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At the Graves of Edgar Allen Poe

Image of poe on his 1875 tomb in Baltimore. MD / photoTHE GREAVE SITE

Author Edgar Allen Poe lived a fascinating life and his spirit now enjoys a fascinating death. Poe’s third burial site is illuminated by spotlights from below ground at the corner of Westminster Burying Ground in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. It is a shrine to fans of American literature and the occult.




The Three Burials of Mr. Poe
Baltimore, MD

You can be sure that a century from now the future grave of horror writer Stephen King will be steeped in mystery and legend. King, however, will likely not be entombed as Edgar Allen Poe, in a poor, unmarked grave with few mourners on an appropriately dreary day. Today Poe’s monument is highly visible to the public, thrust toward the iron entrance gates of Westminster Burying Ground in the telltale heart of Baltimore, MD.

The prominent memorial is, technically, Poe’s third burial location within the unique gated cemetery. Poe was originally buried after a lingering illness on October 8, 1849. There was a tombstone, but when it was ruined by accident, it was not replaced. As Poe’s fame grew, fans came looking for his tombstone. Three decades later plans evolved for a memorial and his body was moved toward the back of the cemetery in April 1875, near that of his grandfather David Poe, a Revolutionary War hero. EA Poe’s remains were then moved to the site of the current memorial in November of the same year.

Poe's third tomb at Westminster Burying Ground in Baltimore. MD / photo

For years a mysterious figure was seen leaving roses and a bottle of cognac at Poe’s grave. In 2007 a 92-year old Poe fan admitted to perpetuating the hoax of the mysterious man in black in order to pump up attention for 19th century poet. Today, Westminster Hall is operated by a nonprofit agency and provides tours of this most fascinating cemetery. The catacombs run under the former Presbyterian church in the center of busy downtown Baltimore. Poe’s small tenement row house about half a mile away has been restored as a museum.

Poe, who has known to be addicted at times to alcohol and stimulants was found in the streets of Baltimore in a ragged condition days before his death. This led to the believe that he had died drunk and gone made. A 1907 report in the New York Times suggested that he had, instead, died of a cerebral edema or "water on the brain." The author of The Raven, Masque of the Red Death, the Telltale Hearth, the Gold Bug and many other classics, Poe’s reputation has only continued to grow since his body was moved to its new memorial in 1875. -- JDR


UPDATE:  A recent Halloween tiff among Poe scholars shows us that petty territorial squabbles are still at the heart of local history.  Or was this a clever mock skirmish designed to draw media attention to Poe during his annual spotlight? Poe lived, for a time, in Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia and New York. Although his body molders in Baltimore where the author died (see below), his greatest works appeared while he lived in Philly. He received his greatest literary attention in New York City and there is a Poe Museum currently in Richmond. Scholars in each region lay claim to being “Poe-Town” and a Philly historian suggested that Poe’s body should be moved from Baltimore to the City of Brother Love. In response, the curator of Baltimore’s Poe House called Philadelphia the city of the “broken bell and the greasy cheese steak.”  Ouch! We suggest exhuming the famed horror author and having his bones drawn and quartered, with each of the four cities getting its own piece of Poe. “America’s Shakespeare,”, who struggled for attention in each city, would have enjoyed the irony.  -- JDR

View from poe's grave toward Westminster Hall/

Poe's second grave site, incorrectly labeled as his original burial site at Westminster Burying Ground in Maryland/

Mysterious curved tombstone at Westminster Cemetery has been featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not /

Deterioirating crypt at Westminster Hall in Baltimore. MD /

Photos and text (c) J. Dennis Robinson

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