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.    

The Story 

Our narrative opens with a dramatic scene: In September of 1849 Edgar Allan Poe sets sail from Richmond, Virginia for New York City. Stopping in Baltimore along the way, he inexplicably disappears for five days. When found again he is delirious with drink and in clothes not his own. Four days later he is dead at the age of 40, never having explained what happened. And so the creator of the detective story and one of the best-known writers in America is at the center of his own mystery.


By starting the story with a moment of suspense and dark drama, we borrow a technique directly from Poe himself. At the core of his aesthetic principles is what he called “unity of effect”--Poe urged every artist to decide which mood he or she wants the audience to feel, and then pursue it from start to finish. Explaining his theories of composition, he wrote: “Of the in-numerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart or the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”


Following the prologue, the story unfolds in a three-act structure that traces both his life and his impact on American culture, art and letters.  Notable writers and film-makers such as Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, Poet Laureate (1997-2000) Robert Pinsky, and Hollywood director and producer Roger Corman help us understand why Poe exerts such a powerful influence on artists in multiple genres, and Poe biographers and experts provide colorful testimony to fill out the details of his life.


As the story approaches its end, we chronicle Poe’s increasing emotional instability following the death of his young wife. Despite everything, he continues writing, and seems close to achieving his dream of publishing his own magazine when he dies so mysteriously. Within days, a slanderous obituary appears that does incalculable damage to Poe's reputation. The enduring Poe myth of the dark, demented figure out of his own stories is born.


By 1875, Poe has regained his popularity, thanks in large part to the French symbolist poets Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé. Our story ends with a Poe-like scene: 25 years after his death, the author’s remains are dug up and re-interred in a more prominent location with great ceremony, and no less a figure than Walt Whitman lauds the long dead Poe and his writing. But the popular conflation of Poe the man with his work is only just beginning. By the end of the film, viewers understand how much more there is to the mysterious story of Edgar Allan Poe.