by Cate Masters

He’s been called the Master of the Macabre. But as infamous as he is today, Edgar Allen Poe died a penniless pauper, and his cousin Neilson buried him unannounced, so fewer than ten people attended. Not many people have do-overs as far as funerals are concerned, but this year, Poe had his revenge. 160 years after the secret, bleak event, Poe got his just desserts. The Poe House and Museum re-enacted the ceremony on Oct. 11 with panache, as befitted a writer of Poe’s international stature. Complete with a replica of the body. After a “viewing,” people were invited to an all-night vigil. (No wonder Vincent Price is quoted as saying, “This place gives me the creeps!” during a 1977 visit.)

An antique horse-drawn hearse carried the casket to Westminster Hall in Baltimore for his Oct. 11 funeral, complete with period costumed actors portraying Poe’s contemporaries and others influenced by Poe, such as Sarah Helen Whitman, Walt Whitman, Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Hitchcock.

John Astin of The Addams Family fame, served as master of ceremonies. For years, Astin toured in a one-man Poe show.

Throughout 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth were celebrated in cities wanting to claim him. Baltimore has the advantage, according to the Baltimore Museum of Art: they have the body. (The real one, that is.)

Born in Boston, Poe also lived in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond, where he fell ill, then traveled to Baltimore where he was found delirious outside a tavern. He later died, leaving the cause of his death a mystery.

So it’s no wonder that these cities celebrate Poe during Halloween. His work alone is spooky enough. You can test your knowledge of Poe and Halloween with this quiz. If you’re up for a bigger scare, try Philly’s Haunted Poe a “multisensory experience” staged in a 10,000 square foot warehouse and featuring fully realized theatrical scenes from “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and other horror tales.

To celebrate Poe at home, throw a Poe party.

Though not a huge horror fan, I’m glad to see Poe get his due. And some of the Poe celebrations sound like a blast – the Unhappy Hours, “Cask of Amontillado” wine tastings, “Mask of the Red Death” masquerades with cash bars (hmm, do I detect a running theme?) More sober events include Poe poetry slams, Segway tours, and scavenger hunts and more, with Baltimore hotels providing extra incentive with deluxe packages.

Diss Edgar Allen Poe? Nevermore.

How about you? Are you a Poe fan? Any ideas how to simultaneously celebrate Poe and Halloween?

For sheer spookiness, though, Halloween takes a back seat to January 19, when the mysterious Poe Toaster lays three roses and a bottle of cognac on Poe’s grave at midnight each year.

To get you in a Poe mood for Halloween, here’s the master of horror, Vincent Price, with his interpretation of The Raven:

And my Halloween-themed short, Reflections, is sure to put you in the mood for all things spooky. Demons and pirates and punch, oh my!

Photo Credits: Associated Press

Cate Masters writes fantasy/dark fantasy, historical, contemporary and speculative fiction, described by reviewers as “so compelling I did not want to put it down,” “such romantic tales that really touch your soul,” “filled with action scenes which made it a riveting story,” and “the author weaves a great tale with a creative way of using words that makes the story refreshing to read.” Visit Cate online at, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. I wish I could have been at that funeral! You know I've always thought that if they ever did a bio-pic on Poe that Johnny Depp would be perfect as the Master of Macabre himself! I'm surprised it hasn't been made yet- maybe it's in the works - who knows!

  2. Yes, he could have been the Jerry Lee Lewis of his day, marrying his 13-year-old cousin! I never knew much about him except that The Telltale Heart scared the bejeebies out of me in grade school!

  3. I am a Poe fan but (or perhaps, therefore) I am not sure what he would have thought of himself being paraded around in effigy like some Gothic Guy Fawkes (minus the bonfire, too, of course).

    I am especially a fan of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," since I love Victorian mysteries.

  4. He might've appreciated the resulting resurgence of interest in his work, particularly his "burlesque" stories he couldn't get published in his time. The things we writers will do for marketing!

  5. GREAT post, Cate! I've always been a fan of Poe. When I was in high school, they made us read all his creepy stories and look for the symbolism in them. I remember reading Mask of the Red Death and having to figure out what it all meant (like it meant anything) and I've always loved The Raven.

    Never thought of having a Poe party for Halloween. What a great idea! I may have to do that next year. haha

  6. Hey thanks Michelle! I'd love to go to Baltimore, or Philly (or anywhere, at this point!) to check it all out.

  7. I'm catching up on posts, and I just loved this one, Cate -

    'Not many people have do-overs as far as funerals are concerned.'


    'Diss Edgar Allen Poe? Nevermore.'



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