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Visitor Leaves Roses at Poe’s Grave

January 19, 1998

BALTIMORE (AP) _ With a gentle tap, tap, tapping, a mysterious stranger walked alone before dawn today to the grave of Edgar Allan Poe and placed three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac.

For reasons known only to themselves, anonymous men have carried out the ritual at the Westminster Hall sepulcher on Poe’s birthday each year since 1949, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. Poe was born 189 years ago today.

``It was a different guy this year, which surprised us,″ Jerome said of the 3:05 a.m. appearance, observed by 20 people from a former Presbyterian church. ``He looked rather youngish, maybe in his 30s.″

The visitor wore a black leather jacket and soft brim hat and was gone in a matter of seconds.

``The guy last year was big and walked with an attitude,″ Jerome said. ``This guy seemed like a regular Joe.″

The ardent crowd in the hall was handpicked by Jerome from those who wrote to request a place.

``He’s less wordy that a lot of American writers,″ said Britta Williams, one of the witnesses. ``He writes a really cool, gripping story, kind of morbid sometimes.″

Williams, a high school senior, said the man drank from the bottle of cognac before putting it on the grave. She did not see his face.

Poe lived in Baltimore from 1829 to 1836 and died here in 1849 at age 40. He penned classic horror stories such as ``The Fall of the House of Usher,″ ``The Pit and the Pendulum,″ ``The Telltale Heart″ and ``The Masque of the Red Death.″ His famous poems include ``The Raven″ and ``Annabel Lee.″

Soon after the visitor exited, Jerome gathered up the Martell cognac. He left the roses, which are thought to represent the poet, his wife, and her mother, who are all buried in the graveyard, along with Poe’s grandparents and brother.

Jerome said he does not know the men who carry out the visits and no attempts have been made to confront them.

But he knows they are not copycats.

``If anyone ever tried to imitate him, I would know immediately,″ Jerome said. ``He does something that no one else notices.″

That, too, will remain a mystery.

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