Museum News

A Descent Into The Maelstrom – August Unhappy Hour

Eddy decked out for the Maelstrom

Eddy all decked out for the Descent into the Maelstrom Unhappy Hour

Our nautically-themed August Unhappy Hour based upon Poe’s tale “A Descent Into The Maelstrom” proved to be a bit prophetic in terms of weather, both on the actual night of the event and during the ensuing weekend when Richmond was paid a visit by Hurricane Irene.

The August 25th event started out a bit cloudy but to quote from Poe’s tale of the Maelstrom, “In less than a minute the storm was upon us – in less than two the sky was entirely overcast – and what with this and the driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that we could not see each other …” Actually, the thunderstorm was not quite as bad as all that, but it was rather impressive nonetheless with heavy rains, lightning forking across the skies and ominous rumbles of thunder. In short, it was a PERFECT setting for our Unhappy Hour theme. Quite a few hardy souls braved the weather to come out and enjoy the Unhappy Hour festivities.

Maelstrom Art at the Poe Museum

The impending storm made its presence felt on our Maelstrom art project, thereby making some folks’ artworks a bit more mixed-media than originally intended

Many folks huddled up in the Poe Shrine to hear a wonderful program of sea shanties courtesy of the wonderful Bob Zentz and several of his friends that he brought along for the event. We were treated to a dazzling display of multi-instrumental goodness – instruments used included a hurdy gurdy, concertina, doumbek and many more.

Here is some video of the musical festivities in the Poe Shrine:

There are several more videos on the Poe Museum’s Youtube Channel as well.

Bob Zentz and Friends in the Poe Shrine

So a great time was had in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the literal Maelstrom outside. We are also happy that the Museum didn’t suffer any significant damage as a result of Hurricane Irene’s visit a couple of nights after the Unhappy Hour.

Don’t forget that our next Unhappy Hour, which will feature Poe’s most famous poem “The Raven” is coming up on September 22nd. We’ll be joined by the Jack Winn Duo andquite possibly by a large, black bird!

There are quite a few great events coming up in September and October so make sure you stop by our Events Page on this website or visit us on our Facebook page to keep up with all the details!

Poe Returns to Shockoe Hill Cemetery

If you missed last summer’s unique tour/performance of Richmond’s historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery, you’re not alone because every performance was sold out in advance, causing many people to miss this rare opportunity. That’s why Edgar Poe, the Allans, Elmira Shelton, Jane Stanard, and the rest of Poe’s Richmond family and friends are returning for five more performances this September 22-24. Don’t miss what could be the last opportunity to walk in Poe’s footsteps as he (portrayed by Chris Patrick) guides you through the historic final resting place of many of his closest friends while reliving pivotal moments from his life either in the places they occured or next to the graves of those involved.

For the event, the Poe Museum is teaming up again with the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery and Haunts of Richmond. The performances will be held at 8 P.M. on September 22 and at 6:30 and 8:00 P.M. on September 23 and 24. Admission is $18 for adults and $15 for children under 14. Each tour is limited to 25 people, so book now to reserve your spot. Purchase tickets at or call 888-21-EAPOE for more information.

Here is a scene from a previous performance:

August Unhappy Hour Preview

Our August Unhappy Hour, based on Poe’s 1841 tale “A Descent Into The Maelstrom”, is just a few hours away.

In keeping with the nautical nature of Poe’s tale, we will be treated to sea shanties by Bob Zentz.

Here is a bit more info about him (lifted from his bio – you can read the whole thing on his website:

Over the years, Bob participated in many folk ventures, near and far. He began teaching folk music classes in Old Dominion University‚Äôs Rainbow Program in 1971; he created and ran the “Old Dominion Folk Festival” from 1972-81; and became a fixture at the Virginia State Fair beginning in 1980, appearing for his 28th year consecutive year as resident performer in the Heritage Village in October 2009. He appeared on PBS’s long-running program “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1982, and crewed and performed aboard Pete Seeger’s Hudson River sloop “Clearwater,” helping to repair the Hudson River and spreading the word about preserving our waterways, from 1989-91. Bob’s recording of his composition, “Horizons,” was selected in 2006 to be on a tribute to environmental author and pioneer Rachel Carson on the centenary of her birth, entitled “Songs for the Earth.”

