BALTIMORE – For the 57th straight year, a mystery man paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe by placing roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer's grave to mark his birthday.
Some of the 25 spectators drawn to a tiny, locked graveyard in downtown Baltimore for 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 Jeff Jerome, the most faithful viewer of the event.
Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, said early Thursday he had to chase people out of the graveyard, fearing they would interfere with the mystery visitor's ceremony.
"In letting people know about this tribute, I've been contributing to these people's desire to catch this guy," 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."
Jerome has seen the mysterious visitor every Jan. 19 since 1976.
"They had a game plan," Jerome said of the spectators. "They knew from previous years when the guy would appear."
But Jerome declined to 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.
It was a the crisp, cold, clear night. "I was hoping for wind and rain in keeping with a Poe story," 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 the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern.