It is once again me, Noah, the eldest of the Nomad children. You could say that I am back; perhaps I am striking back. One might even go so far to say this is Episode V: The Eldest Strikes Back. Of course, I won’t say that, but anyone else is welcome to. The reason I am “striking back” is because, if you read the title of this post, the Poe Museum. Specifically, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.
If you enjoy the dark, detailed and hauntingly beautiful works and descriptions of Edgar Allan Poe as much as I do, this museum is just for you. If you don’t know if you are a true Poe fan, here’s a test to help you along. Scan through your books, digital or otherwise; if “The Complete Works of Edgar A. Poe” is not among them, well…seems like you have some shopping to do, now doesn’t it?
The problem for some might not be finding this wonderful treasure trove of Poe memorabilia and fun facts, but actually getting there, possibly because of an unwilling family or partner; luckily for me, that was not the case, but here are some steps to get you through it. First, casually mention how Richmond is pretty much the birthplace of liberty, and one of the oldest cities still standing in the United States. Next, slightly elaborate on how much unique history and culture there is there, and just how neat it would be if you could go. Finally, slip in that the Poe Museum happens to be in Richmond, and how adult tickets are only $6 (if you’re a student, teacher or senior, you can get in by only paying $5 for the tickets). Perhaps mention that they will even give you discounts if you’re a homeschooler, because they’re just cool like that.
Assuming you’ve done your research before you begin this clever little ploy, you should know that the museum first opened in 1922, and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday 11 AM to 5 PM, and on Monday it’s closed (they have to take a break now and then, right?). If you didn’t do your research beforehand, that’s okay, I got your back.
Once you finally make your way to the museum, there are a few spots prime for picture taking outside: a couple of “Poe Museum” signs, a fantastic pair of iron, spiked gates (chains included) and window-sill boxes, with ravens carved into them. The museum is comprised of several buildings and a garden.
The garden is a wide open space with a beautiful fountain in the center, and if you happen to go in the spring, you should see a great many flowers of bloom, most of which are mentioned in Poe’s works. If you venture a bit farther, past the fountain, you will find the Poe shrine; it is exactly as it sounds, an actual, real-life shrine to Edgar Allan Poe, complete with marble bust and money paid as tribute on said bust. In the other buildings, you will find a great many other items that either belonged to Poe, or his friends.
One of the buildings is dedicated to his early life and boyhood. Here you get to see Poe’s boyhood bed and learn some interesting facts about his family. For instance, when Poe’s mother, Eliza Poe, died at the ripe old age of 24, the theater at which she worked happened to burn down a week later, killing 72 people.While it may seem like Poe to burn down the theater at which his mother used to work at, he was only 3 at the time, so that theory seems a little implausible; that doesn’t make it any less suspicious though.
As a boy, it turns out Poe is not as we might think. When we think of Poe, we commonly conjure up images of a mustachioed, sour shut-in with failing health; to think that Poe, as a boy, was a skilled swimmer, runner and boxer seems quite unthinkable. That Poe actually had friends and siblings also seems strange, but nothing about Poe is as it seems. Many misconceptions that we have of Poe are actually a direct result of a slanderous biography written after his death by one of his rivals in an attempt to humiliate Poe; apparently Poe’s death just wasn’t satisfying enough.
Yes, many facts and numerous memorabilia abound in this museum about Poe, and in the 45-ish minutes it will take you to tour the entire place, you will know more about Poe than you thought there was to even know. For instance, you may discover that Poe was born in the same year as Abraham Lincoln, or that he was in the military. To be specific, he attained the position of Sergeant Major (the highest position an enlisted man could achieve at the time) in 2 years, which took most men 17 to accomplish. He later went on to publish several books, enroll in West Point (and subsequently get expelled from it), and even published several theories on astronomy and the universe that have been proven as scientific fact.
Perhaps, though, you don’t really care about all the Poe trivia. Maybe you don’t care about how Poe invented the detective genre, interviewed Charles Dickens or married his 13 year old cousin; maybe you just want to see some Poe stuff. Well they have that too. At the Poe Museum, you can see many things belonging to Poe, ranging from his personal sword cane to his vest and socks (wonderfully preserved, I might add). If you’re in a bit of a creepy mood, you can even stare rapturously at the locks of Poe’s hair they have managed to keep from crumbling to dust. You will see many of Poe’s manuscripts, letters, poems (many in his own handwriting) and other various trinkets belonging to Poe.
If none of this has intrigued you yet, perhaps this museum isn’t for you. Or maybe you just didn’t notice the galleries. Galleries you say? Yes, galleries. Rooms full of artwork inspired by the fabulously twisted writings of Edgar Allan Poe, both by local artists and renowned ones. In the gift shop for instance, there is an original oil painting, measuring 20″x 16″ encased in a rich wooden frame; it goes for $600-$700. If you don’t feel like spending half a grand, you could opt for a small magnet or even a bust of Poe, though my favorites were the Poe action figure and the Poe lunchbox. I personally opted for the “Masque of the Red Death” painting by local artist Nicolle Pisanello, with which I am immensely pleased; it also happened to be $18 instead of $700, so it fit within my price range.
Edgar Allan Poe is an enigma within a mystery hidden in suspicion wrapped in a mustache, it is true. At the Poe Museum, they endeavor to shed a little light on this dark, brilliant man, and what his life was like before his mysterious and untimely death. You will learn a great many things, some of which will be disturbing; for instance, Poe’s marrying his 13 year old cousin and saying she was 21. Some of which are not disturbing, like that he only had a mustache for the last 4 years of his life, and that without facial hair, Mr. Poe is much more comely. You will see Poe-inspired art, original manuscripts and century old socks; you will leave wanting to read lots and lots of books. You might even leave with a wallet that is $700 lighter, or only $1 lighter, if you simply paid homage to the great Poe shrine. Of this I can say with certainty: Poe was a brilliant writer. His picturesque works have inspired countless authors, myself included, and he went on to define genre after genre. Everyone will have their favorites of Poe (mine is “The Tell-Tale Heart”), but there is something for nearly everyone in Poe’s works. There are also two black cats which inhabit the premises, if that sweetens the pot for anyone. Just make sure your smoke detectors are in working order when you get home.