>When someone is alive, we call the day they were born their birthday. After they die, once years have passed and the people who knew them are all dead as well, we call it the anniversary of their birth. On the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birth, fans pay homage at his grave. There was one fan in particular who, for sixty years, would leave three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac where Mr. Poe is buried.
At some point in time, man came forward and told people he was the “Poe Toaster.” He goes on to say that it was something conceived of as a marketing strategy, a promotional ideal. Or at least, it started out that way.
According to the Fox News article, some people around the Poe House arranged for the Poe Toaster the first year, and since this time someone -became- the Poe Toaster in the same way a victim becomes a superhero–it becomes necessary, as far as they see it, to become something that is a work of fiction.
When the TSA added their full body scanners, someone I know told me a story about a professor they had. Their professor, they told me, was visiting the USSR, hanging out with a Soviet mathematician. When the professor left, they smuggled a manuscript–Kepler, or something Greek–out of the USSR. They took a microfilm and wrapped it around their thigh.
D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane, stole two hundred thousand dollars, and then jumped out of the plane over the stretch of land between Seattle and Portland. He has never successfully been identified. Several people have claimed to be Dan Cooper.
These stories add something to our world. The unknown hijacker, the daring academic, the mysterious visitor are all part of a strip that lies between reality and fantasy. They give our world unexplained depth. They give us wonder and, in a sense, they give us hope.
As a culture, we love these stories because they tell us that there is more to the world than we see, that there is more than is easily explained, and that normal people can do extraordinary things. Not even just that–but that these crazy things we read about and hear about can be perpetrated by anyone, a normal seeming person who might be your neighbor, your coworker, or your friend.
And that’s pretty great.