Topeka's Rochester Cemetery and the horror movie "Carnival of Souls"

Screenwriter John Clifford conceived the idea for "Carnival of Souls" after seeing an abandoned amusement park in Utah called Saltair, and pitched it to fellow Centron employee Herk Harvey.
Screenwriter John Clifford conceived the idea for "Carnival of Souls" after seeing an abandoned amusement park in Utah called Saltair, and pitched it to fellow Centron employee Herk Harvey.

Although it's a great description of a cemetery, the title of this hub is not "Rochester Cemetery: Carnival of Souls".

Loyal fans already know Carnival of Souls is a horror flick set in an amusement park in the Utah salt flats. Conceived and written by John Clifford and directed by Herk Harvey (also a co-star), it was made in 1962 for a mere $30,000.

Double-billed with Lon Chaney, Jr's The Devil's Messenger, Carnival of Souls made a decent showing at drive-in theaters in the South. It then slid into oblivion until it was revived and elevated to cult status in the 1980s when it began appearing in indie theaters and on late-night TV. Bootleg VHS tapes made the rounds for years before it was remastered from a forgotten print in a film vault in the UK and made available on DVD.

At the time it was shot, John Clifford (right) and Herk Harvey were each a little over a decade into what would be thirty-year careers as employees of Centron Corporation, also known as Centron Productions and Centron Films.

Centron was the brainchild of Topeka native Arthur H. "Art" Wolf and childhood friend Russell Mosser while they were students at KU in the1940s. After graduation, each left Lawrence briefly, but returned and began making indie films in an old vaudeville theater at 1107 Mass St. (now a bar).

The name Centron was derived from "CENter of the U.S." and "elecTRONics", the new "hot" thing. It was incorporated in 1947. To provide a steady income until they became successful film makers, Wolf and Musser opened a camera store in the front of the building.

Film-making, however, was their first love, and manning the camera store was a problem at times. As Russ Mosser explained in an interview a few years ago, if Art Wolf was off on location, 'there was nobody to mind the store'.

From the Centron Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.
From the Centron Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.
The Mitchell 16mm camera used by Centron in the 50s and 60s, donated to the KS Historical Society by Oldfather Studios, where KU film students had used it.
The Mitchell 16mm camera used by Centron in the 50s and 60s, donated to the KS Historical Society by Oldfather Studios, where KU film students had used it.

Centron's first foray into film-making was Sewing Simple Seams, followed by more indie shorts made in and around Lawrence, which had an ample supply of KU students and locals to appear in them. Their flat mid-western accents lent an air of authenticity not possible with trained actors.

This homespun air would be a plus when Centron established its niche as a maker of award-winning educational and industrial short-length films. Today, these would be called infomercials or corporate training films.

Locals and KU students also worked behind the camera - writing scripts, building sets, and performing myriad other technical tasks associated with film-making. During its 30+ years of existence, Centron was one of the biggest non-KU employers in Lawrence.

Who'll volunteer to run the projector?
Who'll volunteer to run the projector?

Bicycle Safety (1950)

If you were in elementary, junior, or high school in the United States in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, you've probably seen at least one of Centron's films. More likely, many of them.

The classroom shades would be drawn, the lights dimmed, and Teacher's Pet would start the projector.

Yeah, those films.

For its educational ("classroom") films, Centron utilized the interiors of Lawrence homes and businesses as sets. Familiar buildings and landmarks were often seen in the background.

Centron film crews also traveled all over the world producing films for industrial clients such as General Electric, Caterpillar, and John Deere, as well as Monsanto, Hallmark, Conoco, Exxon, Eli Lilly. The biggies of corporate America.

Quite a coup for a small company in a small college town.

Movie stars and other celebrities were routinely flown into Lawrence to film testimonials for the products of Centron's corporate clients.

In 1955, Centron moved out of the old theater and into a brand-new facility that contained additional recording studios and a set construction area in which an entire neighborhood could be built and filmed. It was the largest sound stage outside of Hollywood; it now houses KU's theater and film departments.

Nominated for an Oscar

In 1969, Arthur H. Wolf and Russell A. Mosser, producers, were nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary (Short Subjects) category for Centron's 14-minute film "Leo Beuerman".

The "Leo film" is about 3-ft tall Leo Beuerman, legally blind and the pride of Lawrence, who spends his days repairing watches and selling pencils. He died in 1974, and the bronze plaque on a Lawrence sidewalk in his memory reads: "Remember Me, I'm that little Man gone blind. I used to sell Pencils on the street Corner."

The film didn't snag an Oscar, but the nomination was certainly a feather in Centron's cap.

