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The annual graveside tribute was first mentioned in print in 1950 as an aside in an article that appeared in The Evening Sun of Baltimore about an effort to restore the cemetery, Jerome said. When Jerome spoke to older members of the congregation that once worshiped at the church, they recalled hearing about a visitor in the 1930s.

The visitor has occasionally left notes with his tributes, but they haven’t offered much insight into the identity of the “Poe Toaster.” A few indicated the tradition passed to a new generation before the original visitor’s death in the 1990s, and some even mentioned the Iraq War and Baltimore Ravens football team, which was named for Poe’s poem.

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 impersonators, including a man who arrived in a limo and a few women.

The crowd outside the gates of the burial ground into Thursday morning was more respectful than last year. Even the impersonators were more solemn, perhaps because of the sense that this could be the last vigil, according to Sherri Weaver, 40, of Randallstown, who works in finance. Weaver and a few dozen others _ some from as far away as California and Chicago _ braved a windy night with temperatures around 30 degrees, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mystery visitor.

“Some people held out some optimism, but this may be the end,” she said as dawn approached and it was becoming clear that the “Poe Toaster” was not showing up for a third time. “People know this is not a fluke, it’s a quiet end.”