10 most scenic cemeteries

Prague Cemetery

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a link to a CNN article about 10 of the most scenic cemeteries in the world. Enjoy!

10 most scenic cemeteries…

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Newcastle Cemetery update

Many of you have read my earlier posts on the Newcastle coal miner’s cemetery located just outside of Seattle. Here’s a link to a news video highlighting the site and the $9,500 grant given to help clean and restore the broken headstones. Congratulations, Newcastle!

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The end of the line

After almost three years of writing about historic cemeteries, interesting anecdotes, and funky headstone symbols, Beyond The Ghosts… is closing its doors to any new posts. However, the blog will remain as a static site for those looking to do research and yes, if you leave a comment, I will still respond.   
 

There are several reasons why but time is probably the biggest. Multiple new projects keep pushing me into various directions, severely limiting the time needed to research interesting new angles.  

Good stories take a while to discover and develop.  

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a believer in quality, not quantity. Far too many blogs and content sites seem more concerned with putting something out there, just anything, in order to keep the search engine spiders hitting. That’s not my style and I won’t insult readers by doing so.  

General interest runs a close second.  

Like most bloggers, I keep an eye on the stats to find out about the audience. Unfortunately, the past several months have attracted far more spammers than readers. I’m not sure whether this means spammers think cemeteries are the new hot thing or whether it simply proves their complete lack of awareness. 

Regardless, the combination of the two has made me realize that this very interesting ride has finally come to an end.  

What a privilege it’s been.  

I’ve traveled to unique places like the early Christian catacombs and an old western ghost town, accessed one of the most fascinating research places in the world (Westminster Abbey), and had the good fortune of meeting dedicated volunteers whose work in these historic sites all too often, goes unnoticed.  

My sincerest appreciation goes out to all those who supported the Beyond The Ghosts… efforts over these past three years—4Culture, the Newcastle Historical Society, Ruth Pickering, Karen Bouton, The Seattle Public Library genealogy experts, and many others who took time out of their busy day to point me in the right direction.  

Last, but not least, thank you to all those who stopped by to read an article (or two) and offered their encouragement.  I’ll still be around to respond if the muse moves you to comment on particular post.

It really has been quite a fun ride.  Many thanks to you all.

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Teddy’s Story: Decoding the kanji stones

This week’s guest post comes from Kristy Lommen whose website serves as a tribute to the Auburn area’s Japanese communities, both past and present. Over the past year, Ms. Lommen worked with Yoshiko Kato to decode as many of kanji stones as possible before they faded away. Here is one of their discoveries:

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

When Yoshiko Kato visited the cemetery to translate the kanji stones, I was particularly excited when she reached the fourth marker in the first row. Although the family surnames had been previously translated from most of the stones, this particular stone was marked on our transcript with only a mysterious, black question mark. We had, at that time, not even the least idea who might be buried in that grave.

Yoshiko kneeled in front of the marker, leaning forward and backward alternately in order to make sense of the nearly illegible marks. She resorted to using a finger to attempt to trace the kanji, gleaning by feel information that proved to be too faint to read by eye.

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Now about that cemetery in the backyard…

Idyllic pastures

 

Homeowners wanting to purchase that historic 18th or 19th century farmhouse would do well to think it through before handing over the escrow down payment. Many of these lovely old places come with an unexpected little extra located in the far corners of the property—the family cemetery.     

Finding out about these potential new neighbors generates mixed reactions. For some, it only enhances the overall attraction and connection to local history while for others it’s an immediate deal breaker – especially if it’s a cultural no-no.     

Revolutionary War veteran, died 1850

 

This past April, the New York Times reported on one potential buyer who refused to even look at a $3 million dollar property because it was next to a cemetery while another discovered an 1812 marker in the front lawn after escrow closed. Figuring it was just part of owning a house constructed in the late 1600s, the owner shrugged and added the upkeep into his regular lawn maintenance duties.     

Then there are those who feel they’ve hit the jackpot.     

One Maine family was ecstatic to discover a late 18th century cemetery lurking in their backyard. After clearing out numerous piles of brush and tree branches, the cemetery was re-dedicated with a pretty little memorial plaque and even got its own website.     

Abigail Wellman: died April 12, 1817, 50 years old

 

Old family cemeteries are a lot more common than most people realize and they’re not just found in the New England or mid-Atlantic areas. There are just as many private cemeteries located in the South. But let’s not forget the nation’s longest rural graveyard either; the Oregon Trail. A leisurely drive along the pastoral byways in all of these states will reveal any number of weathered headstones standing guard on a lonely hill.     

