Poe-etic Justice

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Filed under: Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, The History of Pranks

Poe Fan Takes Credit for Grave Legend
by Wiley Hall

24-200.jpgBaltimore (AP) — The legend was almost too good to be true. For decades, a mysterious figure dressed in black, his features cloaked by a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, crept into a churchyard to lay three roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. Now, a 92-year-old man who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.

“We did it, myself and my tour guides,” said Sam Porpora. “It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide.”

Porpora is an energetic, dapper fellow in a newsboy cap and a checked suit with a bolo tie. He’s got a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, and he tells his tale in the rhythms of a natural-born storyteller.

No one has ever claimed ownership of the legend. So why is Porpora coming forward now?

“I really can’t tell you,” Porpora answered. “I love Poe. I love talking about Poe. I had a lot to do with making Poe a universal figure. I’m doing it because of my love for the story.”

Porpora’s belief that he resurrected the international fame of Poe, that master of mystery and melancholia, is questioned by some Poe scholars. But they do credit Porpora, a former advertising executive, with rescuing the cemetery at Westminster Presbyterian Church where the writer is buried.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House in Baltimore, who has nurtured for years the legend of the so-called Poe Toaster. Confronted with Porpora’s assertion that the whole thing is a hoax, Jerome reacted like a man who’s been punched in the stomach by his beloved grandfather. He’s sad. He feels betrayed. But he’s reluctant to punch back.

“He’s like a mentor to me,” Jerome said of Porpora. “And I can tell you that if it weren’t for him, Westminster Hall may not be there. But to say the toaster is a promotional hoax, well, all I can say is that’s just not so.”

Could it be, to quote Poe, that “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”? Read the whole story here.

Photo: www.nd.edu