WALLY COBERG, in Memoriam, 1948-2011 (Creator & Writer)

This project is dedicated to the legacy of Wally Coberg who died suddenly November 18, 2011 of a heart attack. He was at the time working on this film, a lifelong passion and pursuit. Wally was an award-winning designer and filmmaker. On stage his work has been seen in theatres nationwide, including Center Stage, Louisville Ballet, New York City Opera, as well as at the Virginia, Baltimore and Boston Operas. On the road audiences saw his sets for Dial 'M' for Murder starring Roddy McDowall, and on ice as part of Walt Disney's Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. He designed three productions in Las Vegas, while in the area of theme design created environments for Busch Gardens Tampa and Williamsburg, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Hollywood. He was the Assistant Designer to the Vienna State Opera and Salzburg Festival, as well as Resident Designer of The Opera Company of Boston. His knowledge of Christmas has been on display in retail centers around the world, as well as in the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico City productions of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world famous Rockettes. As a filmmaker, his award-winning dramatic short, Incident, was seen on PBS and at the Kennedy Center, while his screenplay, Death Masque, was optioned by Martin Scorsese. As an educator he taught at Towson University, the Maryland Institute College of Art and Johns Hopkins University. A recipient of two Marcella Brenner Research Grants, Coberg also received a State of Maryland Governor's Citation for his commitment to preserving and promoting the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.


ERIC STANGE (Producer, Writer, Director) is the Executive Producer of Spy Pond Productions. An award-winning independent documentary film producer, director, and writer who specializes in cultural and social history, his work has been broadcast on PBS, The Discovery Channel, and the BBC. Public television credits include The War That Made America, a dramatized documentary about the French and Indian War; Murder at Harvard, an "historical who-dunnit," that explores the process of historical inquiry through a compelling murder story (for American Experience).  He has been a research fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. He is a member of the editorial board of Common-Place, a web journal on early American history, and a visiting fellow with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.


JENNIFER PEARCE (Producer) is a freelance producer whose credits include  ‘WE SHALL REMAIN: Trail of Tears” for PBS’s American Experience,  “ The Great Famine” also for American Experience, “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women” for the PBS’s American Masters and “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” for NOVA as well as the four-part series for PBS, “The War That Made America.”  She enjoys the collaborative process of filmmaking, every project is truly a group effort from smart, creative and dedicated people.  She believes a good documentary can educate, entertain and inspire people to think and feel differently about themselves and the world around us.


BARBARA COSTA (Production Manager) has worked for 30 years as a project manager and multimedia producer of predominantly science and health subjects for online courses, public television documentaries, websites, educational videos, and museum programs and exhibits. She serves on the Arlington (MA) Commission on Arts & Culture, as well as the Board of the Arlington Center for the Arts.


BOYD ESTUS (Producer & Director of Photography) is a Director of Photography and Producer/ Director whose credits include the Academy Award-winning The Flight of the Gossamer Condor and the Academy Award nominee Eight Minutes to Midnight as well as many Emmy-winning television productions. His recent productions include Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind 'Little Women;' Woody Guthrie: I Ain't Got No Home (American Masters); At Home in Utopia (Independent Lens); Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Doctors' Diaries and Japan's Killer Quake (NOVA); Murder at Harvard, Annie Oakley, and Houdini (American Experience).

Additional Contributors

During the early stages of this project, creator Wally Coberg was supported by several consultants who contributed significantly to his efforts to write, submit and ultimately secure the original NEH Development Grant that helped launch the project.  Among them were:







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Produced in association with the Center for Independent Documentary.


This site was made possible by a grant from The Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities,

and by a grant from the Sylvan/Laureate Foundation.    


A towering figure in American literature, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on January 9, 1809, the son of actors. Orphaned when he was three, Poe was taken in by a wealthy Virginian, John Allan and his wife, Frances, of Richmond. Although childless, Allan never formally adopted Poe.


Initially fond of his foster son, John Allan became increasingly hard, fault-finding, and miserly. Finally, after one particularly acrimonious argument, Poe and John Allan parted ways. Raised to be a Southern gentleman, Poe's inexorable descent into poverty had begun.


My determination is at length taken - to leave your house and endeavor to find some place in this wide world, where I will be treated - not as you have treated me.

-- Edgar Poe to John Allan


Poe sought refuge in Baltimore with his aunt, Maria Clemm, and her daughter, Virginia. Although destitute, Poe wanted nothing more than to keep the only family he had ever known together. And so he married Virginia, his 13 year-old cousin. Eventually, his child-bride would die of consumption, the same disease that had claimed the life of Poe's mother.


I am blinded with tears while writing this letter - I have no wish to live another hour. My last, my only hold on life is cruelly torn away. I love - you know I love Virginia passionately, devotedly. Pity me my dear Aunty, pity me.

- Edgar Poe to Maria Clemm


In search of a successful literary career, Poe moved between Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York as editor for some of America's most prestigious literary journals. An acknowledged virtuoso of the macabre, Poe achieved his greatest triumph in 1845 when his poem The Raven was published. It was an instant hit.


Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

    In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door ---

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door ---

    Perched, and sat, and nothing more. 


Despite his literary success, Poe remained impoverished and destitute, drinking to deaden his deepening melancholia. In 1849 he returned to Richmond with the intent of starting his own literary journal, The Stylus. It was during this sojourn that Poe renewed his courtship of a childhood sweetheart, now a wealthy widow. In time, he proposed and she accepted. Intending to bring his aunt back for the wedding, Poe left for New York. But just when it seemed as if fortune had smiled on him at last, disaster struck in Baltimore, where he died under mysterious circumstances on October 7, 1849.