Is Topeka's Rochester Cemetery a Ghostly Playground??

The thing about cemeteries is they're filled with objects that aren't supposed to move. But in Rochester Cemetery they do. A lot.

Oh sure, it's always blamed on the ground contracting and expanding during the winter. Or the ground being soggy after a rain. Or the gale-force winds that sometimes precede a storm. And when those won't work...vandals.

Well, how 'bout giving some of the credit to Rochester's permanent "residents" popping out for a little fun...

It must get awfully b-o-r-i-n-g just lying around for all eternity with absolutely nothing to do. Who's to say those who were practical jokesters before they were planted aren't still doing it?

Scaring the bejeezus out of mortals is for amateurs, the Newly Arrived.

Old timers know messing with tombstones is much more fun!

Stone marking the grave of Malyssa M. FULMER, born 6 Dec 1854 in Pennsylvania; died 26 January 1927, Topeka KS.
Stone marking the grave of Malyssa M. FULMER, born 6 Dec 1854 in Pennsylvania; died 26 January 1927, Topeka KS.

Malyssa Fulmer's for instance...

When she was born back in 1854 in Pennsylvania, the tree behind the stone wasn't even a glint in God's eye yet. Trees were scarce in Kansas Territory until it was opened to white settlers only a few months before Malyssa took her first breath.

At some point after that, the seed for this particular tree stowed away in the prairie schooner (covered wagon) of a pioneer family from Back East bound for the Land of Milk and Honey, was picked up by a bird and dropped on this spot, where it took root. By the time Malyssa died at the age of 72, it was only a sapling. When daughter Bertha chose this spot for her mother's final resting place, she may've looked forward to the shade it would provide on the blistering hot summer days she'd bring flowers.

Exhibit A - no tree roots

Tombstone of Earnest K. (or N.) HAYNES, son of A. F. & L. J. Haynes, born 5 January 1885; died 6 January 1895.
Tombstone of Earnest K. (or N.) HAYNES, son of A. F. & L. J. Haynes, born 5 January 1885; died 6 January 1895.

Alas, Bertha is herself long dead. No one brings flowers for Malyssa anymore, or notices that her tombstone is listing westward. A lot.

The scientific explanation, of course, is that as the tree grew, so did the roots. Out and up. Supposedly moving Malyssa's stone in the process. Oh, please... Are we really supposed to believe a bunch of roots can move a quarter ton of granite?

And what about Earnie Haynes's stone? See any roots that could've scooted the top part several inches to the north?

Right...

Sadly, Earnie died the day after his 10th birthday...from what, I have no idea.

But let's be real here. A 10-year-old boy on his own in a strange place with nothing to do means there will be mischief. With a capital M.

Don't let the fact that the angels took him at such a young age fool you. Ten-year-old boys are clever. Probably tweaked his own stone a bit to divert suspicion from himself.

Stone for Lora B. STUART, dau of L.J. & M.E. Stuart, born 22 Feb 1883; died 25 Oct 1894.
Stone for Lora B. STUART, dau of L.J. & M.E. Stuart, born 22 Feb 1883; died 25 Oct 1894.

And to impress his neighbor, an "older woman" - almost 11 years old. Miss Lora B. Stuart. Part of her stone is visible to the left of Earnie's in the previous photo.

Considering Lora passed away only three months before Earnie and how close their stones are, it's a good possibilty their families were related, or at least close friends.

That they both died so young and in the winter would indicate they succumbed to one of the childhood diseses that are no longer life-threatening to today's children.

But I digress...

Annie LANG & Mira ARENDS

The stone in foreground is for Annie LANG, dau of Caroline Lang, born in 1908; died sometime after mid-1920.
The stone in foreground is for Annie LANG, dau of Caroline Lang, born in 1908; died sometime after mid-1920.

Poor Annie Lang...

No doubt about it, Annie Lang's stone was going to be a target for pranksters the minute it was set.

Clearly homemade from a slab of concrete, the name and dates look to be drawn with a stick. Perhaps by her widowed mother Caroline, a "saleslady in a grocery store" in 1920. When that year's census was taken, she and 12-year-old Annie were two of the 13 "roomers" in a boarding house at the edge of downtown Topeka. Alas, the year Annie died is illegible.

