Weird but True: Strange and Unusual Tombstones
As a Catholic who is also a firm believer in reincarnation, I do not think that our final resting place is a hole in the ground at a plot in a cemetery -- and yet I have always been drawn to these locations. Maybe it's the ghost hunter in me, but I can spend hours treading through the sprawling sites, battling bugs and soft spots, stooping down to read the inscriptions. Usually, you will learn the basics: the person's name, date of birth, date of death, perhaps who they are survived by or buried with. On some of the older headstones, the epitaphs try to tell a story about the individual they represent, using poems and verses to gently lay the body to rest. Unfortunately, many of the markers used back in the 1800s were made of marble, which wears and dissolves over time, rendering the inscriptions unreadable. Sometimes if you attempt a rubbing (a method of reproducing the texture of the gravestone epitaph by placing a piece of paper over the surface and rubbing lightly with a pencil or charcoal) you can make out what they say. Other times, you are left to wonder what words these people, or the ones who loved them, chose as their very last.
Most of the gravestones are either simple (and a little boring) or heartbreaking. There isn't much that can be said about a man named William Archer who lived from 1847 to 1912 and is buried next to his wife, who was born in 1850 and died in 1914. He lived a long life, and since there are no further details, one can only assume that his passing was uneventful. Hopefully he died peacefully in his sleep. Other stones, particularly those belonging to babies (which you see a lot of from the 1800s) will quite simply break your heart in half. Just this past weekend my mother and I were investigating a Baptist cemetery in our hometown when we came across the grave of a husband and wife who were buried with their five children. Not one of the children lived past the age of five. In fact, the mother herself died less than a year after the death of her last daughter, in 1803 -- probably of a broken heart. In our travels we have also seen the wife of a reverend who died at the age of 12, a family of four children who all died on the same day in the mid-1800s, a mother and daughter, Rhonda and Rhoda, who both passed during childbirth when Rhonda was only sixteen, and countless others. It is tragic to think of the mortality rate of the previous centuries, when babies died from asthma attacks and the common cold could wipe out an entire neighborhood simply because they didn't have the medicine and technology we take for granted today.
Then you have the headstones that make you pause and say, "Wait...what?!" The ones with strange epitaphs, ridiculous poems and weird carvings. It's always refreshing to come across one of these, to spot a beacon of light among a sea of decaying, depressing stones. And it's nice to see that a good sense of humor can carry over into the great beyond.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia: Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102 , The Good Die Young.
Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery: Here lies Johnny Yeast, Pardon me For not rising.
Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia: She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her.
Grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania: Who was fatally burned March 21, 1870 by the explosion of a lamp filled with "R.E. Danforth's Non-Explosive Burning Fluid."
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery: Here lies an Atheist , All dressed up And no place to go
Larne, Ireland - On a hanged sheep stealer: Here lies the body of Thomas Kemp. Who lived by wool and died by hemp.
On a coroner who hung himself: He lived And died By suicide
On a waiter: Here lies the body of Detlof Swenson. Waiter. God finally caught his eye. April 10, 1902
On a watchmaker: Here lies in horizontal position the outside case of Dear George Routleight, watchmaker, whose abilities in that line were an honor to his profession -- integrity was the mainspring, and prudence the regulator of all the actions of his life. Humane, generous, and liberal, his hand never stopped until he had relieved distress. So nicely regulated were all his movements that he never went wrong, except when set agoing by people who did not know his key; even then he was easily set right again. He had the art of disposing his time so well that the hours glided away in one continued round of pleasure and delight, till an unlucky moment put a period to his existence. He departed this life November 14, 1802, aged fifty-seven. Wound up in hopes of being taken in hand by his Maker and being thoroughly cleansed, repaired, and set agoing in the world to come. St Petrock's Church, Lyford, Devon, England
New Hampshire cemetery: Tears cannot restore her -- therefore I weep
On an adulterous husband: Gone, but not forgiven Atlanta, Georgia
Stowe, Vermont: I was somebody. Who, is no business of yours.
EDIFICE COMPLEX: Tomb of John Davis + Wife
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