Grave mistakes and other mysteries about Poe

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Halloween is a time for witches, goblins, ghosts - and mysteries. One of the longest and most endearing mysteries centers on the life and death of Edgar Allan Poe.

Literary critic, author, editor, and one-time Baltimore resident, Poe continues to haunt the imagination of local people. People such as George Figgs, who owns the Orpheum Cinema in Fells Point and who will be the artistic director of the soon-to-be-refurbished Grand Theater in Highlandtown.

"I freely admit that I am obsessed," says Figgs while in the room where Poe is believed to have died on Oct. 7, 1849.

Figgs has been fascinated by Poe since he was a boy. He once quit his job and dedicated 18 months to researching Poe's life. He has also written a screenplay about Poe and wants to "vindicate" the literary figure and set the record straight.

The first mystery is the true character of the man himself. Many believe he was a drunkard with few outside interests other than work and family. A man Poe thought his friend, Rufus Griswold, perpetuated that characterization.

"Rufus Griswold was the enemy," says Figgs.

Griswold was a newspaper editor who wrote malicious and damaging things about Poe, such as his being an alcoholic drug addict.

Figgs disputes that Poe drank himself to death.

"There's evidence that he had diabetes," Figgs says. "He would have been very susceptible to even one glass of wine."

Poe's burial place is also shrouded in - if not mystery - a bit of confusion.

Right inside the burial grounds at Westminster Hall, Fayette and Greene streets, is a large monument marking the burial plot of Poe, his wife, Virginia (who was also his cousin), and her mother.

It is located in easy viewing distance of the passing public. On a recent sunny afternoon there were bunches of dried flowers around the gravesite. People walked in to visit the site and to pay their respects.

But is that really where Poe is buried?

Figgs says no.

In the back, around the corner and out of view of passers-by, there is another grave site, barren of flowers.

"This is where Eddie is," Figgs says while gazing at the grave.

"Are you here to visit Eddie?" Figgs asks a woman who had wandered into the cemetery and found her way to the burial plot.

"Yes," the woman nods as she stares at the grave.

According to Figgs and some other Poe scholars, the confusion happened when, in 1875, Poe's remains were supposed to have been moved from the back of the burial grounds to the front.

However, according to a 20-year-old article in the Maryland Historical Society's magazine, the skeleton was that of a young soldier.

"Because of the excellent condition of the teeth," the corpse was believed to have been a young man, the article states. Poe died at the age of 40.

Even the place where Poe died is up for some discussion.

That his life ended in what is now Church Home & Hospital, at 100 N. Broadway, is accepted as fact. A plaque in the southwest tower of the East Building in the hospital reads: "Here, before alterations in this building was the room in which Edgar Allan Poe died, Oct. 7, 1849."

However, a book, titled "Poe Died Here: Recollections of Church Home & Hospital" by Frederick T. Wehr (Church Home & Hospital, 1994) claims otherwise. "William N. Batchelor, who lived here with his caretaker family in the 1850s, states that the stairs were here at the time. This and the lack of evidence that the tower has ever been modified suggest that Mr. Poe died elsewhere in the building."

Figgs explained how Poe ended up in Church Home & Hospital in the first place.

"He took the steamer from Richmond to Baltimore and then went to Philadelphia to edit some poetry. He got on a train in Philadelphia thinking he was heading for New York. He wasn't intending to come back to Baltimore.

"He thought he was going to step out at a station in New York. He stepped out at a station in Baltimore," Figgs says.

It was an election eve night on Oct. 3, 1849, when Poe fell ill. He was purported to have been drunk, but evidence shows otherwise. The doctor at Washington Medical College (which later became Church Home & Hospital) said he smelled no liquor on his breadth, according to research by Figgs.

"The doctor thought he might have been drugged," Figgs says.

Perhaps Poe was or wasn't an alcoholic. He probably wasn't in the best of health to begin with.

"It was the time of a cholera epidemic. Baltimore got hit, but not as much as the larger cities like Philadelphia and New York - and when he left Philly, he had a touch of cholera," according to Figgs' research.

Poe was found at Gunner's Hall and Saloon, which was located at Lombard Street between High and Exeter streets. There isn't a building on the site now.

Poe was taken in a cab to the hospital where he died four days later. According to Dr. J.F.C. Handel, then Baltimore Health Commissioner, the cause of death was "congestion of the brain."

Of course, there are other places where people can go to get a sense of Edgar Allan Poe, including the Poe House & Museum at 203 N. Amity St. The Poe House will hold theatrical presentations to celebrate Halloween.

Here are some Halloween-related activities taking place in the region:

"Clandestine Tales." Spooky tours by candlelight, tonight, tomorrow and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Charles Carroll House and Gardens, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis. $5. No reservations required. Call 410-269-1737.

