Tag: edgar allan poe

Poe House to Reopen, Become Self-Sufficient


Operation of the Edgar Allan Poe House in west Baltimore has been taken over by the B&O Railroad Museum. The hypercelebrated writer’s brief local residence lost its funding from the city in 2010 and was recently closed.

Doctors Gather in Baltimore to Solve an Old Medical Mystery


The patient’s cerebral arteries were “so calcified that when tapped with tweezers they sounded like stone,” Dr. Victoria Giffi informed her audience. He’d died suddenly at age 53 after suffering a massive stroke — but the doctors in attendance weren’t entirely convinced by this seemingly simple explanation. The patient also happened to be involved in some pretty risky political activities; could he have been murdered? Inherited a mysterious disease? Died of complications from an earlier assassination attempt?

The biggest complicating factor, though, was that the patient in question was Lenin — yes, Vladimir Ilyich himself — and that his possibly mysterious death took place over half a century ago. But that didn’t pose much of a problem for the doctors in attendance at the University of Maryland’s annual clinicopathology conference, who’ve made retrospective diagnoses of people much longer dead:  Beethoven, Edgar Allan Poe, and even Alexander the Great.

The case began with a review of Lenin’s medical history. As the New York Times reports, “As a baby, Lenin had a head so large that he often fell over. He used to bang his head on the floor, making his mother worry that he might be mentally disabled.” By the time he was an adult, he suffered intermittently from typhoid, toothaches, influenza, erysipelas (a skin infection), stress, insomnia, migraines, and abdominal pain. At his time of death, there were two bullets still lodged in his body from an earlier assassination attempt. In the years leading up to the stroke that ultimately killed him, Lenin suffered three similar attacks. At the time, doctors variously blamed nervous exhaustion, lead poison from those pesky bullets, and syphilis, among other things. But his heart was fine, and he had several positive health indicators:  he didn’t have high blood pressure, exercised regularly, didn’t smoke.

So what precipitated the stroke? The answer, according to the doctors, is a doozy:

Does Hollywood Pick on Baltimore Too Much?


“Again and again, Hollywood has used the city of Baltimore as a punching bag,” Joe Queenan wrote in this weekend’s  Wall Street Journal. His evidence? The new John Cusack/Edgar Allan Poe movie, in which the streets of Baltimore play host to elaborately macabre murders. And, of course, The Wire. And in Twelve Monkeys, the virus that almost destroys the world comes from Baltimore. And did you know that Hannibal Lecter started out as a psychiatrist in — you guessed it — Baltimore?

“Does everything about Baltimore have to be negative?,” Queenan begs. “Does every single TV show have to spit on this struggling but vibrant metropolis? Do movies set there always have to be about crooked house-siding guys and serial killers and deadly viruses and murderous drug dealers and demented Edgar Allan Poe fans?”

But if you’re looking for negativity, it’s no surprise you see it everywhere. Sure, The Wire showed Baltimore’s seedy side, but it hardly portrays the city as “an open sewer,” as Queenan claims. If anything, the show belies a deep affection for Baltimore’s quirks and characters. Movies like Madonna’s W.E., a Wallis Simpson biopic, hardly harm the city’s reputation, even if Simpson was (as Queenan describes her) a “perceived Nazi sympathizer.” And I very much doubt anyone walks away from Silence of the Lambs thinking, “Man, I’d better cross Baltimore off my to-visit list!”

Those of us who love Baltimore treasure it for its complexities, its potent mix of refined history and twenty-first century collapse. This is not a simple city, and the stories that get made about it — the best ones, at least — revel in those layers. Queenan suggests that the city deserves more upbeat Baltimore films like — wait for it — Step Up 2. Step Up 2! Maybe it had an uplifting ending — I can’t remember; I think I fell asleep — but I guarantee that The Wire has brought more nuanced, thoughtful attention to our city than that movie ever did. Sometimes a little negativity — or should we call it honesty? — is the best gift of all.

Boston Dares Disrespect Baltimore with Planned Poe Statue

Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe statue

So apparently, Boston has commissioned a statue of Edgar Allan Poe to be placed in, get this, Edgar Allan Poe Square. The statue will depict the author walking in the direction of his birthplace. Can you believe the nerve of these people?

Sure, Poe was born there and, yeah, his first book of poems was signed only “a Bostonian.” But Baltimore is where he was found wearing another man’s clothes stumbling around deliriously just before he died. And he’s buried here. Plus, we need this! Without Poe all we’ve got are Mr. Boh, the Utz girl and Old Bay (and some moderately tenuous claims on Tupac Shakur, Frank O’Hara, and David Byrne).

After viewing the statue design concept that accompanies the Sun article, I feel confident that Boston’s monument won’t hold a candle to Baltimore’s in terms of a certain physical attribute (ever seen our statue really close up?).

I only hope that this Boston thing won’t embolden Richmond and Philadelphia to try to steal Baltimore’s Poe crown. You’d think that naming your NFL team after a poem — A POEM! — would send a clearer message. Poe is ours!

