5 cities celebrate Poe’s 200th birthday

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“He will appear in the enchanted garden,” Keith Kaufelt, a docent at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Va., says with more certainty than should be warranted (seeing as how the person in question has been dead for 160 years). But on Jan. 19 — the bicentennial birthday of Edgar Allan Poe — the museum hopes to bring the master of mystery, king of rhyme-scheme and inventor of the detective-fiction genre back from the dead.

As part of the 24-hour birthday party, Sandi Bergman (aka Madame Sandra) of Haunts of Richmond will host a Victorian séance at 2 a.m. If all goes according to plan, the terrifyingly twisted writer will enter Madame Sandra’s body, a thought that does not faze her. “I think that Poe, while generally misunderstood, was not a malicious character,” she says.

John Astin, the actor best known for playing the doting husband of Morticia Addams on “The Addams Family,” couldn’t agree more. He’ll be paying tribute to Poe at his Baltimore grave on the bicentennial and on the last weekend in January. “He’s at once a tragic and an inspirational figure,” Astin says. “He was presented with one disaster after another but notwithstanding these severe obstacles, he produced a great many works.”

Poe was born in Boston on Jan. 19, 1809, but Beantown has barely embraced him as one of its famous residents. “Boston and Poe have not gotten along during the years,” says Paul Lewis, English professor at Boston College. Poe shunned the writings of Boston resident writers Emerson and Longfellow and their belief that fiction should be informative — not fun. Poe’s take was to entertain and terrify with horror stories and mystify with detective tales.
But it seems that Poe is finally getting some New England recognition. Boston College is holding its first ever Poe celebration, and Boston’s mayor recently announced that the major intersection at South Charles and Boylston will soon be re-named Poe Square.

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