Costume contest. The Pepsi Parade of Fools costume contest is open to frightfully attired and imaginatively costumed adults 18 and over, Saturday at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion. Live entertainment and competition registration 7 p.m.-9 p.m., parade costumes and judging 9 p.m.-11 p.m. Free. Call 410-837-4636.

Costume party. Prizes to winners, bobbing for apples, bean toss, finger-painting and candy-corn counting, tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. at the John E. Howard Recreation Center, 2100 Brookfield Ave. Free. Call 410-396-7849.

"Fang-Tastic Halloween Party." Scary stories, creepy crafts, ghoulish games, costume parade, treats, more, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the National Museum of Dentistry, Lombard and Greene streets. Also featured, the exhibition "Things That Go Chomp in the Night." $2; free for ages 6 and under. Call 410-706-0600.

"Ghosts of the Past." Three original, spooky vignettes and a tour through Historic London Town and Gardens, Londontown Road, Edgewater, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. today, tomorrow and Saturday. $8; $6 ages 12 and under. Not recommended for ages under 7. Call 410-222-1919.

Halloween at the library. "Monster Madness" entertainment by Bob Brown Puppets for all ages (under 6 with adult) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Towson Library, 320 York Road. Free. Call 410-887-6166. Activities at all branches. Call for information.

Halloween at the library. Halloween party for ages 4-12, 6:30 tonight at Herring Run Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Free. Call 410-396-0996 for registration. Activities at all branches. Call for information.

Halloween at the library. Visit the Joppa Branch of the Harford County Public Library, Saturday at 3 p.m. for spooky stories, silly music and Halloween crafts. Costume is optional. Free. Call 410-612-1660 for reservations.

Halloween at the library. Children in grades K through 2 can wear their costumes for a spooky session of stories and Halloween activities, 7 tonight at the Bel Air Branch of the Harford County Public Library. Free. Call 410-638-3151. Activities at all branches. Call for information.

Halloween at the mall. Show featuring Frankenstein, Dracula and the Werewolf, howling contest and trick-or-treating, Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. at Eastpoint Mall, 7839 Eastpoint Mall. Free. Call 410-284-0934.

Halloween at the mall. Trick-or-treating at 4 p.m. and a costume contest afterward, Saturday at the Owings Mills Mall, 10300 Mill Run Circle. Awards at 6 p.m. Pre-register for the contest now through Halloween. Free. Call 410-363-7000, Ext. 7047.

Halloween at the mall. Halloween cookie and cupcake decorating contest, a visit from Frankenstein, trick-or-treating, more, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Reisterstown Road Plaza, 6564 Reisterstown Road. Free. Call 410-764-3222.

Halloween at the mall. Trick-or-treat throughout Cranberry Mall, off Route 140 in Westminster, Saturday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Free. Call 410-876-8870.

Halloween at the mall. Kids can create sand-art Halloween pictures and decorate masks, receive free trick-or-treat bags with candy, safety tips, prizes and mall coupons, Saturday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Chatham Mall, 9200 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. Free. Call 410-465-8435.

Halloween at the mall. Trick-or-treating at 5 p.m. Saturday at Security Square Mall, 6901 Security Blvd. Free. Call 410-265-6000.

Halloween at the mall. Costume parade and trick-or-treating 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Laurel Mall, U.S. Route 1, Laurel. Free. Call 301-953-3300.

Halloween at the Poe House. Theatrical performances of "Annabel Lee" and "The Tell Tale Heart" by Poe impersonator David Keltz, Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. at the Poe House, 203 N. Amity St. $4; $3 ages 12 and under. Call 410-396-7932.

Halloween baseball event. Trick-or-treating session with the Bowie Nationals players Saturday, costume contest, game against the Delmarva Rockfish, fireworks after the game, free apple cider and more. Evening begins at 5:30 p.m. at Prince George's Stadium. Kids 12 and under admitted free. Call 301-805-6000.

"Halloween Blast." Adults can enjoy a spooky evening with a costume contest, DJ music and $1.95 happy hour food, tomorrow, 5:30 p.m.-midnight, at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, Pier 5, 711 Eastern Ave. Call 410-234-1300.

Halloween kids' concert. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presents a concert of Halloween favorites and invites children and parents to dress in their scariest costumes along with the musicians, Saturday at 2 p.m. at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. $15-$20. Call 410-783-8000.

Halloween parade. Trick-or-treating parade with the Children's Theater Association throughout the Shops at Kenilworth, Kenilworth Drive, Towson, at 5 p.m. Saturday. Parade will collect candy from shop merchants. Free. Call 410-321-1909.

Halloween party. Costume contest, drawings for prizes, candy and refreshments, Saturday at Bath & Body Works stores throughout Maryland. Free. Call 800-395-1001.

