Edgar Allan Poe Museum Staff Make Disturbing Find - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Edgar Allan Poe Museum Staff Make Disturbing Find

Edgar Allen Poe Edgar Allen Poe

07/26/2007 1:32 PM ET

BALTIMORE (AP)- At some point in Jeff Jerome's tenure as the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum curator, he and his staff made a disturbing find- bones.

They were tearing up the floorboards when they found skeletal remains- as if straight out of the Poe classic "The Tell-Tale Heart," in which the narrator mutilates and dismembers the body of an old man, sealing him under the floor, he said.

Jerome recalled thinking, somewhat wryly, "Oh great. The tourists will love this."

It turns out they were animal bones, discarded beneath the Baltimore City building in so-called "trash pits" along with all other sorts of refuse.

A house littered with waste was not uncommon in Poe's time, Jerome said. The famed American writer, like many of the city's residents, lived in near poverty.

"It was not a happy time period," he said. "They were starving."

The discreet brick row house on the 200 block of North Amity Street, a narrow corridor off the fringe of downtown, is a relic of a much different era in the city's history.

The house, which is the primary exhibit, includes a telescope reputedly used by Poe, a set of Gustave Dore's 1884 illustrations for Poe's "The Raven," videos and other displays related to Poe's life, and several bottles of cognac left over the years at Poe's grave by the "Poe Toaster," according to the Edgar Allan Poe Society's Web site.

Jerome wants people to come away from the museum with a vivid and in many cases disturbing portrait of how Poe and, for that matter, anyone living in the city in the 1830s survived.

"When people make comments, they usually say, 'Oh, I can see why he wrote the way he did,'" he said. "They see how primitive this is, and it hits people in the face."

And yet, the impression that emerges about Poe is not as bleak as his stories might lead people to believe.

"Poe wrote his early masterpieces in the midst of starvation," Jerome said.

And Jerome never gets tired- even after 28 years- of delivering that message to the nearly 5,000 people who visit each year from across the world.

"Every day is an adventure for me," he said. "You never know who's going to knock on the door."

  

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