- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — For the 57th year, a mystery man has paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by placing roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer’s grave to mark his birthday.

But some of the 25 spectators, drawn to the tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore to view the ceremony, climbed over the walls of the site and were “running all over the place trying to find out how the guy gets in,” according to the most faithful viewer of the event.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, who has seen the mysterious visitor every Jan. 19 since 1976, said early yesterday that he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor’s ceremony.

“They had a game plan,” Mr. Jerome said. “They knew from previous years when the guy would appear.”

Although the visitor managed to get in and go out without anyone stopping him, Mr. Jerome said because of the disruption early yesterday and of previous years, he will not reveal details of what the Poe Toaster was wearing, what he did at Poe’s grave and whether he left anything besides the roses and cognac, such as a note.

“In letting people know about this tribute, I’ve been contributing to these people’s desire to catch this guy,” Mr. Jerome said. “It’s such a touching tribute, and it’s been disrupted by the actions of a few people trying to interfere and expose this guy.”

Most who gathered, Mr. Jerome said, were interested in having a good time.

“After one or two hours, you let down your guard and start getting punchy and don’t think he’s going to show up, and, of course, that’s when he does.”

It was a crisp, cold, clear night.

“I was hoping for wind and rain, in keeping with a Poe story,” Mr. Jerome said.

But the museum curator was saddened by the disrespectful spectators. “I hope to preserve this tribute. It’s one of those things that make Baltimore so unique,” he said.

For decades, a frail figure made the visit to Poe’s grave. In 1993, the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, “The torch will be passed.”

A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his sons.

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories such as “The Raven” and “The Telltale Heart,” died Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore at age 40 after collapsing in a tavern.

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