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The Gentleman of Baltimore

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Just to be clear, this is a true story...

In Baltimore City, Maryland, at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground lies one of the founders of modern short story thrillers and one of the greatest poets of all time: Edgar Allen Poe.

On each January 19, Poe's birthday, a strange man would visit Poe's grave every year. The gentleman would have ten-seconds of a moment of silence, read his aged copy of Poe's "The Raven", lie a single red rose at the foot of his grave, then leave. He did this consistently every year at exactly 4 PM not missing a single year.

The people living in the area, or those who claimed to have seen this man, describe him as wearing a black overcoat, black slacks, black suit jacket, white Oxford shirt, black vest, black tie, well polished black dress shoes, and a black top hat. All clothing, according to others, bore the resemblance of the style, tailoring, and fabrics used during the early to mid 19th century which would be the time Poe did a great majority of his works.The man was a Caucasian male standing a little over six feet and appeared to weigh no more than 200 pounds. His face was handsome with a well-kept full mustache.

Those who watched this man from afar say that when he travels to and from the burial site, he would always commute by foot. He never used any form of transportation. In a small crowd of people, he was easy to pick out. Probably like spotting a lit match in a dark room. As he would travel he would make no eye contact with anyone. He walked a normal pace. You could tell he was in no hurry. He maintained an upright and proper posture. As he walked he kept the rose in hand level at his stomach. He never stopped to rest. He never stopped for a drink. He never needed to tie his shoe. He just walked straight there and straight back year after year after year.

My former neighbor once told me about actually encountering this man. It was last year. She told me that every year for the last nine years this gentleman would knock on her door three times then wait. My neighbor told me that when she would answer the door, the gentleman would ask the same question. In a slight British accent he would ask, "Hello. Would you like to accompany me to pay respects to Edgar Allen Poe; one of the greatest writers of all time?"

My neighbor would simply reply by saying "No thanks. Maybe next year." I knew that wasn't true. She barely knew who Edgar Allen Poe was, let alone like reading at all. She wasn't going to even begin to consider visiting a dead guy she didn't even know existed until the first time the man knocked on her door a few years ago.

After all this occurred, I finally decided to approach my neighbor's mom who was living with her at the time. I asked her if she knew anything about this bizarre man that would habitually come knocking at her door every year on the same day. Her answer was confusing to say the least.

During the 1960's, when she was a teenager, she would see a "similar" man perform the exact same ritual. Knock on someone's door, invite them to accompany them, proceed to the site, and be off. She looked out the window and pointed to an empty lot across the street. Kids would always play there because it was the only vacant or relatively open area for kids to play in in these city streets. She told me that there was house that used to stand there. 

In 1964, she said, there was a man who had a wife and one son. The gentleman would come to his house and invite he and is family to the burial grounds. She told me that the gentleman would repeat this for nine more years. In 1974, on the night of January 19, the house suddenly caught fire and was quickly consumed in flames. The house burned down. The who family, she said, was still inside, but their bodies were never recovered. The same incident occurred in 1984 at another home a few blocks down, and again in 1994. She told me that each house had one thing in common.

They were all visited by that strange gentleman. However, she began to tell me that in 1995, another man was seen with this man. He was dressed like any other person from the 90's. People that knew him said that after traveling with this gentleman, he disappeared after the gentleman invited him to dinner at his house, which was supposedly in the historic district of the city. People claimed to have seen the two men turn the corner into a vacant lot and simply - vanish. After an extensive search for the missing man, investigation, and retracing of steps, law enforcement called the case cold.

After all this and a nice dinner with my neighbor and her mother, I was left a little restless. I decided to hop on my laptop and do a little research of my own, specifically about the historic area where that lot is. What I found I just could not believe.

Apparently, in that particular lot in historic Baltimore, there was a record of about ten different shops, corner stores, and bakeries throughout the 20th century and even a small factory. Each building that went up in that lot met the exact same fate. Each building would catch fire and burn to the ground. The fire would not spread to its neighboring buildings. They wouldn't even leave any smoke damage or even smell like there was a fire that just happened two feet away from it. It gets more strange. In each pile of rubble there lay a single healthy red rose. 

No. It couldn't be...

After a little more research, I discovered that in that exact lot, there used to be an apartment building. The apartment burned down during the Great Baltimore Fire which occurred on February 7, 1904. In the apartment lived a gentleman who would "frequently visit Edgar Allen Poe's burial site dressed in all black attire except for his white button-down shirt" , his wife and his wife's mother on the first floor, his brother on the second floor, and a family of four on the third floor. 

There have been a couple local news articles about this man. Most of which ranged from 1880 to 1901. The next day, I took a trip down to the city library and found these articles. Although the gentleman would frequently visit the burial site, it was only on a January 19 that he would read The Raven; and people would actually gather around and listen. After he finished, he would place the rose at the foot of the burial site and go home.

I was taken aback by everything I had just read and discovered. What I was thinking could not be the reality of what was going on. It just is not possible. Was this the same man that visits Poe's site to this very day?

Regardless of what I had just discovered, I HAD to inform my neighbor that her life and her mother's life was in potential danger. She thought it was just another one of my improvise jokes or skits. I used to go to an Arts School, see. No matter how much I insisted she wouldn't bite.

Well, the next night I came home form my day job that I had since quit. When I came home, the site I saw was too much for me to take in. There, right next to my house was my neighbor's house completely engulfed in flames. There was a considerable crowd just watching her house burn. Firefighters relentlessly worked to put out the fire. The continued to burn until the house was nothing but rubble and smokey steamy ash. Firefighters found no bodies amongst the debris. They were gone.

I was unable to sleep that night. All I could think about was my neighbor. She was a good friend of mine. We graduated from the same high school. She got me familiar with the area. Her mother was the sweetest old woman one could meet. And now they're just gone. Why, though? Just... There is just no way this man could live for so long if he is even the same person. None of these fires could have possibly been freak accidents. But what would this man want with the man who disappeared, that family that used to live across the street, and now, my neighbor and her mother? And what about the others that may have suffered prior to my neighbor's mother's memory? Was he killing these people because they all rejected his invitation? But why were all the bodies missing? 

The memory of these events that occurred last January made me sick to my stomach, so I decided to call in sick today and stay home. It was the 19th. I decided to watch a little television and finally lazied up an appetite to eat. Around 3:15 PM I made myself a tuna fish sandwich. 

There was a knock at my door. I heard three knocks. I froze like a deer in headlights. I walked toward the door and answered.

There he was. With his slight British accent, he asked, "Hello. Would you like to accompany me to pay respects to Edgar Allen Poe; one of the greatest writers of all time?"

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