Have you ever taken the time to really explore a cemetery? Not your thing, huh? Too creepy? Weird? Okay, then I am creepy and weird because I love to hang out in cemeteries. Not just for paranormal reasons, but because cemeteries are art and history museums of sorts. Many are architectural and horticultural wonders as well. They are the perfect places were the past meets the present and sometimes they even offer glimpses of the future.
Here in Virginia it is illegal to be in a cemetery after dark without permission. Before you visit one in your area, make sure that you are there legally. That happens to be a major rule for my team- if you trespass in a cemetery, you are off the team. Okay, enough of the disclaimers and the legal spiel.
My favorite time to visit cemeteries is, of course, fall. Fall just makes the atmosphere that much better. I like to look for the oldest graves and headstones as they are generally the most interesting. They often even state the cause of death and have the most ornate carvings and sometimes quotes or sayings about the person. Knowing the history of the area can also help you find cases of multiple deaths from disease outbreaks, major accidents, or disasters. Family plots and crypts are also fascinating. Just to see the multiple generations buried or entombed side by side is interesting in and of itself.
Something we have been doing is daytime IR photography in cemeteries. It gives a whole new perspective on the monuments, sculptures, and stones. These photos do not even require captions or explanations. They speak volumes about their subject matter.
I visited a small church cemetery last year that was quite interesting. The church had long since been torn down and the most recent graves were from the 1940s. It was small, less than half the size of a football field. The local historical society had rescued and recovered it from years of neglect and overgrowth. Many of the stones had been damaged by vandals, tree roots, and time. The graves had long been forgotten and because many of the stones were out of place, they had no way of knowing which one went where. They came up with an idea to still display the stones. They made walkways with them by intermingling them among paving stones and cobblestones. Maybe not the most ideal method of preservation, but it did serve as a memorial of sorts.
It is also fascinating to see the similarities and differences in cemeteries from region to region and country to country. Some of the most awesome ones are the "old world" types that so often come to mind when we think of our favorite horror flicks. Many of those across Europe contain the victims of plagues and epidemics of proportions many of us have never even imagined, much less seen. Those like St. Louis in New Orleans have their residents in above ground crypts and vaults, away from the danger of their swampy environments, but much closer to the living.
One final thought to leave you with: regardless of our status, wealth, fame, or place in life, we all end up in the same place eventually.
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