Mysterious Mira...

To the left of Annie's stone is that of Mira A. (nee Platts) ARENDS, born in 1809 in New York state; died in 1895. According to an old city directory, in 1859 Mira A. Platts was a resident of New York City. No clue where she was from then until 1895, when she appears in the KS State Census with her German-born husband, H.A. Arends, a farmer. She was 85, he was 77. There's a story in that I'll bet.

You'll notice Annie and Mira's stones fared a little better than the pine tree behind them. The missing chunk is definitely the result of a storm, but no storm tilted those stones like that...

Which brings us to little Lee Roy Morris...

Little Lee Roy has been out here for 105 years, but his stone is perfectly level and perfectly intact. I find that very odd. A stone that old and so far from the others with no visible damage.

Unless, of course, you count the bird poop on the bottom section. Bird poop that looks amazingly like a gentleman in an overcoat. It clearly has a head, a body and two legs. Is this Lee Roy's way of saying he's not a child any more and can do what the big boys do?

Makes ya wonder what he's been up to all that time, doesn't it??

More by this Author


Comments 64 comments

Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Hey Jama! If you turn this into a cemetery series and publish a book with the compilation, I'll be the first in line to buy it! I already mentioned in the sister article, I'm just fascinated by old (and not so old!) cemeteries! So much history (and FUN, if the right writer takes it upon herelf to write the story) within!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Good morning, Elena! Not sure about turning these rambles into a book, but I think I've found a niche. I like to wander around cemeteries - the old sections, that is - and you know me, I'll find humor where most think there is none. Combine that with my curiosity and love of history. FUN hubs about cemeteries! Oh, and did I mention a great-grandfather was a stone mason? Think that has much to do with why I appreciate the fancier stones in graveyards.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I was prepared to be spooked all the way through but there are your anecdotes and side comments! So I settled somewhere between being scared and amused which of course make for great entertainment! You made fun characters out of the "ghosts" in this one. If only the trees in that cemetery could talk! :D


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Did I say they couldn't?? Savin' that one for another hub! lol! (Just kidding.) Cemeteries are only scary places at night, which of course is why I only visit them during the day!


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Right, ghosts just wanna have fun. Only we mistake it for something else. Yep, it's always the live ones' fault! LOL

Seriously, I have this fascination for tomb stones. Names and dates interest me, and the dead's age at the time of his/her death. Morbid I know.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nothing morbid about it. Sounds like plain ol' curiosity to me, and for a brief instant (while you look at a person's name and dates) acknowledging they were once alive like you are now.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia

G'day JamaGenee you brought back some memories for me OK.

I was born (no not in a cemetery, wait for it) across the road from a cemetery next to an old church. It was scary enough during the day but at night I had to go with my older sisters and look for the ghosts.


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 7 years ago from Hell, MI

I spent plenty of time in cemeteries in my youth. In fact I hubbed about it a while ago. I like your tongue in cheek approach, but I also think it's nice that you took the time to learn about the people in your hub. Thanks for another good one!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, BT! I'll go look at *your* cemeteries hub!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hwy, ag! How are you? Born across the road from a cemetery?? Oh, how creepy. Not during the day, of course, but at night. Did your sisters (and you) ever find any ghosts?


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia

Well we did hear some groaning and some chain rattling.

But it turned out to be some drunk from the pub trying to get in the gate to sleep it off.

When we grew up to teenage I had to keep snitch for my sister while she met her boyfriend. Being the gentleman that I am I did not have the faintest idea what they were getting up to? :-)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

JG - enjoyed this one. Very good hub!


R. Blue profile image

R. Blue 7 years ago from Right here

Nice interesting piece...yes I see a book of Cemetery Travels....I like the fact you did research and made up your own stories of what was going on.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Paraglider, glad you enjoyed it, and nice to see you too. 

R. Blue, a cemetery would seem like the last place to get hub ideas (other than tombstone inscriptions), but they're a treasure trove of story lines, funny as well as sad!  This hub came out of some of the pics I took on the most recent trip.  People who fell through the cracks of history.  Another rather unusual tombstone turned to be that of the widow of a French doctor and war hero who came to America and fought in our Civil War.  


