Today in 1809, the birthday of author Edgar Allan Poe – and the day that, for decades, a mysterious individual would pay tribute to the great writer in a unique way.

Poe is buried in Baltimore, near an appropriately Gothic-looking church.

(We could do a whole episode about the strange history of his burial site.)

But perhaps the strangest part began in the 1940s, more than a century after Poe’s passing.

Every year on Poe’s birthday, sometime between midnight and 6am, a person would show up at the monument.

They would raise a toast to the author with some cognac, then leave the bottle and three red roses behind.

It’s believed that the roses represent Poe, his wife and his mother in law, all of whom were laid to rest on the site.

But the rest of the tradition was a mystery.

Poe didn’t mention cognac in any of his writings, so it’s not clear why the Toaster chose that drink each year.

The Toaster also wore a mask, so we never found out who they were or why they carried on this tradition.

And while spectators did gather to watch the ritual, no one got in its way, either.

A note left during one of the ceremonies said that sometime in the 1990s the original Poe Toaster had passed on and asked his sons to carry on the tradition.

It’s believed that they took turns doing so until 2009, but not with the same enthusiasm as their dad.

When they stopped, there was no public explanation.

After a few years, local officials declared that the original tradition was officially finished, so they held auditions for a new Poe Toaster.

He started the job in 2016.

He didn’t have a mask or make spooky late night visits, but he did bring the cognac and the roses.

He also brought a violin, on which he played a fitting piece of music: “Danse Macabre.”

Tonight at Washington State University, it’s Family Science Night, which includes a life-size version of the game Operation.

The students printed 3-D brains, hearts and kidneys to go into their full-size Cavity Sam-like patient.

I bet even Edgar Allan Poe would have enjoyed playing.

Poe’s Memorial Grave (The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore)

Life-size ‘Operation’ game provides real-word learning experience (Washington State University)

We raise a toast to our Patreon backers, who support every episode of our show!

Photo by Grant Berg via Wikicommons