Old cemeteries encountered rough times during the recent housing boom when developers pushed further out into previously rural areas. A 2006 Washington Post article highlighted the challenges some of these forgotten sites faced in Tennessee.     

“State archaeologist Nick Fielder estimates that there are 20,000 family cemeteries in Tennessee, but there’s no way to know for sure. There’s no central inventory, and most documentation is done by historians and volunteers who scour records and trudge through meadows in search of graves.     

Fielder says about 100 family cemeteries fall in the path of development in Tennessee each year, about two times as many as a decade ago. Under state law, he said, there’s nothing sacred about sites. Relatives of the deceased have no legal leverage over family plots they don’t own, and landowners who can pay to move a cemetery need only a judge’s approval.”     

Thankfully, the lucky ones are removed to a new location while others, like Comet Lodge Cemetery in Seattle, get stuck in a very odd kind of limbo. Interestingly enough, this particular area is now home to many Asians who would consider it very unlucky to live near a cemetery.     

So what happens if you buy that gorgeous fixer-upper and (gulp) find out there are a few more residents on the place than originally thought?     

Family cemetery, upstate New York

 

Well, the first thing to understand is that most states do not consider the abandoned family cemetery on your property to be yours, regardless of whether you hold the title. You cannot just simply up and move the bodies on your own. However, since rules governing this process vary around the country, it’s best to review cemetery laws at the state level. For example, here is commentary on Florida’s regulations, a link to New York State’s cemetery law manual, the friendly, Q&A styled version for Virginia, and an artistically presented handbook from South Carolina.     

Barring that, there’s always the option of simply leaving the new neighbors alone. After all, it’s not very likely they’ll be throwing loud parties anytime soon.

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The high altitude cemetery at Aconcagua

Flickr photo by photonooner

 

Aconcagua reaches upward to 22,841 feet and is located in the Mendoza Province of Argentina. It is the highest mountain in the Americas and the highest mountain outside of Asia. While Aconcagua is one of the magnificent Seven Summits, no technical hiking skills are required to hike it. Instead, a very high level of physical fitness, stamina, and perhaps the ability to control one’s temper when navigating the endless slag fields is recommended. In 2009, it was estimated that over 8,000 permits were issued to hikers looking to add this peak to their ascent bag. 

Flickr photo by Russ Osborne

 

Not everyone is successful. 

Last year, the BBC interviewed the chief park-keeper, Daniel Cucciara who commented: “Most visitors to the park are from the United States or Europe. Forty percent of the tourists who come here do no preparation at all. If you come to Aconcagua you need to have a mountain culture, you need to have climbed other mountains…you need to have trained for two or three years in gymnasiums, done a lot of running, and even then this doesn’t mean you are going to make the summit. You never know how your body will respond to such high altitudes.” 

That’s potentially 3,200 people who, for whatever reason, decide to risk altitude sickness, navigating with crampons in the dreaded White Wind of Aconcagua,or worse, pulmonary embolism, without first undergoing this strict training regimen. In 2009, 280 people were evacuated from the mountain. Some of those who didn’t make it are remembered with boots and gloves in a small cemetery not too far from the mountain’s brooding gaze. 

More resources: 

More cemetery photos via Flickr

Still want to climb Aconcagua? Visit SummitPost.org 

Note: while this video offers stunning views, the music is a bit dramatic. 

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Scaring up more cemetery repair funds

Flickr photo by borman818

 

This past August, BTG posted an article on how cemeteries could raise extra maintenance and repair funds. Some of these ideas included growing special heritage roses, art exhibitions, and Living History Performances. Today, we stumbled across two more interesting ideas we’d like to share: 

Idea #1: In Cumberland, Rhode Island, local middle school athletes are competing in a pledge drive to raise money for the Elder Ballou Historic Cemetery that will go toward cleaning up the site. And what do the kids get for doing all the work? Well, they get to wander through the cemetery the day before Halloween, listening to scary, and maybe not-so scary, forgotten stories from a local park ranger. 

Idea #2: Capitalizing both on the idea of cemetery tourism and the American love of road trips, Hillsdale.net reports on the nation’s first historic cemetery tour that covers the entire state of Indiana and ties in with several local autumn festivals.  Talk about good planning! 

“Over 50 miles will be covered along the trail that utilizes historic Route 6 (The Grand Army of the Republic Highway) as the connector for the two counties and will eventually makes its way toward Chicago in the future. Proceeds raised from the Trail will in part go to the historic cemetery conservation in DeKalb and Noble Counties. A host of other activities will be taking place during the month such as the Apple Festival, Pumpkin Fantasyland and the known Owl-o-ween throughout Noble County. Foil impression art workshops of historic monuments will also take place, along with other speakers on historic cemetery topics throughout the month.”

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