Museum News

Poe Museum’s May Unhappy Hour: Berenice

On Thursday, May 24 from 6 to 9 P.M. the Poe Museum will host an Unhappy Hour inspired by the master of horror’s first horror story “Berenice” a tale of obsession, madness, and dentistry. The event features the premiere of a new short film of the story, live performances of the tale, refreshments, and live music by Rattlemouth. Live performances of “Berenice” will be staged at 7 P.M. and 8 P.M. Guests will learn about nineteenth century dental practices from a dental historian between the performances. Admission is by optional donation, and a cash bar is available. The Poe Museum’s exhibits will be open during the event, so visitors will have a chance to see the major new show of dozens of Poe’s manuscripts and letters in addition to its world renowned collection of Poe artifacts and memorabilia.


If you have not read “Berenice,” now is the perfect time to do so. This groundbreaking tale is Poe’s first horror story, and it helped to revolutionize a genre. First printed in March 1835 in the Southern Literary Messenger, the story is narrated by a man driven to do unspeakable things by his obsession with his wife’s teeth. If you do not have a chance to read it before you come, be sure to watch one of the performances at the Unhappy Hour.

The Poe Museum celebrates its 90th Anniversary with a Jazz Age Unhappy Hour

The Poe Museum first opened its doors to the public on April 26th, 1922.
On April 26, 2012, the museum celebrated its 90th birthday with a 1920s themed Unhappy Hour.

Lovely 1920s "Cigarette Girls" take a break for photos during Unhappy Hour

Poe Museum volunteers (the esteemed Heather and Courtney) posing as “Cigarette Girls” to collect donations to keep the Poe Museum around for another 90 years

For such an auspicious occasion we wanted to do something extra special so we managed to arrange for some 1920s authors to travel through time (perhaps in an old Ford a la Midnight In Paris?) and regale guests with tales of their lives and work as well as their interest in Poe. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, H.P. Lovecraft and James Branch Cabell were all on hand to pay tribute to Poe and to mingle with Unhappy Hour guests. (Many thanks to our wonderful living history actors that helped us bring them to life!)

The Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein in the Enchanted Garden

The Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein at Unhappy Hour

"H.P. Lovecraft" reading a poem of his own about Poe at Unhappy Hour

Author H. P. Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island, reading his poem “In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk’d

"James Branch Cabell" and friends at Unhappy Hour

Richmond author James Branch Cabell enjoying the company of our lovely “Cigarette” Girls

State Delegate Jennifer McClellan posing in the Enchanted Garden

State Delegate Jennifer McClellan in the Enchanted Garden during the event

In addition to our 1920s authors State Delegate Jennifer McClellan was kind enough to pay us a visit and was gracious enough to help us out in acting as a judge for our 1920s costume contest (along with Scott and Sandi Bergman, owners of Haunts of Richmond).

1920s Costume Contest participants

1920s Costume Contest Participants

Many guests really got into the spirit of the event and there were many lovely 1920s style costumes in evidence throughout the evening.

Posing at Unhappy HourEnjoying Unhappy Hour

Enjoying Unhappy HourEnjoying Unhappy Hour

Assorted guests getting into the spirit of the evening

A great jazz accompaniment to the festivities was provided by the John Winn Duo.

Guests were able to get a chance to see our new exhibit “From Poe’s Quill: The Letters and Manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe” which provides a unique opportunity to examine dozens of Edgar Allan Poe’s original manuscripts, including several never before displayed in public, a heretofore unknown draft version of his poem “To Helen” and even an alleged manuscript written by Poe frombeyond the grave transcribed with the help of a medium!

It was a wonderful celebration and we at the Poe Museum are very grateful to everyone who came out to enjoy and make it a success. As usual, you can check out more photos (and even share some of your own if you have some you’d like to share!) on the Poe Museum’s flickr group.

Check out a short candid video of the fun courtesy of Christine Stoddard of Quail Bell Productions:

And get ready because our 90th Anniversary celebrations will be continuing all year – our NEXT Unhappy Hour will take place on May 24th and will feature Poe’s short story “Berenice”. Music will be provided by Richmond’s celebrated world jazz ensemble Rattlemouth.

Fall 2011 Poe Museum Newsletter

Here is the latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore containing updates on the Museum’s events, exhibits, and its 90th anniversary.


Poe Museum in Richmond is NOT CLOSING

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

Friday, December 7th – Poe Illumination – 6-9pm

Unhappy Hour on the Night’s Plutonian Shore

Our September Unhappy Hour featured Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven”.

The evening was visited by a veritable flock of winged visitors thanks to some lovely Raven masks – some of which were made for the Poe Museum by a local craftsperson.

Ravens having fun at Unhappy Hour

The evening featured the U.S. debut of an art exhibit entitled “The Raven, Terror and Death” featuring works by U.S. and Mexican artists inspired by the famous poem.

People checking out the new Raven-inspired exhibitPeople checking out the new Raven-inspired exhibit

People checking out the new Raven exhibit

We also had several readings of the poem by people during the course of the evening. Here is a video sample featuring the actor Chris Patrick as Edgar Allan Poe:

(Chris Patrick is playing Poe this weekend in a Haunts of Richmond / Poe Museum co-production of Poe’s Haunted Homecoming Tour. We are grateful that Mr. Poe was able to give us a reading of “The Raven” at the Poe Museum before the show began at historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery. )

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.

Fun at Unhappy HourThe Jack Winn Duo at Unhappy Hour Cute Kid getting into the Unhappy Hour spirit

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!

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!

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’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.

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.

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.

“The Pit and The Pendulum” – June Unhappy Hour

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:

Pit and the Pendulum exhibit at the Poe Museum

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!

Shiny Pendulum Cookies

Pendulum cookies – with “bloody” sprinkle edges courtesy of Jamie and Katie

Family enjoying our Spanish Inquisition trivia game at Unhappy Hour

Family enjoying the Spanish Inquisition scavenger hunt at Unhappy Hour

Lovely Spanish guitar music was provided by the Robinson Guitar Duo.

The Robinson Guitar Duo

The Robinson Guitar Duo

Enjoying Unhappy Hour

Guests enjoying June’s Unhappy Hour festivities

Lots more Unhappy Hour photos (plus larger versions of the ones posted in this entry) may be found here:

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.

You might have so much fun you’ll never leave …