Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s 212th birthday, and the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will be holding a virtual online birthday bash tonight from 7 pm to 8 pm ET.
This follows a day of streaming events. You can tune in for the free content on YouTube here NOW, and at 7 pm this evening for the toast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2wiocfvTHs Grab a drink (amontillado, anyone)? And join in the fun! The night will feature a reading of “The Masque of the Red Death” (appropriate for this year, no?)
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. Read the rest of this entry
If you know me, then you know my past is peppered with some pretty cool theme parties. You also know, then, that photos and ephemera from all of those parties, held between 1998 and 2003, are down in my basement, awaiting, well…what, back then, was the preferred method of chronicling: scrapbooks.
Obviously, my life got busy with other things, and so the scrapbooks went by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean—thanks to the changes in technology and sharing over the past decade—that the stuff has to stay down there, seen only by me and remembered only by the guests.
Over the next couple of years I plan on getting all of these up on my site for others to enjoy, and for me, it will be fun taking a trip down memory lane in a way I didn’t expect: prints that weren’t so great, because we had cheap little film cameras and we couldn’t see what we were getting until the rolls were developed (and let’s talk about budget: I had X number of rolls of film for the night and that was IT—I didn’t shoot like a crazy person, I had to carefully mete out my shots!); invitations that were cut and pasted together on white paper and then run on the desired stock through a copy machine (no average-Joe In-Design programs or websites like VistaPrint and Shutterfly openly available to the public!).
Here was one of my favorite parties: The Masque of the Red Death, a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, held November 4, 2000. I recommend watching it full screen.
Oh, yes, and while we’re at it…happy birthday, Mr. Poe!
As a writer, I’m always fascinated by other writers’ stories of whose work affected them and how. The other day, I came across a man named Markham Lee’s reflections on how his first experiences with reading Edgar Allan Poe affected him (I’m especially loving that he’s nailed the whole prevalent theme of guilt and it is this undercurrent which affects him today—I was tempted to write him and note that I, too, was forbidden from scary movies, rock music and swearing when I was a kid and look where I am now.). I loved this heartfelt, honest essay so much I’m sharing the link here. Why? It’s a great reminder that my job as a writer is always to touch, or change, a reader. And on the day I read this, I happened to need that reminder.
For many years, the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore has held a celebration in honor of the writer’s birthday. In the past, Poe fans flocked to the event, usually held in January for one or two weekends. This year, there was one performance on March 3, and we were lucky enough to once again hit the road for Baltimore and attend.
Although we are still waiting on word as to what will happen with the Poe House, this performance could very well have been the last of its kind—most of you know the city of Baltimore cut the house’s funding in 2010, and according to Jeff Jerome, the reason it has stayed open longer than originally planned is due to private donations and high attendance at fundraising events.
We have been to many of the Poe birthday celebrations over the years and are hoping that the situation in which the house finds itself will change. After the concert, longtime Poe supporter, professor and well-known actor John Astin reminded goers that letters to the city of Baltimore’s Mayor would be helpful. Dust and Corruption’s Vagrarian has excellent advice on the way to write your letter, so although I will provide the address here, please read his excellent post at http://dustandcorruption.blogspot.com/2011/01/where-to-write-your-letters-to-support.html
The address is:
The Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Office of the Mayor, City of Baltimore
100 North Holliday Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
If you’d like to make a donation directly to the Poe House, here’s all of that information:
If you would like to make a donation to support the Baltimore Edgar Allan Poe House Museum, please send a check or money order to:
Department of Planning
417 East Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Make check payable to Director of Finance
Please annotate check “POE HOUSE DONATION”.
In the meantime, I’ll share these photos of what I hope isn’t the last Poe Celebration. You can see that this was a rockin’ time, so if things head North and this tradition continues, don’t miss out next year! You can visit their website anytime for updates: http://www.poebicentennial.com/index.html
VIDEO: See Fortunato in action!
Below: Nathan, left, with Weird Maryland’s Matt Lake. We met him for the first time at the Poe event in 2007 and have run into each other at paranormal events on and off in the past few years.
Below: Matt signs a copy of Weird Maryland for a fan while Nathan looks on.
Notes from the Second Row
I’m not going to write a big, beautiful review of Poe Forevermore; what follows here are a few things I pulled from the notes I was taking at the concert for the benefit of those who would be interested in its content.
“Here, we have the dead in the basement and Poe outside.”
~ Jeff Jerome, Curator of theBaltimorePoeHouseMuseum, on Westminster Hall
Cellist Gretchen Gettes opened the evening before Melanie Armstrong, John Spitzer, Mark Redfield, and Tony Tsendeas (well known to Poe Concert goers) took the stage with a clever program that told the story of Poe’s connection to Baltimore through letters and poetry.
John Astin opened Act II and presented the loves of Poe’s life through the man’s poetry; he opened with “Alone,” and shared: “Poe was in love with love and in love with so many women; he lamented the death of his mother…he lost his mother…he fell in love with his foster mother Francis Allan when he was in his early teens, he fell in love with the mother of a playmate.”
Reads: “To Helen.”