Boston’s Box Five Brings Poe Themed Tour to Baltimore


In anticipation of Halloween, Boston’s classical-meets-pop outfit Box Five is reaching new heights of Edgar Allan Poe novelty with an east coast tour stopping at nearly every city that the author called home. The group will perform specially composed, Poe-inspired works at every show, as will the local groups that share the bill. And those of you have spent your lives pining for a collaborative musical performance of “The Raven” — you’re wait is over. It’s finally going to happen.

The tour hits Baltimore Thursday, October 13 at the Windup Space in Station North. Sharing the stage will be local acts The Creepers and Deep Sea Cavalry.

Poe House Schmoe House: Lit Prof Says Let Doors Lock


Baltimore Fishbowl readers may recently have learned that the Poe House at 203 Amity Street can expect no further financial support from the city. In certain quarters, this revelation will no doubt cause much brow-beating and hand-wringing, but I have always seen the Poe House as something of a “purloined letter”—that uncanny object which, as Poe aficionados well know, cannot be properly seen because it is lying right in plain view.

Poe is often seen as Baltimore’s native son; what better evidence for his local importance than the name of our football team: The Ravens. Poe’s 200th birthday in 2009 was commemorated by a number of local activities, including an exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art called “Edgar Allan Poe: A Baltimore Icon.” Yet, as some might be surprised to discover, there were four other cities also celebrating Poe’s 200th birthday in 2009: Boston, Charlottesville, Richmond, and New York, all of which have at least as strong a claim on Poe as Baltimore (and in some cases, I would argue, their claim is stronger).

A quick reminder: Poe was born in Boston in 1809, and moved to Richmond the following year. As a child, he spent five years at school in the London suburb of Stoke Newington. He went to college in Richmond, and when in the army, he was stationed in Charlottesville, Virginia. He moved to Baltimore in 1833 and lived at the “Poe House” on Amity Street until some time in 1835, when he moved back to Richmond with his young cousin-bride, Virginia. He spent the rest of his life moving between Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York, and it was in New York, where he lived at nine different addresses, that he wrote most of his best-known works. In short, less than three of Poe’s 40 years on earth were spent in Baltimore. Even his death here seems to have been a mistake—the consensus historical view is that he was trying to get to New York from Philadelphia, but took the wrong train by mistake.

Let me hasten to add that I consider myself a Poe devotee. I subscribe to Poe Studies, I teach a course on Poe at MICA, and I have published articles on Poe’s philosophy (and Poe is definitely underrated as a philosopher). His work, I believe, speaks for itself. There is no need to make a fetish of the house he lived in, the room he slept in, the desk he might or might not have used. To the author, the material of everyday existence was nothing; what mattered was thought, language, and the infinite world of the imagination. So let the Poe House split to fragments like the House of Usher. As long as Poe’s works remain, very little, I would argue, has been lost.

Donate Your Pennies: Poe House in Poorhouse


The historic Poe House at 203 Amity Street lost $85,000 in city funding last year–they’ve been told to expect no further support–and is temporarily closed while EAP-loving local volunteers scramble to assemble funds to reopen the museum building to the public.

Enthusiastic Poe-studying students in Mr. Zimmerman’s history class at the Crossroads School in Fells Point have raised about $500 to save the house from closure. Local writer Rafael Alvarez, a former Sun reporter, now president of the Poe Society of Baltimore, encouraged the middle schoolers to take up a down-home drive, Pennies for Poe, inspired by historic events.

More than 150 years ago, local schoolchildren began collecting pennies to purchase a marker for Poe’s grave–you may recall, the author died scary broke and alone in 1849, at (gasp) 40. Finally, back then, a few businessmen got word and pitched in, bringing the grand tombstone total to $1200 and ensuring that the author’s grave would include a legit headstone to praise his name.

Alvarez has extended “Pennies” by enlisting several local establishments to feature a Poe House donation fishbowl or coffee can (see bar/restaurant list below). He’ll visit more city schools this fall to talk Poe facts and invite kids to fund-raise.

“Not everyone who comes to Baltimore confines their adventures to the Inner Harbor. Many tourists–along with locals–wander to see the more obscure gems of Crabtown, like the house on Amity Street where Edgar Allan Poe lived for a time with his wife and mother-in-law and is said to have written the ever-fabulous ‘MS. Found in a Bottle,’” Alvarez says. “We are collecting so many pennies that a search is on for a well-hidden, secure and empty swimming pool to fill with pennies. Pennies will save the Poe House as sure as William Donald Schaefer still knows where an abandoned and burned out car waits to be towed away by the Department of Public Works.”

A sizable swimming pool of change might just do it. There’s still a long way to go to reach the foundation’s $85,000-deep goal, so dig beneath your sofa cushions, pat under your car floor mats, and break the piggy bank. Help keep the horror master’s doors from creaking creepily shut for evermore.

Make checks payable to:
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, City of Baltimore
put the words POE HOUSE in memo line.

Mail donations to:
Jeff Jerome (Poe House curator)
c/o Baltimore City Department of Planning, 8th Floor
417 East Fayette Street Baltimore, MD 21202

Or drop your spare change in collection jars at:

G&A Hot Dogs at 3802 Eastern Avenue

The Laughing Pint at 3531 Gough

Pub 1919 at 1919 Fleet Street