I recently read a superb piece on Richmond.com about Edgar Allan Poe’s last day in Richmond before finding his untimely end in a Baltimore gutter. The piece claims that Poe spent his final day here settling his affairs, visiting friends and of course, hitting the bottle. The article reported that he was last seen at a bar called Sadler’s at midnight. A week later, he was dead in Maryland.
I have reason to believe that this may be inaccurate.
By reading various old-timey parchment paper documents and interviewing area old-timey gentlemen who are purported to be in-the-know, all the while wearing an old-timey cape coat, I have painstakingly re-created Poe’s final hours in Richmond.
It is said that Poe made one last attempt to win his childhood sweetheart’s love that afternoon. This is false. Recently discovered automatic-teller camera footage clearly shows Poe withdrawing $300 dollars in twenties at Club Rouge that day at 4:07 p.m. What happened in the club is a mystery, but this does give credence to the rumors of him being syphilitic or dying of herpes.
Next, according to a Civil War re-enactor I met while standing in line at a Lincoln movie casting call, Poe began his epic, week-long drinking binge at Ye Olde Tobacco Company Bar. He apparently was removed from the premises after drinking an entire cask of Amontillado and then attempting to immure a fellow patron.
Then, and this is where it gets fuzzy, Edgar got himself a gun.
I’ve unearthed a receipt from a local gun store. It is for the purchase of one pistol. It is signed. … E.A. Poe.
My theory is, he stumbled out of Ye Olde Tobacco Company and down the street to the Ye Olde Lucky Buddha. There he became enraged with someone, stormed out and hit up the gun store. His intent was to go all dark, brooding poet and shoot up Ye Olde Buddha! Because let’s be honest, who hasn’t gone stark-raving mad in that place before?
Still, he never returned to Shockoe Slip. Instead, he trekked west, to the Fan. Which back in those days was nothing more than a seedy red-light district.
According to another Civil War re-enactor who was standing next to the original Civil War re-enactor, Poe then continued his drinking and whoring at a little bar called the Lady of New Orleans. He was said to be drinking with a man named Jakob Crocker Sr., a known scoundrel and promiscuous homosexual. Which again lends strength to the argument that an old-timey sexually transmitted disease did Poe in.
After this it’s anyone’s guess where he went. Some say Bailey’s South Side, others claim it was Mojo’s.
Old-timey Bandito’s bartender Otto Bartsch, who is believed to be the only present-day Richmonder who was actually alive in 1849, said he saw a stumbling ghost of a man in the parking lot of the bar, and he believes it was Poe.
This all culminates with Poe stumbling out of a pub in Baltimore a week later wearing another man’s clothing — most likely Mr. Crocker Sr.’s.
He fell in the gutter and was dead soon thereafter.
It wasn’t cholera, it wasn’t a brain hemorrhage, it wasn’t rabies, and it wasn’t “cooping” that ended the writer’s life.
Richmond is what killed Edgar Allan Poe.
It’s an affliction that I fear has no remedy. We all have it and we’re all slowly dying.
Quoth the raven, “One more shot of Jameson?”
Farewell, Sweet Sleep: Starting this week you can hear me from 6-10 a.m. on 103.7 The River every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with the Queen of Richmond radio, the lovely Melissa Chase. Funny, topical, weird — we’ll have a bit of everything. Tune in. Now how I’m going to drag my ass into a studio at that ungodly hour after serving drinks all night is still something I’m trying to figure out.
Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback contributes to Mixology magazine in Germany, tweets @jackgoesforth and blogs at jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Email: email@example.com.