A live reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” chilled Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead in high school, and the poem has stuck with her since.

Whitehead’s teacher didn’t sway from the dramatics, inviting students and their parents to a night of scary poetry equipped with a flashlight and hot cocoa.

Now, Whitehead, a professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland, is getting a chance to read Poe to others in an event that’s designed to keep any takers up all night.

The National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre is hosting their third annual Doomsday, a free livestreamed event where volunteers read the artist’s poems and stories for 24 hours straight. This year, the event takes place on May 18 at the historic Carroll Mansion on East Lombard Street and will have an international influence, as well.

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“I think if we can find ways to connect people to historic sites, it gets people out of their comfort zone,” Whitehead said, adding that she’s looking forward to the opportunity for young people to explore Poe and the arts.

The 24 hours of Poe begins May 18 at noon and serves as a fundraiser to support the theatre. Theatre groups in Brazil, Italy and the United Kingdom will also have livestreams of their own versions of the event.

And there’s even more Poe overlap. Poe Baltimore is hosting a death exhibit for the artist in the mansion. Those who attend Doomsday will also be able to check out the exhibit. There will also be writing and arts activities for all ages, as well as Poe trivia.

The event comes from humble beginnings. Doomsday is the brainchild of Alex Zavistovich, founder and artistic director of the National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre and is a play on “Bloomsday,” a celebration of the Irish writer James Joyce. Well-aware of Poe’s influence in Baltimore, Zavistovich thought a similar commemoration could exist here. He started the reading with several friends in the basement of his home. Last year, the event partnered with Greedy Reads bookstore.

“We’re continually growing in our ambition. Now it seems we are right on the verge of this being taken seriously as an annual, international event,” said Zavistovich.

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Zavistovich said he stayed up for at least 36 hours last year, setting up, reading, filling in where needed and packing up at the end of the event.

There are already a few committed readers for Doomsday 2024, including Whitehead, Maryland State Delegates Luke Clippinger and Mark Edelson; CEO of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts Rachel D. Graham; Poe House and Museum Executive Director Enrica Jang, and more.

This will be Whitehead’s second year participating. She’s not sure what she’s reading, but for obvious reasons wouldn’t be opposed to “The Raven,” which centers an unnamed narrator who’s grappling with grief and begins to lose his sanity.

“There’s something about reading a poem that connects me to my childhood,” Whitehead said.

Volunteers are welcome, but Zavistovich said the theatre tries to get public figures from all walks of life to keep the event inclusive and diverse.

“The real thrill for me is to see this idea take root and be embraced by more than just a handful of people who have a common appreciation for Edgar Allan Poe,” Zavistovich said.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983.

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