Museum News

Poe’s Mother visits Unhappy Hour

Eliza Poe performing

Mrs. Poe regaling Unhappy Hour visitors with tales about her life as an actress.

May’s Unhappy Hour was graced by the presence of Poe’s mother,Eliza Poe (as portrayed by Debbie Phillips). Mrs. Poe met and mingled with visitors to the Unhappy Hour event and regaled her audience with stories of her life as an actress in the early 1800s. She even favored us with a few songs that she made famous in her day.

Elizabeth “Eliza” Arnold Hopkins Poe was born in England in 1787 into a family of actors. By 1796, her father had died, so she and her mother Elizabeth Arnold journeyed to America. Eliza made her acting debut on the Boston stage at the age of nine and was a working actress until her death in 1811. She was a talented comedienne, singer and dancer and described as having a “sweetly melodious voice” in reviews. She played at least 200 different roles during her lifetime. She married David Poe, Jr. in 1806. Mr. Poe tried his hand at acting as well, but was not anywhere near as beloved a stage presence as his wife. This may have proved to be a source of friction in their marriage and Poe appears to have abandoned Eliza and their three small children (William Henry Leonard Poe, born in January 1807; Edgar Poe born January 19, 1809; and Rosalie Poe, born in December 1810) sometime in the first half of 1811. By October of 1811, Eliza was showing signs of tuberculosis and had to stop performing and she died on the 8th of December 1811. She is buried in the churchyard at St. John’s Church here in Richmond (five blocks east of the Poe Museum).

Though he was very small at the time of her death, Eliza seems to have been a big influence on her son Edgar. She was, in fact, the first of the important women in Poe’s life to die young. Poe stated that the “death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world, ” and this is certainly a theme that crops up frequently in his work.

The Poe Museum was fortunate to have Eliza Poe portrayed so ably by living history actress, Debbie Phillips from Richmond Discoveries. We were also fortunate to have wonderful music provided by local flautists, Stacie Snyder and Linda Simmons.

Flautists in the Poe Shrine

Flautists Linda Simmons and Stacie Snyder making beautiful music in the Poe Shrine during the event.

Unhappy Hour Guests

Visitors enjoying the Unhappy Hour festivities

Lots more photos of the evening’s events can be found here:
You can share your own photos from Unhappy Hour or your visit to the Poe Museum on the museum’s flickr photo sharing group –

Our next Unhappy Hour will take place on June 23rd and will feature Poe’s story “The Pit & The Pendulum”, even in the 21st century, it is never too late to fear the Spanish Inquisition. (Besides, nobody expects the Spanish Inqusition!)

Vincent Price’s Birthday Cake

Vincent Price will be turning 100 on May 27, so the Poe Museum will celebrate his birthday with cake and a special display of memorabilia from some of Price’s eleven films based on Poe’s works. Here is a photo of Vincent Price’s birthday cake to be served at the May 26 Unhappy Hour.

Debbie Phillips as Eliza Poe

Debbie Phillips as Edgar Allan Poe's Mother

See Debbie Phillips portray Poe's Mother at the Poe Museum.

Here is a photograph of Debbie Phillips portraying Eliza Poe for the May 26 UNhappy Hour.

Roses in the Enchanted Garden

Thought I’d post a few more pretty pictures from the Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum for your enjoyment on this humid Monday.

(Just click the photo to be taken to a larger version of the image!)

Enchanted Garden roses in bloom

Enchanted Garden roses in bloom

Violets with Old Stone House in the background

Enchanted Garden flowers

There are still plenty of beautiful flowers blooming away, just in time for our next Unhappy Hour coming up this Thursday, May 26th, which will feature a visit from Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe (as portrayed by Debbie Phillips).

Spring 2011 Poe Museum Newsletter

Here is the Spring 2011 Newsletter with news on recent and upcoming events as well as articles about recent acquisitions, group tours, and an unusual wedding at the Poe Museum.

The Raven’s Bride – Author Talk and Book Signing

lenore hart reading

The saying goes that “behind every great man is a great woman.” Imagine what kind of woman it must have taken to support and encourage the master of mystery and psychological terror, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was twenty-seven years old when he married his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia, who would follow him from Richmond to Philadelphia and New York for eleven years before her early death. Although volumes have already been written on Poe, far too little is known about the person who knew him better than anyone throughout his brief and turbulent career.

Author Lenore Hart set out to try to right this wrong with her new historical fiction book, The Raven’s Bride, a novel written from the point of view of Edgar Allan Poe’s wife Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe. The novel uses elements of the supernatural as well as historical research to try to give readers an idea of what life might have been like for Virginia Poe.

