A hundred and sixty years after Poe's ignoble death and hasty funeral, the father of modern horror is about to get the funeral that he's always deserved. The Poe House has held public viewings of "Poe" this week, which will culminate in a true period-style funeral this coming Sunday...
Poe's cousin, Neilson Poe, never announced his death publicly. Fewer than 10 people attended the hasty funeral for one of the 19th century's greatest writers. And the injustices piled on. Poe's tombstone was destroyed before it could be installed, when a train derailed and crashed into a stonecutter's yard. Rufus Griswold, a Poe enemy, published a libellous obituary that damaged Poe's reputation for decades.Look under the floorboards here for more about Poe's fitting final farewell!
But on Sunday, Poe's funeral will get an elaborate do-over, with two services expected to draw about 350 people each - the most a former church next to his grave can hold. Actors portraying Poe's contemporaries and other long-dead writers and artists will pay their respects, reading eulogies adapted from their writings about Poe.
"We are following the proper etiquette for funerals. We want to make it as realistic as possible," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum.
Advance tickets are sold out, although Jerome will make some seats available at the door to ensure packed houses. Fans are travelling from as far away as Vietnam...
The body will lie in state for 12 hours Wednesday at the Poe House, a tiny rowhome in a gritty section of west Baltimore. Visitors are invited to pay their respects.
Following the viewing will be an all-night vigil at Poe's grave at Westminster Burying Ground. Anyone who attends will have the opportunity to deliver a tribute.
On Sunday morning, a horse-drawn carriage will transport the replica of Poe's body from his former home to the graveyard for the funeral.
Actor John Astin, best known as Gomez Addams on TV's "The Addams Family," will serve as master of ceremonies.
"It's sort of a way of saying, 'Well, Eddie, your first funeral wasn't a very good one, but we're going to try to make it up to you, because we have so much respect for you,"' said Astin, who toured as Poe for years in a one-man show.
The service won't be a total lovefest, however. The first eulogy will come from none other than Griswold.
"People are asking me, 'Jeff, why are you inviting him? He hated Poe!"' Jerome said. "The reason is, most of these people defended Poe in response to what he said about Poe's life, so we can't have this service without having old Rufus sitting in the front row, spewing forth his hatred."
Eulogies will follow from actors portraying, among others, Sarah Helen Whitman, a minor poet whom Poe courted after his wife's death, and Walt Whitman, who attended the dedication of Poe's new gravestone in 1875 but didn't feel well enough to speak. Writers and artists influenced by Poe, including Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Hitchcock, will also be represented.
"Annoyed as I am with Baltimore sometimes, I have to give them credit," said Philadelphia-based Poe scholar Edward Pettit, who argues his city was of greater importance to Poe's life and literary career. "Baltimore has done an awful lot to maintain the legacy of Poe over the last 100-some years."