Roses lay on Edgar Allan Poe's grave site.
Roses lay on Edgar Allan Poe's grave site. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

For decades, Edgar Allan Poe's birthday was marked by a mysterious visitor to his gravesite in Baltimore. Beginning in the 1930s, the "Poe Toaster" placed three roses at the grave every Jan. 19 and opened a bottle of cognac, only to disappear into the night.

The Poe Toaster hasn't been seen since 2009, but the Maryland Historical Society, with Poe Baltimore and Westminster Burying Grounds, hopes to revive the tradition.


The organizations are searching for the next Poe Toaster in the form of a competition, a la "American Idol" or "America's Got Talent." Baltimore's Poe-lovers are encouraged to submit a 75- to 100-word description of a proposed three-minute performance in the spirit of the Toaster, which could be "anything within the bounds of the imagination -- a dramatic reading, song, interpretive dance -- you name it, as long as it's connected to our dear friend Edgar," according to a news release.

On Nov. 7, 10 to 12 finalists will compete in front of three celebrity judges at the Maryland Historical Society. The audience, however, will ultimately decide the winner.

Baltimore's new Poe Toaster will toast the author at his grave on his birthday next year, as well as at other city events throughout 2016.

Submissions are due on Oct. 23, and the next Toaster must be at least 18 years old. Videos, storyboards, drawings and more in support of participants' vision for the Toaster can be submitted with the proposed performance.

Find out more about the event and how to become the Poe Toaster here.

Or just honor the occasion of the 166th anniversary of his death, which is Wednesday.