Bob has also represented America and its folk traditions far and wide. He represented the U.S. in Shanty Tour, Finland, in 1997, and was an instructor at the inaugural Common Ground, Scotland, in 2002. He performed at the Scottish National Folk Festival in 2002, was featured U.S. artist at the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra in 2004, and performed that same year in Auckland and Wellington for the New Zealand Maritime Museums. A featured performer at the 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Bob is also a regular member of the faculty each summer at Common Ground on the Hill, held at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.

Local accolades in the Hampton Roads area include the 1992 John Sears Award for Community Service from Festevents and the City of Norfolk. He created the program, “Life of the 19th Century Mariner” for the Mariners Museum in Newport News in 1995; composed and performed “(Ode to the) Schooner Virginia” at the keel-laying ceremony in 2002 and launching ceremony in 2004; and was music consultant and performer for the multimedia theater experience, “Chesapeake Celebration” in 2004. He was a founding member of the Outer Banks Opry in 2003; received a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2004 to present “Music of the Chesapeake” in Virginia Schools; and was profiled by Public Television’s “Virginia Currents” in 2003 for recognition of his many contributions to music and the community, at home and abroad.

Here is a clip of Mr. Zentz in action at the 2009 Richmond Folk Festival:

So what is a “sea shanty”, you ask? Well, sea shanties were work songs created and sung by sailors. In the days when most of the work on a ship required muscle power, these songs helped to synchronize sailors’ movements as they toiled at repetitive tasks. They also would have been useful to relieve the boredom that one might experience during long sea voyages. The word “shanty” actually derives from the French word “chanter” which means “to sing.”

Come on out from 6-9pm tomorrow night (August 25th) and get into the nautical spirit. As always, Unhappy Hour is free and open to the public. There will be free nibbles and a cash bar as well as fun activities.

Summer 2011 Newsletter

Here is the latest newsletter from the Poe Museum featuring updates on educational programs, exhibits, and a Poe Museum staff member whose short story was just published in a new horror anthology.


Spirited Evenings At The Poe Museum

Poe Museum members were treated to an extra special experience on August 6th and 13th – they participated in a private paranormal investigation with help from the nice folks from Spirited History.

Spirited History is a locally-based group of investigators that aspires “to bring attention to historic sites with a spirited past from around the United States.”

Intrepid Spirited History Ghost Hunters

Intrepid Spirited History Ghost Hunters – ready for an evening of paranormal adventures

Spirited History shared tips about paranormal investigation techniques and Museum members had an opportunity to work with equipment used by professional ghost hunters in a setting that is reportedly rife with spirit activity. (The Poe Museum plays host to about half a dozen paranormal investigator groups each year.)

Assorted Paranormal Investigation Equipment

Ghost hunting gadgets

Items used in ghost hunts can be as simple as something like a ball or a tin cup (intended to trigger a response from any spirits that may be present) or as high tech as an EMF reader or a digital recording device. Personal experiences of ghost hunters while on site can also be taken into account. All of the data collected on a given ghost hunt is then examined for anomalies that might indicate spirit activity.

Spirited History even shared some EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) that they have collected at the Poe Museum and other haunted sites in the area with our members.

This event proved very popular, so I would not be at all surprised if we do more guided ghost hunts in the future. Hopefully we can make them available to the general public as well as to members.

The Poe Museum has several members-only events during the course of each year so if you are not yet a Poe Museum Member, why not consider joining today? You can do so in just a few clicks of your mouse: Not only will you get advance notice of cool events like our guided ghost hunt, but you’ll be helping to support the Poe Museum so that it can be around for future generations to enjoy!

Coming Soon: A Descent into the Maelstrom

On Thursday, August 25 from 6-9 P.M. the Poe Museum will pay tribute to Poe’s thrilling adventure tale “A Descent into the Maelstrom” with an evening of sea shanties by renowned folk singer Bob Zentz as well as exhibits, games, and refreshments. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. A cash bar will be available.