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Delightful, Jama! I agree with others that you may have a quite lucrative niche here with your research skills, humor, imagination, and conversational style. Looking forward to more "tales from the cracks."


robie2 profile image

robie2 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

I've always loved cemetaries so I really enjoyed this, Jama--and you take great pix too. I especially love the home-made cement stone. Right you are, there must be a story there.

It was delightful accompanying on your walk through Rochester cemetary. Like you, I've always felt kind of sad about the children and taken a special interest in them. I also notice in old cemetaries how many stones there are for babies, young children and young women who probably died in childbirth. It was common not so long ago.

I find cemetaries very peaceful, tranquil places-- which is probably a good thing as I am bound to end up in one one of these days LOL Thumbs up!


Cindy Letchworth 7 years ago

Enjoyed all the little details you noticed. Some of them truly look unexplainable. I'm with you, whose to say those little spirits aren't playing about and causing a little fun!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Sally! Like the saying goes, one can either laugh or cry, and I prefer to frame these 'tales from the cracks' with laughter, as I'm sure those who lived them did before the Grim Reaper arrived. 

robie, nice to have you along on this ramble. We should do it in person soon - as observers, of course, not Newly Departeds!     


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Fantastic! My sister belongs to IBIPSA, so I am absolutely going to pass this along to her. As for me, I love this piece of yours. What wonderful observations and wonderings. I love it.


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

I loved this hub.  I have been to that cemetery when I was a kid!  My Grandmother lived in Topeka and used to take us on picnics in strange places, cemeteries’ being one of them.  My favorite Cemetery used to be in Cripple Creek Colorado, before the "Beautification Committee”  (run by the new casino owners wives) repainted the old wrought iron with gold paint and placed fake blue flowers at all of the graves. I enjoyed your light touch, and loved the pictures. Thank you. 


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Aw shucks, Frieda...just something I threw together for your enjoyment.  lol!  THANKS!

Paper Moon, glad you enjoyed my ramblings and the pics.  Wow, your grandmother lived in Topeka?  How neat that she took you to Rochester!  It's without a doubt my favorite cemetery there.  As for the casino wives at Cripple Creek - what were they thinking!  Gold paint, identical fake flowers.  Ewwww...  Just thinking about it makes me cringe!


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Darn you, Jama. I come home depressed enough and now I'm crying my eyes out (not kidding) over Annie Lang and her mother.

I can see the dear widow spending the last of her savings on the concrete, then using a stick to carefully etch her beloved daughter's name so that the child will have a memorial.

How could you do this to me?

And aren't you a wonderful writer to be able to elicit such an instant response? Indubitably.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Meg, it wasn't on purpose! Really!  I'm soooo sorry I made your day worse.  How 'bout a cyber hug? ((((((Meg)))))))

If I email you a plain cotton hanky, will that make it better???


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

interesting observations...i love to visit old cemetaries, great places...and there you are ferreting out stories...enjoyed the pix as well...i go to one old cemetary in my city and often visit the tombstone of two children who died in 1918 or around then...their grave is always decorated and i wonder who does this, it's quite touching


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hi Dolores. How touching that you visit the grave of those children. Might be a relative decorating it, but could as easily be a stranger who doesn't want them to be forgotten. In the early 1900s, three toddlers from a family no relation to me were buried in a common grave and then the parents and one other child moved away without erecting a tombstone. I found out quite by accident that the babies were there, and visit every now and then, and sometimes take flowers.


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

I wanna be part of the Rochester Graveyard too! LOL

I enjoy reading the hub of the tombstones and its origins. I kinda wonder if Bertha and Earnie are trying to get back together like old times. Are the graves actually getting closer to each other? Hmm...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Oh, mayhmong, I never noticed if the graves were getting closer! I'll have to keep an eye on those two! ;D


2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Thanks for an interesting Hub. Old cemeteries are fascinating. Is this one in Rochester New York?


