Culture Club/ Getty Images
Melissa Locker
January 15, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe never have played at Camden Yards or guest-starred on The Wire, but he’s still one of Baltimore’s most famous native sons.

To celebrate the author’s relationship with the city, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has declared Jan. 19, the poet's birthday, “Edgar Allan Poe Appreciation Day.”

In a fitting tribute to the author who wrote such horror classics as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” the proclamation making Poe’s appreciation day official will be read at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, where the poet is buried on Saturday, January 15. 

In addition to reading the proclamation, the city will reinstate the tradition of the “Poe Toaster.” While it sounds like an off-brand kitchen appliance, it’s actually a ritual that started back in the 1940s, when an unknown individual would place three roses on Poe’s gravesite every year on the poet's birthday. The anonymous Poe fan would then crack open a bottle of cognac, toast the poet, and leave the bottle on the grave.

To re-start the tradition, the Maryland Historical Society launched an American Idol-esque competition to be the next Poe Toaster. Competitors had three minutes to come up with a modern twist on the old practice of the Poe Toaster, but to keep with tradition, the identity of the new Poe Toaster has been kept a secret and won’t be unveiled until the public tribute at Poe’s gravesite during the writer’s birthday celebration—if even then.

In addition to the citywide celebration, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is offering free public admission to all who dare visit from January 16-17. The Poe House will also throw the poet a birthday party, called “POE-Zella!”, featuring a benefit exhibition and silent auction at Zella’s Pizzeria on January 16.

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