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If it’s nearly Halloween, there must be a host of Edgar Allan Poe-inspired happenings taking place.

Richmond residents can get a head start on Halloween festivities at the Poe Museum’s last Unhappy Hour of the season tomorrow, October 27 (6-9 p.m.). Head back to the museum (left) on Saturday for Poe’s Pumpkin Patch, a party for readers of all ages. Among the activities on the agenda are pumpkin decorating, a “Black Cat” pinata, and a mummy-wrapping contest inspired by one of Poe’s stories. The museum encourages attendees to bring along the kids, especially if you want to “make sure [they] grow up weird.” Now there’s an invitation that might be hard to refuse. Entry to the extravaganza is included with regular museum admission.

If you’d like to find out “how Halloween is an ideal time of year to celebrate the works of Edgar Allan Poe,” stop by the National Historic Site dedicated to the writer in Philadelphia. At 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30, a park ranger will lead the 45-minute illustrated presentation at Poe’s former abode, and on Friday, October 28, the themed talk will take place at the Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States at Independence National Historical Park, also at 2 p.m.

In Baltimore this Sunday, October 30 (6-9 p.m.), is Poe’s Frightful Halloween at Westminster Hall, with a dramatic reading of “A Monkey’s Paw,” a costume contest, and more. Admission is $10 for adults, $3 for kids 12 and under. Proceeds are going to the Poe House and Museum, which has had its funding cut by the city of Baltimore and is in danger of closing its doors for good. Also in support of the historic landmark is The Spirit of Poe anthology, coming from Literary Landmark Press the first week in November.

New Yorkers will have to wait a little longer to visit the recently-refurbished Poe Cottage in the Bronx. The New York Times article “Poe’s Cottage, Weak and Weary No More” has the run-down on the house and a newly-constructed, imaginative visitor center.

Midwesterners can join our friend and fellow literary traveler Gary Wyatt this Friday, October 28 (7-9 p.m.) at Belmont Vineyards & Winery in Leasburg, Missouri, where he’ll be reading “The Raven” and other Poe tales. Cheers to that.

Judging by the number of literary landmarks dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, including three former residences and the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, he’s one of the most-commemorated classic scribes. Even his dorm room (above) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville is now a shrine to the infamous student, who was forced to drop out after his stepfather discovered he was gambling to pay tuition.

The Richmond museum has one of the largest collections of Poe memorabilia, with exhibits housed in four historic buildings surrounding an enclosed garden courtyard. Although he spent much of his life roaming the Eastern seaboard, living in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, Poe thought of himself as a Virginian. He grew up in Richmond with an adoptive family, and the museum explores his connection to the southern city.

On the day I visited the Poe Museum there were white chairs set up for a wedding taking place that evening in the “Enchanted Garden.” I’m not sure if it was the picturesque setting or the literary connection that was a draw for the bride and groom. Do they actually care that there was a bust of Edgar Allan Poe looking on as they said I do?

Toast the writer and have an early Halloween celebration this Thursday, October 28th, when the museum hosts its monthly Unhappy Hour. The theme is “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and there will be live music, a cash bar, and free admission. Costumes are encouraged.

Can’t make it to the soirée? Stop by the gift shop for a Poe-themed beer mug or shot glass and have your own unhappy hour. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

At this weekend’s 24-hour birthday bash for Edgar Allan Poe at Richmond’s Poe Museum, Poe descendant Harry Lee Poe will finally settle the literary tug-of-war among the many places that claim the macabre master as their native son.

The author, born in Boston, later lived in Philadelphia and Baltimore, both of which are home to historic houses he once occupied. (The poet eventually died a mysterious death in the latter city, where he is buried, though today’s declaration raises the possibility his remains may be exumed and relocated.) He also spent a few years at a modest house in the Bronx, NY, which is today preserved as the Poe Cottage.  But it was Richmond where he spent the longest period, including the formative years during which he embarked on his illustrious literary career. 

Birthday festivities at the Poe Museum will continue until midnight tonight (Saturday), and will include a show- down between two Poe impersonators, a candlelight walking tour and a séance. Admission is $6.

Fighting over Edgar Allan Poe’s remains? This weekend the New York Times reported on the “ghoulish argument” between Philadelphia and Baltimore over the scribe’s final resting place. He’s buried in Baltimore, where he lived as a young man and later died under mysterious circumstances during a return visit. Edward Pettit, a Poe scholar in Philadelphia, argues that Poe should be re-buried in the City of Brotherly Love because he wrote some of his most noteworthy works while living there.

On January 13th, Pettit will defend his views during a debate with Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House in Baltimore; the debate will be held at the Philadelphia Free Library. Jerome’s response to the suggestion that Poe should forever leave Baltimore? “Philadelphia can keep its broken bell and its cheese steak, but Poe’s body isn’t going anywhere.”

I had the chance to meet Mr. Jerome last fall when he gave me a fascinating tour of the Poe House in Baltimore, Poe’s former residence and one of four literary landmarks devoted to the writer. The others are the Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, the Poe Cottage in the Bronx, New York, and the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. January 19, 2009, is the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth, and celebrations at the sites are being planned.

Whatever the outcome of the debate over Poe’s legacy, it’s great to see a classic literary figure making modern-day headlines. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

“We are in a snug little cottage keeping house,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote of the five-room bungalow he lived in for three years in the Bronx in what was then a rural township north of New York City. The humble cottage, home to the writer from 1846-1849 and where his 25-year-old wife died of tuberculosis, has been moved across the street from its original location to what is now Poe Park. It’s a surreal site to see the 200-year-old dwelling — the writer’s last residence — situated in the midst of urban sprawl.

Poe is well-remembered with four literary landmarks, and in recent months I’ve been on the writer’s trail. In addition to the cottage in the Bronx, I paid a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, where the items on display include his traveling writing desk, and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, which contains the eerie basement and fireplace featured in the short story “The Black Cat”   (candlelight tours of the house are given in October).

Next on my Poe itinerary is the Poe Museum in Richmond, which has an exhibit speculating on possible causes of the 40-year-old writer’s unsolved demise. Poe died several days after being found disoriented and roaming the streets of Baltimore, uttering the final words, “Lord, help my poor soul.” In his novel The Poe Shadow, Matthew Pearl — who wrote the Foreword to Novel Destinations — delves into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe’s death. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

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