Reports of the Poe Museum’s demise have been vastly exaggerated.
On Sunday morning, viewers of CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood were shocked to hear the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia is closing its doors. No one was more surprised than we at the Poe Museum. Not only are we not closing, but we are preparing to celebrate our ninetieth anniversary with a full schedule of exhibits and events. Since Sunday morning’s broadcast, the Poe Museum has been inundated with calls and emails from concerned citizens from across the country, but we assured them, and will continue to assure them, that the Poe Museum in Richmond is doing fine and has not lost its funding. We appreciate all the concern expressed by our friends, and we hope you will continue to support the Poe Museum.
If you have never been to the Poe Museum, or if you have not visited in a while, October is the perfect time to pay us a visit to see our new exhibits, “The Raven, Terror & Death” and “Death and Mourning in the Age of Poe.” We will also have a book launch for the new anthology Richmond Macabre on October 2, our annual commemoration of the anniversary of Poe’s death on October 6 (Yes, we celebrate his birthday as well as his death day.), our Halloween Unhappy Hour on October 27, and Poe’s Pumpkin Patch on October 29. In the new year, we will celebrate Poe’s birthday with a Poe-rade through Poe’s Richmond and the opening of a new exhibit of the 43 illustrations to “The Raven” done by James Carling in 1883 and not publicly exhibited in over 35 years. In April, we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Poe Museum with a new exhibit of rarely seen or recently discovered Poe manuscripts and letters.
Below is a list of some of next year’s Unhappy Hours and exhibits. You can expect to see even more of the kind of events only the Poe Museum can bring you.
Saturday, January 14th – Poe’s Birthday Bash – Noon to midnight!
Saturday, January 14th- Exhibit Opening: “James Carling’s Illustrations for ‘The Raven’” (continues until May 30) in Exhibit Building
Thursday, April 26th – 90th Anniversary of Poe Museum opening (1920s garden party) – Unhappy Hour – 6-9pm
Thursday, April 26th –Exhibit Opening: “In Poe’s Hand: Letters and Manuscripts” (continues until July 11) in Memorial Building
Thursday, May 24th – Unhappy Hour “The Enchanted Garden” – 6-9pm
Thursday, June 28th – Unhappy Hour “The Gold Bug” (pirates!) – 6-9pm
Thursday, July 26th – Unhappy Hour “The Oval Portrait” (Poe Carnival) – 6-9pm
Thursday, July 26th –Exhibit Opening: “New Acquisitions of Poe Portraiture” (Until September 30) in Exhibit Building 2nd Floor
Thursday, August 23rd – Unhappy Hour “The Premature Burial” – 6-9pm
Thursday, Sept. 27th – Unhappy Hour “The Masque of the Red Death” (Poe variety show) – 6-9pm
Sunday, October 7th – Poe’s Death Day Celebration – Noon-6pm
Thursday, October 25th – Unhappy Hour “The Black Cat”—6-9pm
Sunday, October 28th – Poe’s Pumpkin Patch – Noon to 5pm
Excellent jazz accompaniment for the evening’s festivities was provided by Jack Winn Duo and Poe fans young and old (plus a stray bat or two) really got into the spirit of the event.
Of course, this Unhappy Hour also served as the Poe Museum’s first event of our busy fall season. Make sure that you check our events calendar for information about all kinds of exciting things that will be happening in October.
First up on Sunday October 2nd from 2-4pm is the launch party for Richmond Macabre a horror anthology dedicated to Poe and featuring stories set right here in the River City. We hope to see folks at as many of our October events as possible. October is Poe’s month after all!
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.
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:
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!
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’s 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.
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.
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)
* People also had the opportunity to make their own carnival masks or get their faces painted
* 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 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).
Black cat ring toss sign
Coffin race track at the ready!
Some people even wore their own masks to the event!
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.
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.
June’s Unhappy Hour (which took place on June 23rd) featured Poe’s short story “The Pit and the Pendulum”. First published in October 1842, the story is a hair raising tale of a prisoner’s experiences at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition and is notable for evoking terror through its heavy reliance on sensory details to emphasize the reality of the narrator’s harrowing situation.
The museum has put together a new exhibit based on Poe’s tale that opened for the Unhappy Hour.
Here is a small sampling courtesy of Keith Kaufelt:
You’ll have to come experience the whole exhibit for yourself – it will be here through the end of August.
Unhappy Hour featured a Spanish Inquisition themed scavenger hunt as well as Spanish themed food in honor of the story. Jamie and Katie, two of our lovely staff members, even volunteered to make pendulum cookies for the occasion.
Marvel at their hard work!
Pendulum cookies – with “bloody” sprinkle edges courtesy of Jamie and Katie
Family enjoying the Spanish Inquisition scavenger hunt at Unhappy Hour
Lovely Spanish guitar music was provided by the Robinson Guitar Duo.
Unless you’re a victim of the Inqusition, a good time can always be had during Unhappy Hour at the Poe Museum.
Next Unhappy Hour will be on July 28th from 6pm-9pm and will feature a carnival and an amontillado tasting in honor of “The Cask of Amontillado.” Beggars of Life will provide the evening’s musical entertainment.
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 Linda Simmons and Stacie Snyder making beautiful music in the Poe Shrine during the event.
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 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.