Edgar Allan Poe's Gravesite
Westminster Hall, Baltimore, MD
June 13, 2001
Hall and Burial Grounds
On an oppressively hot and humid June day, I rode the light rail to downtown Baltimore to spend a half hour wandering about the hallowed morbid soil of the Westminster Burying Grounds - the churchyard and cemetery where Edgar Allan Poe's grave is located. Perhaps you've heard the story of that special unknown black-clad someone who lays three red roses and a bottle of cognac at Poe's grave every year on the anniversary of his birth. Well, this is where it happens. This is actually the third resting place for Edgar's remains - the first two being on the other side of the burial grounds (which we'll get to later). (Edgar's remains were disinterred and moved to this memorial gravesite in 1875.) Anyway, I wandered about the monument to see the epitaphs for other members of the Poe family all along its sides: Edgar's beloved aunt (and mother-in-law), Edgar's wife (and cousin), and Edgar himself. Edgar's epitaph was significantly more eroded than the other two, which makes me think that a lot of people have placed their marble-damaging hands against his name. I refrained from such abuse of The Original Master Of The Macabre's grave - aren't you proud?
some reverent time at Edgar's grave, I turned to explore the rest
of the graveyard. There were quite a few interesting old gravestones
- including this one which, though partially
concealed, reveals a poignant elegy: "Sacred to the memory of Fanny
H. Peachey, Consort of Thomas G. Peachey, who was born November the
24, 1799 and departed this transitory life February the 11, 1822, in
the 23rd year of her age. The amiable qualities of this interesting
female were such as endeared her to all who knew her: she was a dutiful
child and a truly affectionate wife. In early life she bore the cross
of Jesus and by that life has left ample reason to believe that she
has ascended to the... bliss." Yep, Fanny was Peachey! <groan...>
Many of the graves here were of a rather peculiar design (by west coast standards, that is). They looked rather depressingly like crematoriums more than crypts. And these ones against the wall weren't very pretty either. But, by and large, hospital construction next door aside, I thought it was a most attractive and serene little cemetery. Here are some additional photographs from the site (with descriptions given below them, when applicable):
Unfortunately, I arrived at the Burying Grounds on a Wednesday afternoon, and tours of the graveyard and catacombs are only given on Fridays, so I wasn't able to view the catacombs. If anyone has actually seen them, please let me know what they're like and send any pictures you might have so I can flesh out - so to speak - this page. Rumor has it that they put on an excellent Halloween tour as well. I'd love to go to that some year!
UPDATE - 08/10/06
Luann Marshall, the tour director for the Westminster Graveyard, writes to provide additional information:
"I visited your Morbid Sightseer site, which featured a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe Grave in Baltimore. I am the Tour Director for Westminster Graveyard and would like to clear up a common misconception about the location of Poe's body.
"Poe's body was actually moved twice in 1875, which sparked the rumor about the wrong body being moved. Poe is now located under the Poe Monument just inside the cemetery gates.
"He was moved in April of 1875 to the location that is now marked as the 'original burial site' and again in November of 1875 to his current location, just inside the cemetery gates. His original headstone was destroyed in an accident immediately after his death and was never replaced, so he was in an unmarked grave from October 1849 until April of 1875. As people came to pay their respects, perhaps pray for his poor, unfortunate soul (rumors about his alcoholism, etc. started immediately after his death) they were unable to find his exact gravesite. Local school children went into the neighborhoods in 1875 to raise money for a suitable monument. Unfortunately, the monument would not fit on his original gravesite (between his grandfather David Poe and the monument marking the second burial place), so he was moved to an unused portion of the Poe Grave (where the 'original monument' is now located). When he was moved in November of 1875, no stone was placed to mark the original grave. In the 1930's they decided to mark the 'original' burial place and basically didn't go far enough into the Church's records, thereby marking the second burial site as the first.
"Our Halloween Tour is very interesting (as you noted on your website) and features Frank the Body Snatcher, an actual figure from the University of Maryland Medical School's history, in addition to dramatic presentations of some of Poe's works, and tours of the catacombs."
UPDATE - 08/26/06
Robert has some additional information on the Halloween night at the graveyard:
event is something that cannot really be expressed in words its something
one has to experience in person due to its unique atmosphere, however,
one can describe it. As you will know Westminster Graveyard it very
small, however, I am told if the event occurs on a Saturday there
might be as many as 3000 visitors. The event starts at about 6pm,
before which crowds of people have started to gather at the entry
gate. For a small entry fee one is guided throughout the gravesite,
visiting the Poe gravestones with a tour of the catacombs also included.
This can best be imagined as a cellar under Westminster Church, a
place of dusty tracks with brick walls and foundations. Along the
way one is shown deep dug pits where bodies were once laid to rest.
The dull and dank atmosphere is akin to an old Universal horror film,
at any time one might expect to see Frankenstein or the Wolfman.
more information on the Westminster Burying Grounds, also see:
The Edgar Allan Poe Society Of Baltimore
Who Is Buried In Edgar Allan Poe's Grave?
The Mystery Of Edgar Allan Poe & The Haunted Catacombs