Cooping Day is almost here!
As if literary folks needed another excuse to get drunk and wear each other’s clothes, I propose that Election Day, November 4, be declared “Cooping Day” in memory of Edgar Allan Poe’s demise.
According to The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the majority of biographers give the following theory as to the death of Edgar Allen Poe:
“Coincidence or not, the day Poe was found on the street was election day in Baltimore and the place near where he was found, Ryan’s Fourth Ward Polls, was both a bar and a place for voting. In those days, Baltimore elections were notorious for corruption and violence. Political gangs were willing to go to great extremes to ensure the success of their candidates. Election ballots were stolen, judges were bribed and potential voters for the opposition intimidated. Some gangs were known to kidnap innocent bystanders, holding them in a room, called the “coop.” These poor souls were then forced to go in and out of poll after poll, voting over and over again. Their clothing might even be changed to allow for another round. To ensure compliance, their victims were plied with liquor and beaten. Poe’s weak heart would never have withstood such abuse. This theory appear s to have been first offered publicly by John R. Thompson in the early 1870s to explain Poe’s condition and the fact that he was wearing someone else’s clothing. A possible flaw in the theory is that Poe was reasonably well-known in Baltimore and likely to be recognized.”
I believe we can pull this off without the beatings. Drinking is not uncommon at political rallies, and I, for one, have been known to wear ill-fitting clothes that don’t belong to me. Once, in my younger days, I won a prize for best Little Nell (Columbia) at a Rocky Horror party.
Of course, we have to vote first! This is important (understatement); but after we cast our ballots and are waiting, longing, for a change in the wind, we might as well do something to take the edge off.