The Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Haunted Evermore
The Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Haunted Evermore
Edgar Allan Poe was a famous American writer, poet, editor, and critic. He’s most infamous for his creepy gothic poetry and short stories such as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Born in January of 1809, Poe’s had a life of romance, tragedy, and a life cut short too soon. He died in 1849, only 40 years old, mysteriously in a gutter in Baltimore.
He never lived in the house that became a museum to him, but it was close to where he lived in Richmond. It was close to his work and close to his buried mother, Elizabeth Poe (in Church Hill). The house holds many first-editions of his works and other memorabilia. Besides the books, three spirits haunt the museum and show up in tourists’ pictures.
Who is Edgar Allan Poe?
Edgar Poe was born January 19, 1809, in Boston to actors David and Elizabeth Poe. His father left the family, and his mother died while he was young. John and Frances Allan adopted him in Richmond, VA.
Tragedy filled Poe’s life with misery. The love of his life died before they were married. He went to school at the University of Virginia. He was kicked out of school between gambling and addiction problems because his father did not pay his debts.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1827 under an assumed name. When his adoptive mother died, Allan and Poe had their final falling out. Poe revealed he had failed to become a cadet in the military. He explained he wanted to write poetry and short stories; Allan kicked him out for good.
Nowadays, Poe is well known for his creepy, romantic stories and detective stories such as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” He’s officially recognized as the first writer to make a living from his works, but at the time, he was poorer than a church mouse. His Aunt Maria Clemms and cousin Virginia Clemms had to beg for food every day. They were always on the edge of starving or freezing in the winter.
He was barely paid for his works when they appeared in magazines and newspapers. He moved around to various cities, working for more extensive literary papers as an editor or critic. The family moved to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City within a few years.
When Virginia turned 13, she married Poe in 1836. Their happiness was short-lived when she died from tuberculosis in 1847. Poe’s poem “Annabell Lee” was written to express his love and the pain of her loss.
Poe was such an enigmatic man that even his death is a mystery. He was found in a gutter in Baltimore on October 3, 1849, delirious and wearing another person’s clothes. He died four days later, on October 7, 1849, at the Washington Memorial College.
He never gained consciousness long enough to explain his circumstances. Causes of death have ranged from an overdose, rabies, liver failure, and even epilepsy. One paper theorized that Poe was killed via cooping, a type of election fraud in which a person is threatened with force or harm if they don’t vote a certain way.
Every newspaper offered their own opinion on what killed him (26 different theories from the time). His medical records and death certificate have disappeared, so we’ll never know what happened to Edgar Allan Poe.
Why is the Museum in Richmond?
The man has a prominent presence in Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. The house in Richmond is not a place Poe ever lived. It was chosen because it was a perfect example of the type of home he would have lived with his family. It was a few blocks away from where he worked at the Southern Literary Messenger. Elizabeth Poe (his birth mother) is buried in Church Hill, a few blocks in the other direction.
The House’s History
Called the Old Stone House built in 1740, it sits in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district. German immigrant Jacob Ege built the house for his wife. Though Poe never lived at the home, he did have an encounter with it. In 1824 the Marquis de Lafayette visited Richmond and was accompanied by a junior corps of riflemen to the Ege house. One of the riflemen was a 15-year-old Poe.
The Ege family kept the house until 1911 when it was purchased by Preservation Virginia (then known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities).
1909 was the centennial of Poe’s Death, and a group of Richmonders wanted to celebrate his life and works in the city. Originally they wanted a statue on Monument Avenue, but Poe was regarded as a “disreputable character.” The Richomnders went out of their way to collect memorabilia for the author and needed a place to house them.
The house opened with a shrine to the writer in 1922. Over the years the more memorabilia has been added until it became the official Edgar Allan Poe Museum. It has priceless first editions of books and letters and his writing desk from his job and other pieces of his life from Virginia.
It seemed that, almost immediately, there were stories of spirits in the Museum. Perhaps people expected the house to be haunted, so they have such encounters? Or are there sprits attached to the items in the place? Either way, there had been hundreds of stories of ghostly encounters, strange sounds, footprints, and other activities.
The Paranormal Happenings
There seem to be three spirits that have staked a claim on the Museum. Two are a pair of children with blond hair and are believed to have been from the Ege family. These spirits do not seem to act like poltergeists (“noisy ghosts”) but do like to show up in the backgrounds of photos that tourists take in the museum.
The third spirit is a black shadow that wanders the halls of the museum. Though its identity is not entirely proven, it is suspected to be Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost. Is he attached to some of the items from his life housed there? He seems particularly connected to a hand mirror that belonged to his beloved wife Virginia and a walking stick he left in Richmond a couple of weeks before he died.
This black shadow man will also show up in photographs and videos, but he prefers to interact with items around the house. It’s been seen walking around the courtyard behind the house.
The museum’s most infamous story had to do with an unopened box of little Edgar Allan Poe bobble-heads. When the Museum opened the next day, all the small figures had been placed on a gift shop shelf without triggering the motion alarms!
The museum has expanded since it opened over a century ago. The back courtyard now houses a shrine to Edgar Allan Poe built using bricks from his old employer, the Southern Literary Messenger. Many of the plants in the garden are ones that Poe mentioned in his works. The parlor has furniture from Poe’s life, like a piano he used to play as a child, and furniture from Allan’s homes.
The Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building includes many first editions of Poe’s works, including rare editions of papers and books he submitted for publication. It’s a treasure trove of priceless editions, personal letters, and other artifacts.
The North Building is dedicated to exploring Poe’s death. There is his walking stick, vest, and a lock of his hair. There’s also a trunk he had with him at the time of his death, and the key he was wearing unlocked it. There are also newspapers shown and their various theories on what killed him. The Museum thinks he was a victim of cooping, too.
Whatever happened, Edgar Allan Poe has now become a recognized and beloved writer, and maybe if you’re lucky, you can meet him at the Edgar Allan Pue Museum on a dark and stormy day.
Ghosthunting by Michael J. Varhola (2008) (pages 73-79)