As the ticking of the clock approached midnight, a well-known and long dead literary figure appeared on historic Race Street in Jim Thorpe. Elaborately carved jack-o-lanterns lined the alley as Edgar Allan Poe made his way to the Rex House at 29 Race St., for a midnight reading of "The Raven."
Sitting in the drawing room of the Rex House, which is the home of local artist David Watkins Price, the author gave a frightening rendition of his epic poem.
Price's home, one of the narrow stone row homes on Race Street, originally belonged to the Rex family, and has figured prominently in the darker side of Jim Thorpe history. The home is often associated with a 500-pound granite ball which was dislodged by vandals from the Edward Rex monument located in the Mauch Chunk Cemetery. The ball somehow managed to roll a half-mile through town to stop on Race Street just a few hundred feet from the Rex House.
For Friday's event, Price generously opened his home to the Friends of Historic Race Street and their guests for the reading. The drawing room was reappointed to resemble Poe's immortalized chamber.
"I just threw this together," said Price.
All of the details were there, from the quill pen, to the portrait of Lenore, to the raven perched above the door.
It was local freelance writer and literary historian Edward Moran who was transformed into the author for the evening. Moran, who resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. and also owns a home on Race Street, has committed all of Poe's works to memory, says Price.
Moran is himself a poet and has worked as an editor at Random House. He has traveled throughout the world on a number of significant literary projects and is currently serving as literary adviser to the Plutzik Centennial Committee.
"I felt for a long time that Jim Thorpe was missing an opportunity," says Price, "with All Hallows Eve and All Saints' Day looming, it's just another facet of keeping with the past. There is a cultural content to this town that people are not appreciating, and I wanted to bring it to their attention in a fun way."
One way that Price has been reaching out to share some of the rich history of Jim Thorpe with residents and visitors, is through his art work. Many of his etchings are of the historic town in which he resides. Price also travels throughout the coal region to capture images.
Tied to coal mining through his father's side of the family, Price is fascinated by how the mining industry made America shortly before the Civil War.
"Coal impacted the forward movement of the North," said Price. "Jim Thorpe was the transfer point for moving coal out of the region to the major cities of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey; it plays predominantly in the history."
Another way Price is attempting to "involve" visitors to the region is through his newest work, an e-book he titled "Voices of the Hollow Maze."
"The hollow maze is a metaphor for the coal mines of Pennsylvania," says Price.
"Voices of the Hollow Maze" is available at Amazon.com.
"A lot of people who visit Jim Thorpe don't really get a 'feeling' for it until they have visited a few time, some never even get off Broadway," adds Price. "Guests can download the book while they are visiting and in a short time they can get a real sense of what it's like to come to live in a historic town. They can get a deeper understanding of what they are experiencing."
A friend suggested that Price publish an e-book rather than a printed version.
"Making money was never my intention," Price said "and it's certainly less expensive for people to purchase the e-book."
There was also one really nice, unexpected benefit for Price.
"I was intrigued by the way my etchings looked on the computer screen. It is like the light is coming through the branches of the trees."
Price is very happy that this idea became a reality.
"After all Poe could have written a wonderful story about this region."