A group of selected mediums and psychics will be spending a March weekend trying to reach Edgar Allan Poe, the literary giant and creator of the modern detective story who has made Baltimore his permanent home since 1849.
Officials and friends of Baltimore's Poe House and Museum are organizing what is billed as "Beyond Nevermore." For two days, on March 3 and 4, psychics will gather at Westminster Hall, a former church just yards from Poe's grave, and try to contact the spirit of the dead author.
"It started off as kind of a joke — you know, 'I wonder what Poe would think about all this?'" said Mark Redfield, a local actor and fan magazine publisher. Redfield has helped organize many Poe-related events over the years, including 2009's bicentennial observance of the author's birth.
Just think of the answers he could provide. Why didn't the Raven say something besides "Nevermore"? Why a cask of amontillado, and not gin or vermouth? Just who was the Poe Toaster — and where has he been the past three years?
"The idea really is to contact Poe," Redfield said. "We're keeping an open mind about it, and hoping to have some fun."
At least three psychics, or mediums, will be invited, Redfield said, to participate in what the website poeforevermore.com is calling "a series of controlled experiments." In addition to trying to contact Poe, Beyond Nevermore will feature music and other activities.
Details of the event, including times, ticket prices and which psychics will be participating, will be posted on the website at midnight Saturday. Each day's program should last about two hours, Redfield said.
Rie Sadler, a Maryland-based paranormal investigator, has long dreamed of setting up her equipment inside the Poe House, which is on North Amity Street just a few blocks from the gravesite. Although she hadn't been invited to participate in Beyond Nevermore, she said she was excited to hear about the plans. Poe may very well show up, she said, and make his presence felt.
"He loved Baltimore; he was here for quite some time," Sadler said. "If he had a particular love for the city or for the house … or if he felt he had unfinished business, it's very conceivable that he could still be there."
Budget cuts are threatening the future of the Poe House and Museum. The city, which owns the West Baltimore rowhouse in which Poe lived for several years in the 1830s, cut its funding in 2010. A study is under way to see whether the house and museum could become self-sustaining.
Even with the house's fate up in the air, local Poe fans are determined to keep his legacy alive and his name on people's minds. Last week, nearly 100 people showed up at his graveside for a nighttime commemoration of what would have been his 203rd birthday.
Beyond Nevermore, Redfield said, offers a new twist in Baltimore's continuing efforts to honor the legacy of one of its favorite sons.
"We're always trying to find something different to do," he said. "There's only so many times that someone can recite 'The Raven.'"
But does anyone really expect Poe, or his spirit, to put in an appearance? Is there really a chance Poe might be able to clarify the mysterious circumstances under which he died in 1849, after being found wandering the streets of Baltimore delirious and wearing someone else's clothes?