Last March, my friend Rob, Jen, and I bought tickets for the 2013 Cask of Amontillado Wine Tasting Among the Bones at Westminster Hall in Baltimore–a must-do for Poe fans (Poe is buried in the hall’s graveyard). Since Poe’s birthday was this weekend (January 19), I figured I’d share our adventures.
Currently, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that a 2014 event is taking place, so here are some shots (and video) from last year’s event–and a tour of the catacombs beneath Westminster Hall. The only thing missing was a visit to the Poe House, which at the time was permanently closed–the wine tasting and included silent auction were, in fact, a fundraiser with proceeds going toward getting the place back open to the public. And I’m pleased to announce that not just this, but all efforts were successful–the home is back on the map! Here’s where you can keep track of their hours; they’re usually not open during the winter: http://www.poeinbaltimore.org/directions/
On another note, you don’t need an event to have a great Poe-related or literary-inspired weekend in Baltimore. Included here are some other things we did to round out our very awesome break from the every day. Enjoy!
No trip to Baltimore is complete–at least for me–without a stop along the New Jersey Turnpike to enjoy some Popeye’s.
…and there’s my dinner!
So, does this mean it’s okay to idle?
Pressed pennies are a tradition in my house, and Rob had never made one. One of my favorite places to stop to get pressed pennies is either of the rest stops in Baltimore–the Maryland House (which was closed for renovations at the time) and the Chesapeake House.
Jen in our hotel room.
Kicking off the weekend with a bottle of Amontillado!
The next morning started off with breakfast in the hotel restaurant. There was another event of some kind going on downtown that day; it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, so it was probably a parade. It was magical to hear bagpipes–my dad loved bagpipes, and it felt like he was there with me–apparently, there was a group practicing in the hotel lobby. They serenaded us through breakfast (no photos; it didn’t really feel appropriate to do that).
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO WINE TASTING
We arrived at Westminster Hall to find that hors d’eouvres plates were everywhere.
RavenBeer was on hand with tastings. The brewery offers several Poe-inspired beers; you can check out their website at http://www.ravenbeer.com/.
The afternoon’s schedule.
This shot of a belly dancer doing her thing didn’t come out well because I didn’t have my camera set for action; however, the colors are nice, and I think you get a sense of it.
One of the Silent Auction tables.
This is the piece I would bid on–a piece of Poe’s House on 203 Amity Street in Baltimore.
Sharing a glass of wine with Rob and Jen.
All the Poe Event volunteers were clearly in the spirit!
Passed around throughout the day: shots of Amontillado. Nice touch!
Me, posing with a costumed guide from Boordy Vineyards, makers of Poe Nevermore Shiraz.
A sign beckons passersby to come on in!
Below: a local band entertains passersby with “Charlie on the MTA”–my dad’s favorite Kingston Trio song. That was really awesome. For the second time that day I felt he was with me.
The TV Show THE FOLLOWING had just premiered on January 21, 2013, and had been much touted to appeal to Poe fans. Here is one of the props used in Season 1, which was on display throughout the afternoon. While I’m on the subject, everyone has been asking me what I think of that show. I made it through episode one, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for; as a serious Poe freak, I wanted more depth in that department. The Poe part of it felt gimmicky and geared toward people who didn’t know anything about Poe at all, so after episode one I didn’t continue. People have told me it got better, but a show has to grab me and not let go. I don’t have time to see if something “improves.” It was still a great privilege to get to see this prop up close, though. Not many other people will get that opportunity, so I’m appreciative.
The meeting point for the tours of the catacombs.
Me and Fortunato from “The Cask of Amontillado.” I don’t know who this actor is, but I’ve seen him at Poe events in Baltimore before and he’s really good. In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve had my photo taken with him and it probably won’t be the last.
Me, Montresor (the other character in “The Cask of Amontillado”), and Fortunato. I won a gift basket of goodies from the raffle.
Yes, I bought this wine! Drank it already and it’s pretty smooth; the empty bottle lives on my dining room hutch.
Sustenance to get us through the Silent Auction announcements!
I was the top bidder on a piece of the Poe House at 203 Amity Street in Baltimore. It now sits proudly in my home.
The three of us pose in front of the Poe marker in the Westminster graveyard.
Rob and Jen discuss information on one of the plaques in the graveyard.
Yeah, I know. Stupid. I had a little too much wine and was having fun practicing taking pictures of myself (it would come in handy many months later when I did my TV series for NaNoWriMo 2013). I’ve spared you; I’m only showing you one. I took WAY too many.
Jen took pictures of me near one of the crypts. This one came out so well I’ve been using it in place of a head shot.
One of the most fascinating things about this graveyard is the way the graves are positioned. To me, this tree growing so close to all of these headstones looks out of place…I’m used to seeing cemeteries where there is plenty of room between stones and full-sized trees. It’s also interesting that this little alcove isn’t exactly easy to get to, and it’s tucked away between the hall’s mighty walls.
Some of the headstones are actually underneath the raised portions of the building. Here, Rob checks it out; he’s looking back toward the street near the hall’s entrance.
Walking between the crypts, just to show how narrow it is.
IN THE CATACOMBS
A map of the Catacombs. Sorry it’s turned on its side. WordPress isn’t playing with me today.
