If Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story about his own death, it might’ve read a lot like the real one.
It all began on September 27th, 1849. Poe was living in Richmond, Virginia. That morning, he took a boat to Baltimore. According to the Poe Museum, he was on his way to Philadelphia to do some editing.
He never arrived. And there’s no reliable information about anything that happened to him… until six days later. An election day. When a stranger named Joseph Walker found Poe in a Baltimore gutter, half-conscious and in “great distress.”
Poe wore a shabby outfit — so unlike his typical fine garb that many assume they were someone else’s clothes. He was taken to a hospital, where he remained delirious for days. At one point he called out for someone named “Reynolds!!” Finally, on October 7th, he died. His last words: “Lord help my poor soul.”
Poe’s cause of death was reported, vaguely, as “congestion of the brain.” But there was no autopsy, and the death certificate was lost.
Meanwhile, theories abound. Was Poe drunk? Mugged? Suffering from rabies? Or maybe it was “cooping,” a practice in which political candidates would have people abducted, drugged, and forced to vote, sometimes dressing them in different clothes so they could vote multiple times.
Poe’s strange death got stranger in the 1930s. That’s when Baltimorans first spotted a figure known as the Poe Toaster. He would appear on Poe’s birthday, a scarf obscuring his face, and toast the author’s gravestone with a sip of Cognac.
The toaster appeared until 2009, Poe’s 200th birthday. And hasn’t been seen since.
As materialized by Kurt Bragunier, owner of the Poe-themed Annabel Lee Tavern in Baltimore, MD where Poe lived – and died.
- 2 ounces Drambuie
- 1 ounce Amontillado Sherry
Stir ingredients, serve on the rocks in a highball glass, and enjoy, preferably on a dark and stormy night. If you find yourself suddenly shouting “Reynolds!” you’ve had quite enough.