Stories of revenge have always stirred my dark heart, and one of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe stories is “The Cask of Amontillado.” But his genius does not stop there. Poe is master of the macabre, and his tales have entranced readers for over a century. Today marks what would have been his 203rd birthday, and I think we should all have some cake in his honor. (After all, what is a birthday without cake?)
This year is a bit more exciting than most, however. Poe will actually appear in the upcoming film The Raven starring John Cusack. It is a fictional depiction of the late author, and the plot centers around recent murders that have been based on some of Poe’s darker stories. The trailer looks incredible, and I hope that the best parts of the movie haven’t been shown already. It seems it’s a blend of horror, mystery, suspense, and period drama. There may even be some romance, as well. Combining Poe and a mystery is a logical move—his “Murders in the Rue Morgue” is known as the first detective story. Without Poe we may not have had Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew. The horror . . . the horror.
One mystery that may never be solved is that of the person known only as the “Poe Toaster.” Each year on Poe’s birthday (with the exception of the last two years), a man dressed in black wearing a wide-brimmed hat leaves three roses and cognac at the author’s grave. This tradition has taken place for decades, but the identity of the man remains unknown, as well as why he hasn’t returned. Also unknown is whether a single person has performed the “toast” all these years. Poe fans will stand vigil one last time, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mystery man, but if he fails to show, then they plan to acknowledge that he is “nevermore.”
Even the exact cause of Poe’s death remains unknown. Over the years I’ve heard theories from rabies to opium to binge drinking, but his final days are shrouded in shadow. No matter how he died, his stories continue to endure, shocking and horrifying us with their vivid imagery and dark content. Happy birthday, Edgar.