Halloween party. For kids ages 13 and under, tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Patapsco Recreation Center, 844 Roundview Road. Free. Call 410-396-1839.

HallowScream. Spooky attractions, costume contests, haunted train rides, trick-or-treating and live shows, nightly through Sunday at Adventure World, Route 2214 West and Central Avenue, Largo. Hours are 4 p.m.-10 p.m. daily and noon-10 p.m. Saturday. Free with paid admission: $27.99; $18.99 ages 8 and under; free for ages 3 and under. Call 301-249-1500.

Haunted barn and hayride. Open tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, Route 178 in Crownsville. $8; free for ages 6 and under. Call 410-923-3400, Ext. 7.

"Haunted Factory on the Harbor." Tour the haunted Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Highway, tomorrow and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Not appropriate for children under 6. $6; $3 ages 12 and under. Call 410-727-4808.

Haunted graveyard. Jason, Freddie Krueger, Hannibal Lecter, Leatherface, Chucky and a few others may make an appearance at Charlesmont graves, 3413 Wallford Drive, Dundalk, through Monday. Open from dusk to 11 p.m. today and Sunday and dusk to 2 a.m. tomorrow and Saturday. Free. Call 410-282-3635.

"Haunted Histories Festival." Trick-or-treat through time as spooky tour guides lead costumed visitors through historical activities and displays, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St. $5. Call 410-685-3750.

"Haunted Hollywood Ball." Planet Hollywood and Mix 106.5 sponsor the evening of dancing, food and drink for adults, 7-midnight tonight, at Planet Hollywood, 201 E. Pratt St. Dress as a movie monster or character. $15. Call 410-685-7827.

Haunted tour. See the "Ghosts of the Patapsco Female Institute" tomorrow and Saturday, on a walking tour beginning at the institute's visitor center, 3691 Sarah's Lane, Ellicott City. $3. Call 410-465-8500.

"Hauntings of Ellicott Mills." Haunted ghost tours run Saturday at 8 p.m., 8:20 p.m., 8:40 p.m., 9 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. in Ellicott Mills. Call 410-313-1900 for reservations.

Hayride of Horrors. Hayrides today-Sunday, from Padonia Park Club, 12006 Jenifer Road, Cockeysville. Rides run 7 p.m.-11 p.m. today and Sunday and 7 p.m.-midnight tomorrow and Saturday. $8. Call 410-252-2046.

"House of Terror." Tour the haunted house at 7960 Henryton Road, Marriottsville, today and tomorrow, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. $3; $2 for ages under 10. Benefits the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center. Call 410-549-6330.

Jaycees Haunted Barn. In Taneytown; follow signs off Route 140. 7 tonight and 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday. $6. Call 410-756-4575.

Maryland Science Center event. "Prehistoric Halloween Happening" for kids ages 4-17 at the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St., Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., costumed kids receive goodie bags and experience a Halloween in the "Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the Lost World" exhibit. Call 410-685-5225.

"Ode to Halloween." Live concert at Westminster Hall, Fayette and Greene streets, tour of Westminster Catacombs, cider and cookies, today at noon. Sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Law. Free. Call 410-706-2072.

"Phantoms and Phantasy." Halloween concert for children (in costume) with Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. $10; $6 children. Call 410-263-0907.

"Spook-Tacular Party." Halloween costume pageant, pumpkin decorating, pet costume contest, Halloween screaming contest, pumpkin patch scavenger hunt, scarecrow-making, more, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at New Town Village Center, Groffs Mill Drive, Owings Mills. Rain date Sunday. Free. Call 410-427-0123, Ext. 226.

Trick-or-treating. Kids ages 12 and under can trick-or-treat all along Main Street in Ellicott City Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., as merchants hand out candy and treats. Free. Call 410-465-5665.

Trick-or-treating. Merchants at Mount Airy Shopping Center, Ridgeville Boulevard, Mount Airy, will hand out candy and goodies Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free. Call 703-205-6465.

"Zoo Booo!" Trick-or-treating, creepy crafts, goblin games, a haunted barn, live entertainment, more, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Baltimore Zoo, Druid Hill Park, Exit 7 off I-83. Events are included with regular admission: $8.50; $5 ages 2 to 15 and ages 62 and up; free for ages under 2. Call 410-366-5466.

THE FACTS

What: Halloween at the Poe House & Museum. 203 N. Amity St. David Keltz and Stacy McFarlane present "Annabel Lee" and "The Tell Tale Heart."

When: Saturday and Sunday 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.

Tickets: $4, $3 for ages 12 and under (tickets are first-come, first-served)

Call: 410-396-7932

Note: The performance is not suitable for babies and very young children

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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