COURTESY OF EUNICE PARK
The “seeing room” at the Carroll mansion featured decorations and paintings of Edgar Allan Poe.
This past weekend might have just been a normal weekend for you, but for many, it was “Death Weekend.” To commemorate the 170th anniversary of the mysterious death of acclaimed poet Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, the Carroll Mansion hosted a funeral reenactment on Saturday morning as a part of many other events hosted during the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival & Awards.
Tickets cost $20 and $25 at the door. Admission included a candelight vigil and art exhibit.
This immersive experience was arranged in order to bring more awareness and attention to the unresolved mystery of his tragic death.
On Oct. 3, 1849, Poe was reported to have been seen “wandering and confused” on the 900th block of East Lombard Street. After summoning his dear friend, Dr. Joseph Evans Snodgrass, he was whisked away to the Washington Medical College.
In the two proceeding days, Poe was said to be drifting in and out of consciousness and displaying erratic behavior ranging from eerie calmness to raging madness.
And at just 40 years old, he passed away on the morning of Oct. 7, 1849, with his last words being, “Lord, help my poor soul.”
His remains are currently buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, right here in Baltimore. The exhibit at the Carroll Mansion during the 11 a.m. session on Oct. 5 was informative yet somber. The coordinators and overseers running this event were dressed in proper 1800s funeral attire and guided the visitors through a run-down of Poe’s death, explaining the significance of his works in literary history and stressing the importance of paying proper tribute to such a legendary figure.
This exhibit consisted of two main parts: the Vendor room and the Seeing room. Inside the Vendor room were informational pamphlets and brochures explaining both Baltimore’s and Poe’s history. Meanwhile, the Seeing room infused more visual elements, decorated with cards, candles, detailed biographical content and images from the nights leading up to and following his death.
Visitors were encouraged to donate to the foundation and sign cards in honor of Poe to raise awareness about his life and death in Baltimore.
Jennifer Marin Jericho, one of the major coordinators and creators of this funeral, was invited to come help plan it. She not only boasted her zeal for the reenactment but also addressed the sensitivities that come with hosting such an event.
“When we started this last year, our goal was to pay as much tribute as we can to this great poet who had such a strange death,” she stated.
“We wanted to bring visibility to this legacy who, for those who didn’t know, is actually still in Baltimore… We wanted people to show up to these events and spread the word about these educational experiences because despite what some people may think, this isn’t a haunted house. The goal isn’t to create some haunted, scary place but to really pay as much respect to Poe as possible. His death just happened to be in the same month as Halloween,” she said.
Despite the good intentions and educational qualities that came out of this experience, there were still some shortcomings to this exhibition. A few visitors left dissatisfied with overall experience.
Nicholas Jennings, a Baltimore local, felt that the reenactment was a waste of money.
“How did I like it? Well, I mean, it was very disappointing. This was a complete rip-off! What was that?” he said.
Mr. Jennings’ son, Noah Jennings, also spoke up after the event.
“Yeah, I thought it was going to be an actual reenactment, that’s why we bought tickets,” he explained earnestly.
“Like, I thought the people dressed up were going to act it out for us… but it’s whatever.”
While the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival & Awards has ended, the Carroll Mansion will be hosting a plethora of other events. These events include an artist’s talk with Korean-born American artist Sunhee Kim Jung on Oct. 12, a jazz performance by composer John Lamkin on Oct. 19 and seances by magician David London in November.