John Astin: “Then he lost his foster mother and there’s a poem I think is appropriate for his lament…he wanted to say goodbye to her, but he was called back from the army too late, and so as he was looking at her in her coffin, I imagine him saying [reads “A Dream Within a Dream.”]…Then there’s something I think is so brilliant about [Dream]…he states [All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”] at the end of the first stanza, and then he asks it as a question the end of the second.” (Kristi: The juxtaposition exhibits the very tenuous quality of dreams themselves).
Astin presented “For Annie” and lines from “…one of the greatest of Poe stories…‘Ligeia.’ We know that she has been his wife, we know that she is dead, but he can barely remember where they met,” Astin said, citing a key passage which hints at one of the story’s main themes: transmigration of the soul.
George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts on Poe, Astin talked about the importance of “Eureka”: “If one can understand Eureka, one can unlock the mystery of all Poe’s work…for those who put faith in dreams as truth…the paper would shrivel and blaze at every touch of the fiery pen.”
Astin read “The Conqueror Worm,” “To One in Paradise,” and “Annabel Lee,” “The Raven,” and closed his portion of the program with “El Dorado.”
Kristi: Letter with Poe’s description of his life over the period in which Virginia seemed to get better, but then coughed up more blood: “…the end of a year, the vessel broke again, I went through precisely the same scene…each time I felt all the agonies of her death. Nervous, in a very unusual degree [Kristi: refs. or source Tell-Tale Heart’s opening line? Check year.]…I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity…I drank, god only knows how often or how much…insanity to the drink, rather than drink to the insanity.” [Kristi: Jackalope Story!! Alcoholism!! YES!! That’s it!! Also thematic Poe connection with trigger theory use!!]
Astin: “He wrote and he wrote and he wrote and he never gave up, through all the poverty and all the sorrow.” [Kristi: Tape that on your monitor.]
The night closed with parting words from Astin and Jerome as well as the traditional toast.
Knowing that this could be the last event made this emotional for everyone including audience members; there was a strange solemnity afterwards: no one wanted to stay, but no one wanted to go, either. At least for me, there was a sense that once I stepped away I wasn’t coming back. I hope this isn’t the case, and that there are many more celebrations in my future. I’ll always visitBaltimore—I’ll need my annual Annabel Lee Tavern fix, for sure—but something will be missing if the Poe House is gone.
Below: Nathan and I get a chance to chat with John Astin. He’s one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met.
Below: The goodies I picked up at the souvenir table; Charles is particularly jealous of the book on the Red Death. I think it’s the only one he doesn’t have and there appeared to only be one copy for sale so I grabbed it. He’s not going to let me live this one down, I can tell you!
If you’re a ghost story lover and you haven’t read Ambrose Bierce’s classic “The Boarded Window,” then I’m surprised…but it’s never too late, and if you’re anything like me, then discovering a classic you missed can sometimes be more fun than reading something that was just published: you know you’re getting something so good it’s withstood the test of time.
I had read this so long ago I didn’t even remember it, and what a ride. What makes “The Boarded Window”—which deals with themes of loss and grief—so striking is how vividly it brings the foreboding newness of the American West to life for modern-day audiences by comparing it to the foreboding newness of widowhood. Bierce, through well-chosen words, conveys the maddening loneliness of the pioneering landscape and the lifestyle required to survive in it, lulling us into pity. And then there’s an ending you truly never see coming that drives you from pity to feeling this man’s suffering in your own gut.
Although “The Boarded Window” is popular enough that it’s probably available in a number of print and electronic collections, the copy that I have appears in Penguin 60s’ Three Tales of Horror with Poe’s “Hop Frog” and Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” so if you want a triple-threat you can literally carry with you in your pocket or purse, this is the edition you want. Penguin 60s were issued in the mid-1990s and were limited and all out of print now, but inexpensive used copies are available at the Amazon Marketplace here: http://amzn.com/0146000900
MISSED EVPs, NO MORE HUSKY AND “FLASH” MOUNTAIN: HEAR IT ON THE MARCH 13TH EPISODE OF THE G&D SHOW HERE!
Great ghostly craziness on The Ghostman & Demon Hunter Show, as usual—why there’s no such thing as Husky size in Sears anymore, EVPs none of us noticed on our video until years later, and, God help us all, boobs on Splash Mountain. The above picture of Shaun Burris (The Ghostman) and Nathan Schoonover (The Demon Hunter) says it all! I had a great time discussing ghosts, haunted Disney, Poe and all sorts of stuff. If you’d like to hear the show, you can listen to it directly from this post here:
OR, you can listen to it directly from The G&D Show site here:
I just recently recorded two interviews with Paranormal, Eh? Radio out of Canada! Part 1 will air tonight, Tuesday, March 15, at 6 pm; Part 2 will air on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 pm. The Wednesday show will be followed by Rapid-Fire Fan Questions, the show’s newest feature (and some of those questions are pretty interesting!).To listen to the episodes when they air, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/paranormaleh/
I’ll also post the links and download the shows right here for you to listen to when they’ve been archived, so don’t worry if you miss them!
Past guests have included Tim Yancey from Encounters Radio, demonologist Dwayne Claude, and Ryan Michaels of A&E’s Psychic Kids, among others. For the complete radio archive, click here: https://sites.google.com/site/paranormaleh/paranormal-eh-radio