Only this, and nothing more?

August 16th, 2007

One of my favorite traditions turns out to have been a publicity stunt:

For decades, a mysterious figure dressed in black, his features cloaked by a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, crept into a churchyard to lay three roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Now, a 92-year-old man who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.

“We did it, myself and my tour guides,” said Sam Porpora. “It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide.”

Why do this?

Porpora’s story begins in the late 1960s.

He’d just been made historian of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, built in 1852. The overgrown cemetery was a favorite of drunken derelicts.

The site needed money and publicity, Porpora recalled. That, he said, is when the idea of the Poe toaster came to him. The story, as Porpora told it to a local reporter then, was that the tribute had been laid at the grave on Poe’s Jan. 19 birthday every year since 1949.

Three roses — one for Poe, one for his wife, and one for his mother-in-law — and a bottle of cognac, because Poe loved the stuff even though he couldn’t afford to drink it.

My headline is blatantly stolen from NPR’s Morning Edition story about Porpora.

2 Responses to “Only this, and nothing more?”

  1. leigh Ann Says:

    WHAT??? WHAT???? This was a favorite of mine too.

  2. sue Says:

    I think the question isn’t why do it, but, why confess after all these years.