On concrete benches outside the Riverhead aquarium on Saturday afternoon, a small group gathered as Eric Young, decked out in 19th century garb, gave his dramatic reading of "The Raven."
Young's voice rumbled louder as he read of Lenore and the raven's "nevermore." He gesticulated and cawed, competing with a burbling water fountain and sugar-happy trick-or-treaters passing by.
The performance was a snapshot of the mysterious Halloween atmosphere at the second Edgar Allan Poe Festival in downtown Riverhead. Young -- who also had a stuffed, once-living raven perched on his shoulder for Gothic effect -- read several times in the afternoon as children in costumes roamed Main Street in search of candy.
"It's a wonderful poem" that builds to a dramatic conclusion, said Young of Huntington. It's "about lost love, made into almost like a horror poem."
In celebration of the festival and Halloween, skeletons and cobwebs dangled from lamp posts, and some shopkeepers in costume playfully spooked kids as they doled out treats.
Inside the Vail Leavitt Music Hall, actors portraying Poe, Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and Dracula author Bram Stoker performed a one-act play that imagined a meeting of the three classic writers of dark tales. Later, kids and adults performed the upbeat "Monster Mash" and other Halloween-themed musical numbers.
The celebration of Poe and the literature of the macabre was created by St. George Living Productions, a family troupe that brings history to life through performance. Darren St. George of Valley Stream played Poe himself.
"I think Poe is a very exciting character. I know he seems gloomy and brooding, but what he created -- his mind is something to admire, and he deserves our homage," he said.
For the troupe's patriarch, Sal St. George, the weekend is about celebrating Poe, as well as attracting people to Riverhead's revitalized downtown and educating kids.
"If a kid comes here and hears a story -- if one of these authors reads a story and they like it and they're inspired to pick up a book," Sal St. George said, "then we've done our job."