Lenore Hart paid the Poe Museum a visit on May 12, 2011 to talk about the novel to a crowd of interested listeners. She also read a few passages from the novel and answered questions from the audience. A good time was had by all.

Here is a link to a very good review of the book:


We still have a limited number of signed copies of The Raven’s Bride available in the Poe Museum gift shop. If you’d like to reserve one, please call us at 804-648-5523.

The Enchanted Garden as a destination wedding location: Spotlight on Canadian couple Ali and Aaron.

According to a recent survey, May is the 3rd most popular month to have a wedding, claiming the dates of nearly 10% of wedding ceremonies. Though June and August are more popular overall, these two summer months are some of the hottest in the year. With the Virginia humidity, those getting married outside often prefer to tie the knot in the more mild weather of the spring or fall, making May the peak of our wedding season.

The Museum’s Enchanted Garden is a popular wedding spot among Richmond locals, but Virginians aren’t the only ones who comprise the Garden’s wedding demographic. Couples will travel from other states throughout the country just to get married at the Poe Museum. Sometimes couples will even journey from other countries for the experience, making it something of a pilgrimage wedding destination.  On May 10th, 2011, Canadian couple Ali Nikolic and Aaron Thompson were married in the Enchanted Garden of the Poe Museum. The Lumsden, Saskatchewan residents trekked across nearly 2000 miles of both Canada and America before arriving in Richmond, VA. With only prior email correspondence, I met the couple in person Monday May 9th, the day before their wedding. It was immediately apparent that Ali was a huge Poe fan; it wasn’t so much the portrait tattoo of the writer on her arm that gave her away as it was her obvious excitement to be at the Poe Museum.

The wedding itself was an intimate affair, with around a dozen people in attendance. Some came from as close as Virginia Beach; others fresh off the planes from Canada. All the men wore turquoise ties with the image of a gold raven. The day was sunny with a pleasant warmth not in the least bit stifling. Everyone was in the best of spirits, and I don’t think the weather should take too much credit for this. Ali and Aaron had even expressed that they wouldn’t have minded being wed under an overcast sky during a spring rain, which were the weather conditions that had been predicted earlier in the week. The couple said such a thing would be suitable atmosphere for Poe. But the rain never came, and the ceremony went on. Sitting the desk of the gift shop of the Old Stone House, I heard the sounds of the joyful applause of this small yet exuberant gathering of people, and looked out the window just in time to see Ali and Aaron pulling away from that consummating kiss. Shortly after the ceremony, before the couple left for the reception, I asked to take a picture of the two of them at the shrine; and here they are, Ali and Aaron, husband and wife.

Interested in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden as a potential venue for your wedding? We allow rentals of the Garden year round! Email me at [email protected] for more information.


It was a dark and stormy night …

Our first Unhappy Hour of the season took place on April the 28th.
Since April marked the 170th anniversary of the publication of the first modern detective story, Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, we had a murder mystery of our own that Unhappy Hour participants could help to solve.

The suspects included characters from various Poe tales that had been brought together so that their creator could announce which of them was to have further adventures in a “new” tale from the esteemed Mr. Poe. This seems to have provided some motivation for the characters in question to want to bump off the competition.

Rogue's Gallery

Our rogue’s gallery gathered around the bust of Poe in the Poe Shrine (from left to right, you can see Fortunato, Marie Roget, Madeline Usher, Eddy, Berenice, C. Auguste Dupin and Jupiter)

There are lots more photos of the proceedings to be found here:
If anyone else took photos that they’d like to share, you can post them yourself on the Poe Museum’s flickr group or you can email them to us at [email protected] We love visitor photos!

Appropriately enough, the mayhem of the evening opened with a crack of thunder and an impressive thunderstorm that only lasted for a little while but frightened away a few of our less intrepid Unhappy Hour participants. Thankfully, the majority of our guests proved to be hardy souls who wanted to stick it out and find out who was responsible for the nefarious crime.

We were even rewarded with a lovely rainbow just after the storm passed over!

Music was provided by the fabulous Jack Winn Duo.

As always, there were free nibbles and a cash bar.

And a good time was had by all!
Thanks to all who came out and stuck with us … we hope to see you again at future museum events!

We hope to see you again for our next Unhappy Hour, which will be taking place on Thursday, May 26th – we will be celebrating Poe’s Mother’s Day with a visit from the late Eliza Poe herself. It will be an unforgettable evening, so mark your calendar!