Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Things that go bump in the cemetery

Tate's post yesterday got me thinking about cemeteries. Because sure as anything, if we're on a family trip and I spot an interesting looking old cemetery, we have to stop. For me, it's about the stories I find there. Like the Confederate graves in the old cemeteries here in Missouri (supposedly sharpened at the end to keep the Yankees from sitting on them.) Or the grave of voo doo queen Marie Laveau, with its markings and the gifts of candles, beads and rum bottles that people still leave.

Yesterday, I was fixing lunch, thinking about this post, and I realized I have cemeteries in two out of three of my latest works. In The Accidental Demon Slayer, they end up in a werewolf cemetery. I remember having a lot of fun imagining what that would look like. The mausoleum of the Alphas were round (with the motto never backed into a corner) and the graves were topped with crescent moons, in addition to the usual angels and crosses.

Then part of my story for the new Mammoth Book is set in a vampire cemetery - more of a memorial ground since most of the vamps that had been killed merely had their ashes scattered. But it has all of these looming bronze statues of vamps. It was a lot of fun to write.

Some day, I'd like to set a book down in the catacombs in Paris. Has anyone ever been there? It's creepy to say the least - and really cool. In the 1700's, the city planners in Paris decided to tackle the overcrowding problem in their cemeteries by disinterring millions of Parisians and relocating them to the catacombs. But they didn't just move them, they made artwork. It even used to be a popular gathering spot. In the 18th century, people would picnic down there. Can you imagine? Pass the cole slaw and is that Aunt Esther?

Down in Mexico, one of my wildest experiences was Day of the Dead. It's a celebration of All Saints Day that starts on November 1. People gather in cemeteries on the evening of October 31 and camp out with their deceased loved ones all night. They talk, laugh, pour drinks on the grave. The belief is that the souls of the dead can come and visit on that night. Families display pictures, make these elaborate decorations with marigolds and spend an evening with their ancestors. I've never seen anything like it.

So what about you? Have you ever visited an interesting old cemetery, or do you avoid them?

16 comments:

Margay said...

I live in Massachusetts, not too far from Concord where there's an old cemetery that has "Author's Row" - lots of historic authors buried there. I like visiting old cemeteries - there's some cool ones up in Gloucester, MA, too, with old sea captains and their wives buried there.
Margay

Jess Granger said...

I think the most interesting cemeteries I've seen are the one in Paris where Mozart and yes, Jim Morrison are buried, and the pioneer graveyard in Yosemite valley.

We did a gravestone "hunt" in Yosemite, and one was simply marked, A Boy. I can't stop thinking about that one. It is also striking to note how young everyone is, and sometimes what they died from. There were a lot of accidents and drownings in the river.

Jess

Angie Fox said...

I think I went to that one, Margay - years ago. I was visiting a friend in Boston and she started taking me to all of these cool old cemeteries. What a good friend. :)

The old sea captains would be neat too. So much history.

Angie Fox said...

I've never been out west - always wanted to go. The ghost towns would be so interesting to visit.

Carmen R said...

I love old cemeteries but, I have never been to a famous one. I use to do rubbings of the headstone when I was younger. Then I started taking pictures for awhile and that started because of riding by one and noticing a road sign to the entrance that said dead end. I just had to take a picture of it I mean they just tell it how it is don't they lol. My grandfather use to take me to old graveyards here in Georgia. He told me one time that he found a new one and as we pulled up to the place he says "People are just dying to get into here". No wonder I'm such an odd person lol

Ann Aguirre said...

You know, cemeteries seriously skeeve me out. To put all those dead people in one place? What were we thinking, I ask you? When the zombie virus strikes, that will be a logistical nightmare.

Jess Granger said...

Speaking of west, Kate Pearce is giving away a free book on my blog today. Stop on by and leave a comment.

http://jessgranger.blogspot.com

Jess

Casey said...

Avoid a cemetery? Never! Too much history in a really good old cemetery, too much art and architecture. Here in the Cleveland, Ohio area, we've got some great cemeteries. I love exploring them, and lately, my husband and I have been getting involved with a couple restoration groups. Last year for Memorial Day we placed flags on veterans' graves. Sounds easy, until you're dealing with old cemetery maps, names in records and on headstones that are different, toppled headstones, etc. It was a weekend of treasure hunting. This October, for the release of Pepper Martin mystery #5, "Dead Man Talking," I'll be doing a signing at a cemetery. Talk about fun!

Angie Fox said...

That's great, Carmen. And hey, you're not odd - you're colorful.

Angie Fox said...

But, see, Ann - when the zombie virus strikes, we know what places to avoid!

Angie Fox said...

Oh that is neat, Casey. I would be there in a heartbeat if I lived anywhere close.

Jane said...

I've never visited an old cemetery. I try to avoid them, but I think it would be interesting to visit the cemeteries in New Orleans.

Estella said...

I love old cemeteries. There are quite a few here in OR.

Angie Fox said...

St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans is really neat. One of the most interesting features, I thought, were the "rental" crypts from the late 1800's. If you couldn't afford to buy a burial spot, you could pay to stay there for three years. Only, they had some kind of earthquake, I think. The ground sank and the wall of crypts sank into the ground. So anybody who was buried or half-buried from that got a freebie.

Angie Fox said...

Oregon is beautiful, Estella. I went to Portland back in 2002 for a writer's retreat and loved it.

Raven99 said...

I have never really thought about visiting old cemeteries. It is a cool idea, but I haven't done it before. I live in a small town, so the cemeteries around here are not very interesting. Next time I travel somewhere, I just might hunt one down and look around.