For as much gothic-style mystery and intrigue as Edgar Allan Poe put into his work, even more surrounds his own life. And death.
Edgar spent some happy years in Philadelphia, but that came to an end with the death of his wife, Virginia. After she died, he more or less went off the deep end. He started romances with a few other women, but none of them quite measured up to his Annabelle Lee, and nothing came of it. He also started drinking. A lot.
Edgar left Philadelphia and, after several interesting turns of events, found himself in Baltimore. In the trope of a grieving man who spends too much time alone with his own thoughts, one of his favorite things to do was go out drinking with his friends. And when he did, it was evidently a rip-roaring good time.
One of his favorite haunts was a saloon in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of Baltimore. This particular neighborhood, so named because it was founded by a guy named William Fell, was an industrial neighborhood. When William Fell was up and walking around, it was an important shipbuilding center and a town in its own right. It quickly gained a name for itself, becoming not only a place where ships were built, but also a major commercial center. Like most merchant towns, it became quite rich. Once that happened, the nearby city of Baltimore was eager to incorporate Fell’s Point into its borders, which did eventually happen. Nowadays, it’s a very fashionable part of Baltimore, with quaint, colonial-style streets and buildings and boutique shops.
However, Fell’s Point had an underbelly, and poor ol’ Eddie found it. He was out drinking with his friends at his favorite saloon in Fell’s Point, and things were going great. When the party broke up, everyone seemed fine – people who were out with Edgar claimed that he was perfectly able to walk a straight line home – and the group went their separate ways.
No one’s quite sure what happened after that. Edgar was found in a gutter the next morning, raving and wearing someone else’s clothes. Now, this might have been the results of a good night out, but there are other possibilities as well. One popular theory is that he was cooped.
Cooping was a form of election fraud prevalent in the 19th century, in which a person would be kidnapped, dressed up like someone else, and sent to vote for a particular candidate. They were sometimes forced to do this several times over, and sometimes were plied with drugs and alcohol to make them more amenable to breaking the law. If this was the case with Edgar, it would explain his raving.
Unfortunately, all the medical records from the time have been lost, including the notes of Edgar’s attending physician and his death certificate. So modern scholars and scientists can’t deduce, in modern terms, what it was that ailed him. What we do know is that newspapers of the time chalked it up to “congestion of the brain,” which essentially meant he died in a way that his family wouldn’t want the public to know about.
We may never know what it was that did Eddie in, but we do know one thing: The place he was drinking on the night of his death, and the last place he was last seen coherent. Appropriately enough, that place is still a bar.
It’s called The Horse You Came In On Saloon, and, I must say, it’s a great bar. We were there in the late afternoon/evening, and the nighttime crowd was just starting to trickle in. This place has got it all: Friendly barstaff, live music, plenty of interesting stuff hanging on the walls to look at. Bonus points: There are cupholders in the stalls in the ladies’. My dad and brother thought I was losing my mind to be excited by this, but I think it’s actually quite feminist. Women are constantly told not to put our drinks down and walk away and certainly not to come back to a drink we’ve left sitting on a table – and rightfully so! – but, let’s be honest: That creates a logistical problem when visiting the ladies’ room. Cupholders in the stalls solves that problem in the most bar-friendly way possible. (My excitement has been backed by ladies on two continents, so it must be a good idea!)
Apart from all the standard trappings of a good bar, The Horse You Came In On Saloon has other – more ethereal – claims to fame. It’s the oldest watering hole in Fell’s Point, dating back to the Revolutionary Era. Naturally enough for an establishment of that age – and presumable rowdiness – it’s haunted. The barstaff will occasionally leave a dram of whiskey on the bar for the ghost, whose name is Edgar.
It would seem that Edgar liked the place so much he came back. Can’t say I blame him.
Visiting The Horse You Came In On Saloon:
Getting there: The saloon is located in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of Baltimore, not too far from the water. The address is: 1626 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. Paid parking is found all around the neighborhood, specifically about a block away on Broadway Square.
Phone number: You can get a hold of the fine people at The Horse You Came In On Saloon by calling 410-327-4111.
Website: You can visit The Horse You Came In On Saloon’s website here.
Good to know:
- The live music schedule is posted on their website. And who doesn’t love live music when drinking a beer with a ghost named Edgar?
- Make a roadtrip of it! Be sure to check out the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx, New York City, and the Edgar Allan Poe Grave in Baltimore while you’re out East.