Wednesday marked the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, acclaimed author known for haunting classic short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Annabel Lee.” Poe's remains rest in a Baltimore cemetery where for 60 years a mysterious visitor has visited his grave and plied it with cognac and roses, perhaps to demonstrate appreciation of the famed wordsmith ... or perhaps to invite the deceased to come back from the other side to share a drink.
Unfortunately the liquor-toting “Poe Toaster” failed to appear for the second year in a row. Excited fans waited into the wee hours of the morning in hopes of spotting the annual ghost caller only to leave disappointed. Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, ended the vigil at 5 a.m. after several impostors interfered. (How Jerome differentiates between an impostor and the real Poe Toaster is bewildering, though a dedicated Poe expert must have one or two devilish tricks up his sleeve.)
You’ll have to wait until next year before participating in the Baltimore Cemetary tradition. However, you can start your own tradition to celebrate Poe's morbid tales. Here are three suggested Edgar Allan Poe Day activities that are sure to bring a good laugh.
Activity 1: Tell everyone except your roommate that you’re celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. When your roommate comes home be waiting in their bedroom with a knife. Speak only in Poe’s words.
This Poe quotation regarding insanity makes an excellent opener:
Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence — whether much that is glorious — whether all that is profound — does not spring from disease of thought — from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.
Tip: Have friends flip the breaker switch and bang on the walls from the outside.
Activity 2: If you’re a novice Poe enthusiast, just drink sherry and speak in Italian accents in honor of “The Cask of Amontillado,” (For those who don't recall the tale: a vengeful Montresor uses booze to lure Fortunato to an isolated cellar where Montresor then shackles him to the wall and closes the space with brick and mortar, leaving him to die.)
When you’re good and drunk on the sherry take your fandom to the next level: invite over a frenemy for a glass of wine. When your frenemy arrives, air any grievances you have with them (real or imaginary) and lock them in the closet, howling with laughter throughout the process.
Tip: When you free them hours later remember to shout “Happy Edgar Allan Poe Day!” so they get the joke.
Activity 3: End your celebration with a crowd pleaser pulled straight from "The Tell-Tale Heart.” Sneak into an unsuspecting friend’s house, pull up the floorboards and conceal a tape recorder set to play the sound of a beating heart. Play the heart beat periodically, preferably watching from a window for optimal timing.
Tip: Again employ friends to flip the breaker box and bang on the walls. For added effect, drill tiny holes in the walls from which to drip and/or shoot fake blood. Of course end the evening with the joyous cry “Happy Edgar Allan Poe Day!”