Tours were offered throughout the afternoon, and finally, the moment we’d been waiting for had arrived! We were brought down into the catacombs beneath Westminster Hall. Here’s a virtual tour; but these should NOT be a replacement for an actual visit, because pictures can not do this experience justice. If you get an opportunity to go into Westminster Hall’s catacombs, buy your ticket and do it. It’s worth every dime.
There are a few captions on the following photos; they speak for themselves. And first? a video introduction:
This is a section of the catacombs with a very low ceiling; several of the monuments in this area had candles near them (see prior photo), which I suspect might have been left over from a Halloween event (they hold special tours around that time of year). I wish they had been lit; this area must look beautiful in a very macabre way, and I would’ve liked to have seen it.
These cobwebs are fake–again, they are left over from one of the Halloween tours.
A view of the graveyard from inside the catacombs.
This room actually took a bit of climbing to get into (see the picture before this one to get a perspective on how this is higher than the rest of the catacombs. There wasn’t any tape of anything across it, but now that I think about it I probably wasn’t supposed to be in there). It looks as though it’s still being restored or being used for some temporary storage.
This is an ice coffin. A full explanation appears in the next photograph.
This is the monument’s original Poe bas relief, which was replaced in 1938. For a complete–and very interesting–history of Baltimore’s Poe monument, visit here: http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegrave.htm
If you’re a Poe enthusiast at all, you know about the Poe Toaster, who for many decades slinked to Poe’s grave in the early morning house of his birthday, January 19, to leave roses and cognac. Alas, this tradition ended recently, but the museum still keeps these relics of past visits.
Catacomb dirt on Rob’s jacket. It’s impossible to walk down there and not get SOME of it on you!
Catacomb dirt on my jacket.
THE ANNABEL LEE TAVERN
No visit to Baltimore–especially if you’re spending it doing Poe-related activities–is complete without a visit to the Annabel Lee Tavern.
A description of the Annabel Lee Tavern from one of Baltimore’s full-color tourist publications that are distributed throughout the city and especially in downtown hotel rooms. If you plan to eat there, the place is pretty small and it’s in an old corner row house, so I’d strongly recommend reservations. Here’s their website: http://www.annabelleetavern.com/.
Many streets in the Canton area are filled with row houses that are in disrepair or are being renovated; many are for sale. Here, Jen and Rob take a peek into one that looked like renovations had begun but abruptly come to a halt. There was a for sale sign on it. I’d love to live in a row house in Baltimore!
Rob and Jen at the entrance to the Annabel Lee Tavern.
Okay, you should NOT miss Duck Fat Fries. Period. In the video below, Rob and Jen get their first taste.
This is the bannister for the stone steps that lead up to the Annabel Lee Tavern.
HOPPING IN FELL’S POINT
I’ll be honest–it’s not easy to get into THE HORSE YOU CAME IN ON on a Saturday night in Fell’s Point, but if you’re a Poe fan, you at least need to walk by it. THE HORSE has been around since the late 1700s and it’s widely held it’s the last place Poe visited before his death. For a history of the joint, visit http://www.thehorsebaltimore.com/history/
We ended up not going to THE HORSE because there was a loud, live band and a long line of people waiting to get in, and that just wasn’t what we were into. I’d been there once before, and it’s cool, but I went in the middle of a weekday afternoon, which is probably the best time to go. So, instead, we hopped about some stores in the Point and had a really good time!
I could have bought all the furniture in this store, this place was that cool! Here, Rob relaxes.
I grew up around nesting dolls, so these attracted me right away: containers for munchies and measuring cups. I didn’t really have the money to buy them, so mostly I took the photo so I could remember to eventually locate them online and get them.
Any store that uses books as decorations is awesome!
If you know me, you know I have a thing for office products. I’d never seen post-its this funny, and I just got so silly I couldn’t stop laughing. Like, to the point that I couldn’t breathe. These were the five I purchased: THE SHIT LIST for my sister; PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE NOTE for my friend Stacey; DEAL WITH THIS for my boss Lisa; SERIOUSLY? for one of my coworkers, Ann; WTF for me. The WTF has little boxes at the bottom to check off: !, ?, or ?! (which I don’t use, because I think interrobangs only belong in comic books).
We walked away from the din and spent some quiet time down by the water. It was quite peaceful.
BREAKFAST AT THE PAPER MOON DINER
I don’t even know what to say about this place except that it’s awesome–it’s also crazy-popular and they don’t take reservations, so if you show up on a weekend morning, be prepared for a long wait (which is, by the way, oh-so-worth-it). This was Jen and Rob’s first visit.
At Paper Moon, odd art is everywhere. here, Jen stands near an old commode being used as a planter.
I’ve been to Paper Moon enough times that I can sometimes recognize new acquisitions. This creepy little naked baby doll and pig in a cage are new additions.
The menus at Paper Moon are often old children’s books. The menu pages are then added inside with twine or shoelaces.
…interesting decoupage going on on this book cover.
This assortment of objects is on the ceiling.
BACON MILKSHAKE! Features vanilla and chocolate ice cream (you have some choices on their menu). All three of us had to try it…check out the video!
This is a really cool second-hand bookstore that I always make sure to explore when I’m in town…I almost always find a rare treasure or two! If you’d like to know more about Normal’s, visit their website here: http://www.normals.com/.
A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.