The clip below is in Spanish, but showing well over half the film, it's by far the longest of the two clips available on YouTube. Even if you don't understand Spanish, you'll have a good idea of what Leo's days were like selling pencils on Massachusetts St. in downtown Lawrence.

But what, pray tell, does an indie film company have to do with Rochester Cem?

Tombstone of Clyde L. HAMLIN & wife Nellie F. (nee Jenness) HAMLIN.
Tombstone of Clyde L. HAMLIN & wife Nellie F. (nee Jenness) HAMLIN.

Well, Arthur Hamlin Wolf's maternal grandparents, Clyde and Nellie (Jenness) HAMLIN, are buried there.

If you've read the other Rochester hubs, you know when I photograph a stone, the next step is to find out all I can about the person(s) under it.

Clyde was a salesman who lived in North Topeka but traveled for a furniture store in Omaha. Nellie was the daughter of early settlers of nearby Franklin County. They married around 1889-90, and their only child, Ruth, was born in December, 1890.

Toward the end of September 1895, when Ruth was 4, Nellie contracted typhoid fever. She languished for several weeks, then seemed to be recovering. On the morning of Sunday, October 13th, however, she had a heart attack - no doubt a result of the typhoid - and passed away. She was 28 years old.

It's not clear what happened to Ruth for the next few years; possibly went to live with Nellie's family, maybe stayed with her father. I don't find either anywhere in the 1900 census.

On 2 March 1904, Clyde also passed away - also from a heart attack - at their home in North Topeka (still standing, btw). He was 37 years old.

In 1905, Ruth was in Topeka, a 14-year-old in the home of a Mrs. Garrie Wilson. She disappears again until 1912, when she married Harry Delmar WOLF, a clerk at the Bank of Topeka. After the wedding, they lived for time with Harry's parents, Cornelius and Laura Wolf.

Arthur Wolf's boyhood home.
Arthur Wolf's boyhood home.

By 1920, Ruth and Harry had moved into their own home at 1158 College Ave, and were possibly living there when their only child, Arthur, was born on 11 June 1917. They were still at this address in 1930, by which time Harry had been promoted to Assistant Cashier.

Harry D. Wolf died in 1952, and was buried at Topeka Cemetery, 10th & California. At some point, widow Ruth went to live with Arthur in Lawrence. She died in 1973 and was buried next to Harry in Sec. 82 on the west side of a large stone engraved simply "WOLF". Harry's parents and brother David Arthur ("D. Arthur") Wolf are on the east side of the Wolf stone.

Arthur, of course, went off to KU and co-founded Centron. When he died on 22 Nov 2002, he left a widow, Catherine (2nd wife?), two grown daughters, a grown son, and 10 grandchildren. I don't know yet where he's buried.

And now you know how Rochester Cemetery and the horror flick Carnival of Souls are connected.

Carnival of Souls (The Criterion Collection)
Carnival of Souls (The Criterion Collection)

Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Special Edition, NTSC

 

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Comments 52 comments

Cellar Door profile image

Cellar Door 7 years ago from South East UK

wow, these have the most enthralling story lines, i was unaware, they kinda suck you in before you've even seen them dont you think!

also, amazing background research there ma luv, top stuff!

CD


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago

Jama - interesting interesting interesting. Apparently, the fact that I like cemetries and can spend time looking at individual resting places is considered odd by those who know me. However, I disagree. I always think about the person, what they did, their life, who they loved, who loved them and so on. I really enjoyed this Jama - great hub and rated up up up :)


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

great hub. It really is interesting to find out about people's lives in this manner -- thanks!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, CD!  First, I couldn't find anything on the Hamlins, then I stumbled across grandson Arthur and into the Mother Lode! 

frog, thank you, thank you, thank you! ;D  Nice to know you're a "graveyard rabbit", too.  (Go ahead, google that...there's a whole bunch like us.)  You'll be happy to know I just found a new place to "play" and will be putting up a hub about it soon. 

Teresa, as I told Cellar Door, I had no idea how *much* I'd find on the Hamlins.  You're welcome!


Nemingha profile image

Nemingha 7 years ago

Very interesting hub. Thanks.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks to you too, Nemingha!


TheSandman 7 years ago

That was great reading simply put GREAT !


badcompany99 7 years ago

Deff you put a lot of work and research into that hub Jama, end result was a little gem, well done !


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Wow the substories just flowed seamlessly! Film, history and a little mystery - hey, what more can I ask more. Another serving of your superb storytelling Jama. Thanks for sharing :D


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

You have more knowledge in the flower of your hat, than I have in my whole hat. Is the Art Wolf (I believe he does the wildlife photography for PBS) any relation?


Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 7 years ago from USA

You have a unique talent for story telling...I enjoyed this article...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Sandman, BC, Cris - thanks, all!  Amazing the things ya find out hanging out in cemeteries...and on the internet...and at the library...and, uh..oh you get the idea! :D  The funniest part is I have relatives in Lawrence who've lived their all their lives, and never, not once, did they ever mention Centron or that there was a movie company in their town. Just another example of not knowing what's in your own backyard!

Candie, I don't know if the Art Wolf at PBS is any relation, but it wouldn't surprise me. 

Nancy, nice to meet you!


Kscharles 7 years ago

Whew! You've done it again! How fascinating but not surprising that you've made these well-hidden connections that connect Rochester Cemetery with Centron film maker's producers, Arthur H. Wolf and Russell A. Mosser. Your genealogy genious and tenacity, coupled with your sidekick alter ego, B. D., ("Bird Dog") ensure your writing success--and a real treat for us readers! Thank you!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Yes, Kscharles, had to give B.D. *a lot* of the high-dollar doggie treats to sniff this one out. Being a bloodhound, you'd think he'd do it without having to be bribed. But you know he won't come out from under the porch unless the treats are to his liking. Don't know why I keep him around.... ;D


lisa 7 years ago

great hub jama as one who has gone on fact finding missions to cemetaries with ya it is nice to see all your research in print


jennifer maurer profile image

jennifer maurer 7 years ago from Chicago, IL

This is why I'm such a fan, jama. Great story along with some very interesting facts! I've always been a bit intrigued with cemetaries for the same reasons. Just never thought to actually do the research. I'm glad you did. Thanks for a great hub!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

JamaGenee: I love the way you always explore a historical aspect of the cemetaries you write about. I loved the history of Centron. Facinating and faceted. Thanks!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Jennifer, as this hub shows, there are great stories in cemeteries!  You're welcome!

Christoph, Centron was a facsinating company!  They won *hundreds* of awards, but never lost their sense of Smalltown America, which in itself is an accomplishment worthy of an award.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

As another one of those cemetery "rabbits" I loved this and how you interwove the story into this. Fascinating! Thumbs up!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, PW!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

Fascinating. I enjoy cemeteries very much, for their solitude, their history, and the information on the headstones. On Madeline Island, off the coast of my home town, Bayfield, Wisconsing, there is a cemetary dating to the 1600's where native Chippewa and Voyageurs are buried side by side. I have been too busy of late to pay much attention to cemeteries. Thanks for taking us to this one and researching the people resting there.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Tom, if that cemetery is anywhere near the Green Bay peninsula, good chance ancestors of the Potawatomi now in Kansas are buried there too.  That's the part of Wisconsin where they fished, hunted and lived  in the 1600s. 


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Jama - Sorry it took me so long to get by to read and see everything. I found this as wonderfully written as your rent-or-own hub - and just heaving (as my British friends might say) with fascinating information.

I love those old safety films - the highlight of many an assembly in the auditorium. And Leo gives me strength: How dare I think I can't do something after watching that heroic man!

As always, J, thanks for a special hub populated by amazing people. You bring what is local to global status - where it belongs.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Mindfield, it's a fascinating bunch. But didn't it just break your heart to see Leo struggle so? Watching him certainly makes the "complaints" of non-disabled people seem trivial in comparison. Also, I gleaned from the much-shorter English clip that he absolutely didn't want charity. If a passerby wanted him to have $5, then they got $5 worth of pencils in return!


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Leo embodied the true meaning of courage and integrity. I am proud to know him through your research. My life will be the better for it.


CabinGirl 7 years ago

I used to hang around cemeteries when I was younger, it was dead good fun.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

CabinGirl, you are soooo funny. Must be why the Captain keeps you around. Right? ;D


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

How do you file all this information in your brain?  Is it alphabetical or by topic?

Very interesting.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Both, LM - it's called cross-referencing. ;D


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

Well, you have more room up there than I do, then. Of course these marbles rolling around in here take up alot of space.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

LM....ROTFLMBO! Is it the marbles that make you so hilariously funnnny???? If so, don't ever lose 'em!


CabinGirl 7 years ago

No he keeps me around to wash all their clothes and cook but luckily tomorrow a new cabin nurse is joining the crew so I will have a friend yayyyy ; )


robie2 profile image

robie2 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

Now this is really wonderful-- First I never knew that Centron did all "those films" that we watched in school, but secondly, I love the way you weave the Centron story in with the Rochester Cemetary--something very profound here about the human condition. Great research and a wonderful story line as always. Kudos Jama:-)


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

robie, these are gems I came across playing tourist in my own backyard. I had no idea, either, who made "those films" we had to watch in school. After learning Centron was connected to Rochester...well, the story pretty much wrote itself. Glad you enjoyed it.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Hey, Jama! Long time, good to read you again! You know how I love you cemetery stories, and this one's a great bio & place combination!

