Edgar Allan Poe Even for a master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe died a pretty damn freaky death. He breathed his last at Washington College Hospital, after he was found, frankly, flipping out in the streets of Baltimore. Said to have died of “cerebral inflammation” or “congestion of the brain” — euphemisms for alcohol-related demises — he may actually have fallen victim to anything from syphilis to delirium tremens. Beginning in 1949, an anonymous “Poe Toaster” (probably, in reality, a number of different people) left a bottle of cognac and three roses on the author’s grave, at Westminster Burial Ground in Baltimore, every January 19, Poe’s birthday. For the first time this year, the Toaster didn’t show.
H.P. Lovecraft The cult “cosmic horror” writer H.P. Lovecraft died poor of intestinal cancer, Bright’s disease, and malnutrition at the age of 46. Although he was originally included in his family’s monument, at Swan Point in Providence, RI, his fans took up a collection and, in 1977, purchased him a headstone of his own in the same cemetery. The epitaph, “I AM PROVIDENCE,” comes from one of Lovecraft’s letters.
Mary Shelley The daughter of 18th-century women’s libber Mary Wollstonecraft and the wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley is most famous for writing one of the most enduring monster tales of the modern era, Frankenstein. After years of headaches and sporadic paralysis, Shelley died in 1851 at 53 years old. She is buried at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth, England — against her own wishes to share a plot with her mother and father in St. Pancras. Shelley’s son then had her parents exhumed and re-buried at St. Peter’s with their mother.
Washington Irving The man who brought us “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” lived a long time for someone born in the 18th century. When he died of a heart attack in his Sunnyside home, in 1859, after completing a biography of George Washington, Irving was 76 years old. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (where else?), in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “In the Churchyard at Tarrytown” about Irving’s grave.
Bram Stoker Bram Stoker, who in 1897 wrote Dracula, may indirectly be responsible for America’s current vampire obsession. But he wasn’t terribly well known in his own time and died of either a series of strokes or syphilis in 1912. Stoker was cremated, and his ashes share an urn with his son Noel’s, at Golders Green Crematorium in London, where an employee will escort them to the room where it is kept. (Fear of vandalism prevents the crematorium from placing it in the open.)