, he said when people find out what he does, they want to know whether the "Poe Toaster" is real.

"It's such an innocent, such a touching tribute," Jerome said. "People are so captivated by the warmth of the message."

Poe lived for a time in Baltimore, but died in 1849 at age 40 after collapsing in a tavern during a visit to the city years later. He was buried in Westminster Burial Ground, then moved to a more prominent spot in the front of the cemetery in 1875. The rose and cognac tributes of an anonymous man dressed in black with a white scarf and wide-brimmed hat are thought to date back to at least the 1940s.

The vigil inside the former church is closed to the public, but over the years, a crowd has gathered outside the gates to watch. After the "Poe Toaster" failed to show in 2010, last year's vigil attracted imposters, including a man who arrived in a limo as well as a few women.

The visitor has left notes on occasion. A few indicated that the tradition passed to a new generation after the death of the original "Poe Toaster" in the late 1990s, and some even mentioned politics and sports. Those notes make it even more frustrating for Jerome that there has been no message explaining the absence.

"I would have thought they would leave a note for me saying it was over," he said. "That does annoy me a little bit, but they are under no obligation to."

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, Poe's middle name was misspelled. We regret the error.
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  • Jeff Jerome, top left, curator of the Poe House and Museum, and Jeannette Marxen stand watch at a window in Westminster Hall, which overlooks the grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, as they wait to see if the mysterious "Poe Toaster" will return after a two-year hiatus to leave cognac and roses upon the writer's grave on the anniversary of his birth. The "Poe Toaster" was a no-show for a third year. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • A monument containing the remains of writer Edgar Allan Poe stands in a graveyard on the morning of the anniversary of his birth in Baltimore, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. Fans waited long past a midnight dreary to see if the mysterious "Poe Toaster" would return after a two-year hiatus to leave cognac and roses upon the writer's original grave nearby, but it appears annual visits to the writer's grave in Baltimore by a mysterious figure called the "Poe Toaster" shall occur nevermore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Edgar Allan Poe fan Cynthia Pelayo of Chicago lays roses near the author's original burial place Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 at Westminster Church and Cemetary in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

  • Jeannette Marxen, from left, Nicole Mooney, Roger Bow and Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff Jerome look at items left in front of Edgar Allan Poe's gravestone by people who pretended to be the mysterious "Poe Toaster" in Baltimore, early Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. Fans waited long past a midnight dreary to see if the true "Poe Toaster" would return after a two-year hiatus to leave cognac and roses upon the writer's grave on the anniversary of his birth, but it appears annual visits to the writer's grave in Baltimore by a mysterious figure called the "Poe Toaster" shall occur nevermore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • A flashlight shines on items left on the gravestone of Edgar Allen Poe by people who pretended to be the mysterious "Poe Toaster" in Baltimore, early Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, opens a gate at Westminster Church and Cemetary in Baltimore, the burial place of author Edgar Allan Poe, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

  • Roses lie near the original burial place of author Edgar Allan Poe Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 at Westminster Church and Cemetary in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

  • Jeff Jerome, top left, curator of the Poe House and Museum, and Jeannette Marxen stand watch at a window in Westminster Hall, which overlooks the grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, as they wait to see if the mysterious "Poe Toaster" will return after a two-year hiatus to leave cognac and roses upon the writer's grave on the anniversary of his birth. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Actor Luke Evans, left, and director James McTeigue, who are working on the upcoming film "The Raven," lay a wreath on writer Edgar Allan Poe's grave in Baltimore, Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, to commemorate the 162nd anniversary of his death. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • Cynthia Pelayo, of Chicago, leaves roses and cognac at the burial site of Edgar Allan Poe Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 in Baltimore. She left the roses and cognac after a mysterious visitor who has left roses and cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe each year on the writer's birthday failed to show early Tuesday, breaking with a ritual that began more than 60 years ago. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • A marker for Edgar Allan Poe's gravesite is seen Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Leah Trindall, from Sydney, Australia, photographs a monument to Edgar Allan Poe Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 in Baltimore. Trindall traveled to Baltimore to be in the city where Poe was born on the poet's birthday. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • An antique hearse makes its way to Westminster Hall in Baltimore during a reenactment of author Edgar Allan Poe's funeral Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. The funeral, which this time was much larger than the first, was part of Baltimore's celebration of the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth. Poe is buried in Baltimore, outside of Westminster Hall. Fewer than 10 people attended Poe's funeral when he died in October 1849 at age 40. (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark)

  • Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, poses next to the original grave of Edgar Allen Poe with a bottle of cognac and roses left by a mysterious visitor, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008, in Baltimore. Since 1949 someone has marked Poe's birthday by mysteriously leaving the items by the writer's grave. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

  • The grave seen in 2008. (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)

  • Sam Porpora shares memorabilia and talks about his fascination with Edgar Allen Poe and the mystery behind an annual visitor to Poe's grave site during an interview Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007 in Catonsville, Md. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Roses and a bottle of cognac are left by an unknown visitor every year at the grave of Edgar Allen Poe at Westminster Church in Baltimore, Md., in the early morning hours of his birthday, Tuesday, Jan 19, 1999. The ritual has continued for the 50 years to mark the birthday of the macabre author. (AP Photo/Greg Nelson)

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