Annual Edgar Allan Poe Commemorative Program (2023)


Since 1923, the Poe Society has sponsored an annual commemorative lecture on the life and/or works of Edgar Allan Poe, presented by a noted Poe scholar. This lecture is always held on the first Sunday in October, more-or-less coinciding with the anniversary of Poe’s death. Prior to this event, it has been traditional for members of the Poe Society to gather at Poe’s grave, placing flowers on the monument in a brief and informal ceremony to honor Poe’s memory.

This Poe Society event is free and open to the public.

Sunday, October 1, 2023:

Note: Our brief tribute to Poe at the Poet’s Grave will be recorded, and played at the beginning of the presentation.


2:00 p.m. - 101st Commemorative Edgar Allan Poe Lecture

For various reasons, including the ability to reach a broader audience, the annual lecture will again be held only as a virtual presentation via Zoom conference. Register in advance for the this virtual presentation of the Poe Society’s Annual Edgar Allan Poe Commemorative Program (2023) by clicking the link below:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting via computer or audio only. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.

Location: Live ZOOM event (details above)

Welcome, and Introduction of the Speaker

Address: “The Island of Doctor Moran: A Fresh Examination of Poe’s Attending Physician” by David F. Gaylin (The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore).

Abstract of the lecture:

After his discovery at a Baltimore tavern on October 3, 1849, an extremely ill Edgar Allan Poe was transported to a public hospital, on the eastern side of the city, where his condition was seen as serious and he was admitted. After almost four days in the facility's care, Poe died from a cause, or causes, that have become obscured. As the administrator of the hospital in which Edgar Poe perished, Dr. John J. Moran would also claim to have given the poet his personal attention. With this status, Moran should have been one of the most reliable and important informational resources on Poe's death. However, his subsequent testimony has proven to be anything but trustworthy, indeed no one has done more to mislead those seeking the facts of Poe's final days. Moran would exploit his proximity to the affair as a license for lectures, written articles, and a book; each very public presentations that included dreamt-up details of Poe's final days, as well as deathbed speeches that seemed to grow in length and splendor with each recital. The doctor would also give varying causes of death for Poe as well as changing explanations of his whereabouts in Baltimore before being brought to the hospital. When Moran did not know the facts, or they did not serve his purposes, he appears to have simply fabricated them, giving no thought to accuracy or posterity.

Nevertheless, his role in Edgar Allan Poe's story remains an important one, if only to establish what did not take place; and his testimony, although seeming to have been in a state of constant flux, is not completely without value. Some biographers have argued that any information found to have emanated from Moran must be viewed as “fake news.” This blanket assessment would be ill-advised, as sprinkled in among the doctor's fictional accounts are small nuggets of truth. Among Moran's many boasts, his claims to have paid for Poe's coffin and to have arranged for a viewing at the hospital, now appear to have some validity. And his declaration that he (or the hospital) paid the cab driver that delivered Poe also appears likely, which would seem to substantiate his claim that the poet arrived unaccompanied, and perhaps, unidentified.

Of course, the doctor's invention of lengthy exchanges with the dying poet must be seen as self-serving; and his descriptions of Poe's lavish funeral ceremony and burial have proven to be quite literally fantastic. After his brief association with Edgar Poe, and the Baltimore hospital in which the poet died, Moran would run afoul of the federal government and serve time in prison. He later became involved in politics and the temperance movement; and would, astonishingly, transform himself to become an asset to his community and the state in which he lived.

To better explain Moran's manifest irresponsibility in fictionalizing the final days of Edgar Allan Poe, this new look at the doctor's checkered life, and his involvement with the poet's death, should provide some context as to his character and motivations.

Response/Discussion and Questions from the audience. (moderated by the host)


[S:1 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Poe Society - Annual Commemorative Lecture