Raise a Glass

January 21, 2010

Today, I thought a great deal about tributes. Not this kind of tribute, but an real tribute by definition.  A tribute according to Merriam Webster Dictionary is an awknowledgement of respect, of gratitude and/or of admiration. These are traditionally subtle, quiet, and unassuming. I partake in a few tributes to both my late brother and late father, each of them very personal and meaningful to me.    I bring this up today, because a tribute that I find fascinating was broken for the first time in over 60 years; that of Phantom Poe Toaster. 
The Phantom Poe toaster, as the legend goes, has appeared every year  at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 19th (Poe’s Birthday) since roughly 1949.  This annual figure arrives each year between the hours of 12:00 AM and 5:30 AM, dressed in a dark suit, a wide-brimmed hat and a white scarf.  The phantom carries with him, 3 roses, (which are believed to be in memory of Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, as all three individuals rest within the crypt) and a bottle of Cognac.  This hidden and shadowy figures leaves the roses, then lifts a glass, “of … fine label” Cognac and toasts the great melancholic writer. After the toast, the bottle is left for Poe, “to drink” (since it was his favorite beverage.)  
Edgar Allan Poe's Original Gravesite marked by the roses and Cognac

Edgar Allan Poe's Original Gravesite marked by the roses and Cognac.


 The ceremony behind the toast to Poe has been a great tribute and tradition, one that brings light to an interesting man, a great writer and a wonderful church. In fact the celebration of the toaster has become a bit of a spectator sport, as people have gathered with Jeff Jerome, the curator of the Edgar Allen Poe House to witness the Poe Toaster. The Toast reached great acclaim one year as a photographer, backed by LIFE magazine snapped this photo of phantom as he quietly acknowledged Poe’s life and works. 

The Phantom Toaster from life Magazine, 1990

The Phantom Toaster from Life Magazine, 1990


 The fear now is that the toast may have come to an end.  Will the phantom toaster return.  Jeff Jerome thinks that it may be an appropriate year for it to conclude being that last year was the bicentenary of Poe’s life.  Here’s the article where Jerome made that statement Poe.  If this is the case, it is a sad day for Poe and Poe enthusiasts.  Therefore in honor of Poe’s missing toaster, I submit as my roses and cognac some of Poe’s works for you to enjoy.  

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
Edgar Allan Poe 

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.
Edgar Allan Poe 

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
Edgar Allan Poe 

The Cask of Amontillado –  Phenomenal Short Story. 


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