Rainbow Brite 7 years ago

If you're considering at all doing a series of hubs in this vein, there's a website near Paris, Tennessee, I think it's called Dubin Hill or Dumplin Hill or something like that and I've been there and it's freaky as hell. Some people I used to know got some awesome things on camera there. Lots of legends, the most prevalent being the slave that was hanged for impregnating his white mistress, and I experienced the legend first hand. Awesome hub keep it up!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

2patricias, you're most welcome! No, it's near Topeka KS, but some of my mother's people settled in Rochester NY, and this one looks very much like photos of cemeteries there.

Thanks, Rainbow Brite!  The cemetery near Paris TN sounds interesting, but I'll leave  ghost hunting to imadork! He just joined a group that does that.


Nelle Hoxie 7 years ago

You have a real knack for telling history and making it feel like a novel. I've worked in a small, local bookstore for years and this type of local history sells big time. Especially around Halloween. Please keep these coming!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nellie, thanks for confirming that local history sells! Due to the positive responses to both Rochester hubs, I'm now *seriously* considering a book. Meanwhile, I'll keep these coming!


badcompany99 7 years ago

Awwww poor Annie Lang, if I ever win the Lottery Annies getting a new Tombstone. Great Hub !


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Kinda my thought too, badcompany. As as matter of fact, I'm trying to find out more about poor Annie Lang.


J Mockridge 7 years ago

Bringing the dead alive. Good hub.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, J! You have some good hubs too!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I've only written one cemetery hub to date but have more in the making like you. They truly are fascinating places and I also find them peaceful. I like how you interjected speculation and humor into your piece along with the good photos. Thumbs up!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Peggy, I've read your cemetery hub and am looking forward to more! Yes, cems are peaceful but fascinating places. I used to only visit them to leave flowers on Memorial Day or find the grave of an ancestor. Never occurred there were so many stories begging to be told!


R. Blue profile image

R. Blue 7 years ago from Right here

And I know just the person to tell them....I'm serious...broaden your horizons and do a traveling cemetery collection....I'm sure the hubbers here could give you great leads. The thing I really like about your hub is the research and the speculation you inject...hooks the reader.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Why thank you, R! Alas, time and resources limit these rambles to within 100 miles of Rochester Cem. But when I'm traveling farther for other reasons, of course I check out local cems. But all leads are welcome - I might get to some of them!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Where did this hub come from? It's like it just appeared....out of nowhere!

As usual, you've taken us on a trip that is much more than what is expected. Your little tidbits of Historical facts are like little rest stops along the way, where a traveler can get a cold drink and stretch out a little before hitting the road, or trail, again.

Fun and Jama entertaining!


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Quite an interesting hub and I would have to say myself that there is something eerie going on at the cemetary. How did the birds manage to doo-doo like that? mmmmm.. has my curiosity aroused. :)


jjrubio 7 years ago

Very interesting.....I could tell you some cemetary stories..But maybe I will save that for a hub of my own. Good reading...LOVED IT!


Raven King profile image

Raven King 7 years ago from Cabin Fever

Very interesting. You noticed the ghosts and they must be pleased finally someone noticed them! Sometimes I think my house is haunted. Usually something settles unexpectly and makes a little noise. boo. haha

A very Good read.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Christoph.  Nice that most people think I actually *wrote* this hub, when it's like you said - it just appeared out of nowhere.  (Just kidding.) lol!

AE, isn't that bird poop just the oddest thing?  I didn't notice how "human" it looked until I was cropping the photo.  But it's rained since the pic was taken and I'm sorry - or glad, depending - to report the bp is gone.

jj, I've no doubt you can write a great hub about cemeteries!  I'll be watching for it!

Raven, I think the Dearly Departed *are* pleased to be noticed.  As for your house being haunted, unless lights and small appliances switch on and off by themselves, or you see someone that doesn't live there stepping into the bathroom and disappearing (to name only a few of my own experiences), the noises are probably just the house settling.  So boo to you too! ;D 


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/chp/crg/crgbiblio.htm - Now here's a group we cemetery fans should join. Check out their fun event schedule!

