Poe House and Museum celebrates 10th year


"Villains!" I shrieked. "Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart."

dgar Allan Poe The incessant pounding of a murdered old man's heart beats loudly in the guilty conscience of his mad killer in Edgar Allan Poe's chilling story, "The Tell-Tale Heart."

A theatrical presentation of the classic horror piece will be staged in the next few weeks in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Poe House and Museum and to commemorate the 141st anniversary of the author's death.

Unraveling the last mystery about Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore residence and revealing the gruesome circumstances surrounding the only known portrait of his wife, Virginia, are some of the other eerie happenings taking place during October, which has been designated "Edgar Allan Poe Month."

Sponsored by the city, this program of free lectures, dramatic readings and stage performances of Poe's works kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Sunday with the reading of The Governor's Proclamation in the Westminster Graveyard.

A special tribute follows at the Poe grave with bagpipers (in honor of the writer's Scottish heritage) playing funeral-type music. Local school children and representatives from Baltimore and from other states will bring floral tributes.

International and regional historians and scholars have opted to provide new evidence concerning Poe's "Mystery House" and offer proof of where the master of the short story's bones are really buried.

Dr. Tamaki Horie, assistant professor of English at Sonoda Women's College in Japan and published scholar on Poe and Oscar Wilde, is scheduled to speak on the great influence the literary genius has had on Japanese literature.

A published volume, "The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe," by book illustrator Michael Deas (available for purchase at $20), contains likenesses of Poe as a young man to his death in 1849.

"At his lecture Mr. Deas will talk about what was occurring in Poe's life according to each daguerreotype," says Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum since its inception in 1980.

"The book also contains a portrait of Virginia," Jerome says. "It was painted just after she died, so it is the picture of a corpse. A local family has the original painting," he adds.

"The changes in the daguerreotypes of Poe are intriguing," he says. "His facial features changed dramatically in a few years. As a young man he sported long sideburns and no mustache, but no one seems to want to accept this image."

Baltimore where Poe lived (and died in 1849) with members of his family -- Mrs. Clemm, her daughter, Virginia, and son, Henry -- was the locale for the early fiction. There he wrote such stories as "The Manuscript Found in a Bottle" (for which he won a $50 prize from the publishers of the Baltimore Saturday Visitor), "Mystification" and "Lionizing."

"Poe was experimenting with different themes," Jerome says. "Although these were not the masterpieces of the later years, they were important in drawing attention to his rich style and fertile imagination."

The enactment of "The Tell-Tale Heart," a first-person short story staged at the Poe House and Museum annually by different actors, will this year be performed by professional actor Don Mullins, who will also render dramatic readings of the poems "The Raven," "Annabel Lee" and "Alone."

Edgar Allan Poe Month culminates in a tour of the Westminster Hall catacombs and cemetery on Halloween night under the jurisdiction of the University of Maryland Law School.

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