I thought of you while in Berlin, I think you would appreciate the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe. Here's a link that has some OK photos to give you an idea of what it's like.  No headstones for you to investigate there... it's quite impressive once you are right in the middle of it though.

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/berlin-...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Elena, so glad you're back too! Was too busy saying wowwww at your bookshop hub to say "thanks", so I'll say it now: Thank you sooo much! And thanks for the link to the Memorial...I'll definitely check it out. You remembered li'l ol' me in *Berlin*? wowwww...


ralwus 7 years ago

Jama this is the best I think I've seen on HP. I just love it and the vid of Little Leo is so poignant. I never needed translation either. He told me all I needed to know by his very actions. The poor little guy, but he certainly was enterprising and most dedicated and a pretty good driver on his tractor for being legally blind. Alas he is gone with the Woolworth too. so Sad. We had a man similar to him who pushed an old ice cream cart around for many years. thanks for this Jama, you are really quite good at this.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, ralwus. As I said elsewhere her, I had all the parts and pieces but wasn't wuite sure what to do with them, and then somehow it just all fell together. As many times as I visited an aunt in Lawrence, I probably saw Leo, but don't remember. But then, maybe I didn't , because he was certainly memorable. What comes out most in the video is his dignity. I didn't need a translation either, but I still wonder how he drove the tractor without hitting anybody. Maybe people around Lawrence saw him coming and got out of his way??


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

When I grow up, I want to learn how to create interest like that too :D


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

DG, I'd say grown up or not, you already know how to create interest like that. :D


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

I am on loan from the afterlife and my stay here on earth will not be long but I MUST SAY you are a terrific hub writer (in this life) and that my favorite movie of all time is CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

If you feel something brush up against your cheek that's me saying hello and come over (to the other side) and check out my super-natural hub site!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, epigramman. I'm headed over to your hub now.


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Jamma what a fascinating read, I loved how you wove the story of these great people, especially was glued to the video of Leo, imagine him saying this.

"Remember Me, I'm that little Man gone blind. I used to sell Pencils on the street Corner" the effort daily he had to do to get set up,it was so sad, I thank God every day for my health, as without it no money or status in the world can save you. Leo is a shining example of determination and grit and exemplified it. Thanks again, I am honored to have read this great hub, peace and love


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

My pleasure, saddlerider1. When I snapped the Hamlin headstone, I had no idea so many stories would unfold from that one photo. Leo was a wonder, wasn't he? How fortunate for us that his grit and determination to lead a "normal" life despite his handicaps were captured on film.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, Fascinating stuff! I also love mooching around headstones, I discovered so many long lost relatives I never knew I had! interesting to see the connection, many film companies started small then produced something that sent it soaring, I do remember the film, but it was a long time ago, I must go explore it again!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nell, thanks for taking time out from your family hooha to drop in and leave a comment! Besides our own long lost relatives, cemeteries are a treasure trove of stories about total strangers just waiting to be told. ;D


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Jama, you are a fairly fascinating human being. Yes, I said fairly rather than totally but hey, we barely know each other. :) I certainly find your penchant for discovering stories to be fascinating and your obvious love of history to be fascinating. I'd say we are well on the way to calling you fascinating. I'll have to do more research through your hubs since I won't be traveling to Oklahoma anytime soon. :) Great read by the way!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Bill, you too are fairly fascinating! Thanks for the fabulous comment! Did you watch the video about Leo? Still blows me away to see what he went through every day to sell those pencils to support himself. And we think WE have problems...

Now that you've seen the tombstone that inspired this hub, you can see there's nothing particularly "special" about it. But the minute I saw it, I *had* to research the Hamlins, a feeling which didn't creep me out half as much as snapping the photo of Arthur Wolf's boyhood home. Isn't that weird? ;D


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

If it's weird then we are both weird and I can live with that knowledge. In fact I embrace it! :) I did watch the video and it nicely puts life in perspective, don't you think? Thank you for sharing my fascinating friend!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

You're most welcome! I agree, "weird" is good...it gives texture to the fabric of life. ;D


littlething profile image

littlething 2 years ago

Wow. This is a very interesting hub. I love they way you connected this all together! The video with Leo just completed the whole thing. Graveyards can be very interesting, more so if you look into the stories behind the stones. Great hub!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Jackie! Alas, I no longer live near Rochester Cem and have not found a cem here in Central OK that comes close to being the treasure trove Rochester is. But I keep looking! Just the other day I saw a tombstone tucked into the corner of a local cem that looks old and interesting, but I haven't had a chance to make the trek from the nearest road back to it to get a name or dates. At any rate, thanks for stopping by and leaving your wonderful comment! ;D

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