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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

My Experience At Westminster Hall and Burial Grounds: Visiting Edgar Allan Poe

Gabby LeGates

October is a month for apple cider, scary movies, and pumpkin carving. It is also a wonderful month to pay homage to one of Baltimore’s most famous authors of all time, Edgar Allan Poe, many of whose works famously match the energy of the spookiest season of the year.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, I visited the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground. They offer tours on the first Saturday of every month at noon and one for only five dollars an entry, a great opportunity for us students on a budget. Much of the information provided in this article was told to myself and the rest of my tour group by our guide, Jeff Jerome, current tour guide at the Westminster grounds and former curator emeritus of the Poe House. 

We began the tour in the catacombs of the hall, an area underneath the main building where graves remain. The floor was dirt, gathered over the years giving the chamber an earthy smell. Our seats were made of original church pews from Westminster Hall above. As the rain outside slowed we learned about Poe’s history as an author, from the short stories to the poems. Jerome told us about how Poe drew inspiration from current events to garner reader’s attention. We learned about his mysterious death, which even today, we can only speculate the cause of. 

Jerome also explained the history of Westminster Hall and Burying ground. Once an exclusive Presbyterian Church, it was bought by University of Maryland’s Law School and is used for events. It was built on top of a pre-existing graveyard, leading to the existence of the catacombs we sat in. Tall window-like arches in the brick allowed light into the covered area. Row by row we were led to the back of the catacombs and peered deep down into a burial catacomb, initially reserved for a large family but sadly, left empty except for the remains of an old coffin scattered on the ground. As I stuck my head inside and exclaimed at the sheer scale of it, I could hear my own voice echo. 

The tour brought us outside where we saw multiple headstones, mausoleums, and vaults including but not limited to Poe himself, at least his second grave since he currently rests at the front of the graveyard under the monument, James Calhoun, the first mayor of Baltimore, and many other important merchants, revolutionaries, and their families. Poe’s grave within the cemetery was a standard stone slab with a carving of a raven etched with his famous quote, “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’’ He was buried there next to his brother and grandfather, but was once again moved later on due to the demands of fans. 

We concluded our tour at the front of the cemetery by Poe’s monument, bearing a carving of his face with the details of himself, his wife, and his mother and law with whom he is buried.  This monument is white and much thicker, adorned with gifts left by adoring fans, mostly coins and flowers. 

While some find cemeteries to be dreary, even dismal, I find them to be pensive places to pay homage to those who have built the places we stand in today. Westminster Hall and Burial Ground is no different, a collection of some of Baltimore’s greatest citizens.

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  • J

    Jeff JeromeOct 28, 2023 at 6:02 am

    Very happy you enjoyed the tout!
    Jeff Jerome
    Curator Emeritus