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Not the 'Purloined Letter,' but close | (UPI) -- The tale of the letter that ended up in the walk-in vault at St. Paul's Episcopal Church hasn't the horror that marked the works of its author.

But like the missive in the "Purloined Letter," the document addressed to "J.C. Passmore Esqr." was tucked away in an envelope among other documents that had been put in the vault for safekeeping.

The letter is signed by "Edgar A. Poe," with a flourish and an underline. It goes up for auction today at Christie's in New York.

"I was absolutely stunned when I saw the letter," Paul Haubrich told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's in great shape, done on very high-quality paper that, when folded up, creates its own envelope."

Haubrich came across the document while trying to clean out and organize the vault.

The letter was dated Feb. 12, 1840, and concerned a series of articles for Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine, of which Poe was assistant editor. Passmore, then living in Lancaster, Pa., had proposed the articles but Poe explained the magazine was losing money and could not afford to pay contributors -- except those who were really well known.

Passmore later became a rector at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Racine, Wis. The letter was among documents from a Milwaukee law firm that had handled affairs for Passmore's descendant, Eric, who joined St. Paul's.

Experts value the letter at $15,000 to $20,000. Proceeds of the auction are to go the church's music program, a fund established by the Passmore family. Church officials are hoping the bidding will go higher.

Poe is considered the father of the modern detective and horror stories. Some of his best-known works were the "Purloined Letter" and "The Pit and the Pendulum." His poetry included "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee."

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