Oh, and a little poem for those who may need a reminder:

Ghosts in every graveyard

We all know to be true

Hosts of fat hobgoblins

Owls and witches, too

Bats and headless horsemen

Devils dressed in red

Dancing in the nighttime

O’er the dreaming dead

But one thing I can say for sure

And this will never vary

The letter “a” is not allowed

In any ‘cemetery.’


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Meg, loved the poem!  What a great reminder for a common (and irritating) spelling error!

As for the link to Cemetery Research Group, why am I not surprised it's at the University of York?

There's also a group called Graveyard Rabbits that could be fun, although membership requires setting up a blog about nothing but cemeteries and burial practices.


santoion profile image

santoion 7 years ago

I believe that YOU are Great !


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Another great hub, JamaGenee. Reminds of a few years ago when my late cousin, who lived across the street from a cemetery in Yonkers, took me on a tour of it to show me where many of my relatives are buried. Cemeteries are truly fascinating, especially when you know something of those who reside there. It seems the old the tombstones are the more interesting they become.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Yes, Bill, I think the older stones are more fascinating. How lovely of your late cousin to show you where your relatives are buried. Several times a year, I'd take my kids around the cemetery where many of our ancestors are buried. Don't know if they remember any of it now, but hope so.


Whikat 7 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful hub JamaGenee, I spent a lot of time in my childhood playing in the cemetery and visiting the tombstones of many. I think this must have been brought on by my aunt who lived in Mississippi. Everytime we visited she would take us to the cemetery and tell us stories about the people buried there, Just like you did in your hub.

I really enjoyed this hub, because I could almost picture being in the cemetery and you pointing out each grave and telling the story as if we were really there. You really are an incredible writer, I hope there is a lot more cemetery stories in the future.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

You're most welcome, Whikat! And yes, there will be more cemetery stories in the future.


Whikat 7 years ago

Good to hear JamaGenee, I am looking forward to them. :-)


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

I've never thought to ever say this before but after reading the last portion of the hub, I'm going to say it...bird poop is creepy!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

mythbuster, you'll be happy to know that the creepy bird poop is gone, thanks to a couple of rains since this photo was taken. ;D


Kim Garcia 7 years ago

Beautiful Hub!! I love the narration of history about the souls beneath the stones. What a great piece as I could imagine this as a wonderfully moving video with background music and actual narration. I've always felt a bit of nostalgia and solace while amongst the stones at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta....where Margaret Mitchell was laid to rest. Lovely piece!!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Kim! "Nostalgia and solace"...yes, I feel that too in most every cemetery.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I also like looking at the old stones in a cemetery, I often wonder who they had been, and what the had done in their lives, this is really thought provoking, maybe you are right! lol it would be nice to think so, cheers nell


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

My son and I used to take walks through the cemetery looking at names and ages at death and come up many stories to scare the britches of his mama. She would never go with us. That was fun. Yours is a very likeable story, thank you for sharing it.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hi Hubert! Shame on you and your son for purposely "scaring the britches off his mama"...but thanks for a GREAT laugh when I picture her reaction to your tales!

As for sharing this "very likeable story", Rochester was a great cemetery for likeable stories. I haven't found any cems here in OK with anything close to its charm and ambiance. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. ;D


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

In Cushing, Ok where I was born there is a cemetery that was closed years ago that has some old graves. The cemetery has visiting hours I believe. Cleveland, OK is where my son and I walked mostly.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

So you're an Okie. What a small world! I was in Cushing a couple of times last year, but haven't had a reason to go back...until now. Do you remember the name of the cem, or what part of town I might find it? ;D


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Where some people see headstones you see stories -- inventive, imaginative stories! I love the details that you draw out, like the curiously shaped bird poop, the couple with the age difference, and the stick drawn lettering. I hope you continue this hub, possibly in other places you may visit? What great possibilities!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

@FlourishAnyway, where I live now the cemeteries aren't near as "target-rich" as Rochester and other cems in states settled decades before Oklahoma. I've also written about interesting tombstones at my blog, Saturday's Child, so many of the stories inspired by them are over there and I need to re-add the link to SC in my HP profile that I deleted during one of HP's compliance overhauls.

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