“A Descent into the Maelstrom” is the story of a sailor whose ship is trapped in a giant whirlpool. The story was first printed in the May 1841 issue of Grahams Magazine, the same publication that had published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” a month earlier. At the time of its publication, a reviewer for the Aristidean wrote the story was “noted for the boldness of its subject–a subject never dreamed of before…” Poe’s story was so realistic that some readers thought it was a true story, and a passage from the story was reprinted as fact in the ninth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. The story was reprinted in Poe’s 1845 collection Tales of Edgar A. Poe. By the next year it had been translated into French and German. It remains one of Poe’s most popular tales and has been compared with both his detective stories and his science fiction. In 1869, Jules Verne, a devotee of Poe’s works, included the Maelstrom in his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by having Captain Nemo attempt suicide by sending his submarine into the whirlpool.

Small Fry Visit Museum

Raven Puppets at the Poe Museum!

Kids showing off their freshly made Raven puppets (photo courtesy of Tammy Breeding)

For the past few weeks, the Poe Museum has played host to several primary school aged groups who were interested in learning about Edgar Allan Poe as part of their summer enrichment. Our usual bailiwick is middle and high school aged pupils, but we at the Museum were more than happy to help introduce Poe to younger folks.

Children received a special tour of the museum and then got to participate in an activity designed to introduce them to poetry via Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven”. They also got to make their own Raven puppets to take home.

The kids (and the Poe Museum guides) all seem to have had a great time. Hopefully, we are helping to instill an early appreciation for poetry in general and Poe in particular for the young people that have visited us this month. Maybe we will even inspire someone to go on to write poetry or short stories of their own.

Cask of Amontillado Unhappy Hour

The theme for our July Unhappy Hour centered on Poe’s classic tale of wine and revenge, “The Cask Of Amontillado”. Since Poe’s tale is set in Italy during “the supreme madness of the Carnival season,” we decided to celebrate with a little carnival of our own in the Enchanted Garden.

It was a very hot and humid night, but we had lots of wonderful folks brave the heat to enjoy the festivities anyway and it was well worth the effort.

Local band Beggars of Life provided the perfect musical accompaniment to the evening. Here is a video of Lulu, Phineas Figg and Stinky Patterson in action in front of the Poe Shrine (video courtesy of Jason Morris):

In addition to our usual food and cash bar, we had many wonderful activities including:

* A Fortune Teller – the fabulous Madame Stephania who gave tarot readings to all who crossed her palm with silver (or carnival tickets)

Madame Stephania in action

* People also had the opportunity to make their own carnival masks or get their faces painted

Showing of a newly finished mask at Unhappy HourCarnivale Mask Making at Unhappy Hour

Carnival Masks

Face painting at Unhappy HourFace painting at the Poe Museum

Face Painting

* Thanks to the lovely Heather from The Wine Seller – people even had a chance to participate in an Amontillado tasting. They also got to learn how much wine is actually in a “pipe” of amontillado (130 gallons or 656 bottles of wine) and did NOT have to worry about getting walled up in a basement to do so!

Amontillado tasting at Unhappy Hour

Amontillado tasting fun

* We also had many carnival games including a chance to dig for buried treasure, coffin races, a black cat ring toss and a Wheel of MISfortune (this is a Poe-themed event, after all).

Treasure Hunt game at Unhappy Hour

Treasure hunting


Black cat ring toss sign

Kate at the ready with Coffin Racing Fun at Unhappy Hour

Coffin race track at the ready!

Some people even wore their own masks to the event!

Carnival Masks!

Awesome carnival masks

People really got into the Carnival spirit and had a great time in the middle of July.
This carnival looks like it may become an annual event – so keep an eye out for it next year.

If you’d like to see more pictures from the event, check out the Poe Museum’s flickr group here:

There is also VIDEO of the festivities on the Poe Museum’s very own YouTube Channel: Check it out and subscribe as more videos will be posted soon! (Maybe even a few from past events!)

And get ready for our next Unhappy Hour, which is coming up on August 25th. The theme will be based on Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom” and will feature sea shanties with Bob Zentz and other nautical activities.