Cemetery geocaching: Has treasure hunting gone too far?

Flickr photo by Bob-n-Renee


Geocaching has rapidly become the modern day version of treasure hunting. At this time, it’s estimated that over 1.1 million enthusiasts using a variety of GPS tracking devices are currently searching for treasure boxes located in over 100 countries.

Caching is a popular outdoor activity ranging from the tamer family outing on local trails to the higher risk rock climbing or even scuba diving expedition. It’s all in the name of locating a hidden container filled with various small items like toys, buttons, and Travel Bugs (items that move from cache to cache).

While most caches are located around trails and parks, a controversy has arisen over geocaching in cemeteries, prompting one county in Texas and some states (Tennessee and South Carolina) to ban them altogether. This has generated a wide response from geocachers eager to defend their activity while other enthusiasts admit that perhaps there should be a more subtle approach to cemetery caches.

According to one forum responder:

“Caches in cemeteries have been tricky things. Most folks are respectful and all that but, (there is always a but) others are not. There was a cache in Tennessee that required the cacher to move the burial stone somehow to retrieve the cache. This was a couple years ago. Poor taste, lots of upset people etc. In (I think Ohio) cachers were running a bit of a competition with caches in cemeteries. Very poorly done.”

Does this mean cemetery geocaching should be banned entirely? Well, it depends.

If it means hiding Tupperware containers (or surplus ammo boxes) in, around, under, or above a headstone and if finding said box requires any sort of digging or shifting or patting of the stone in order to find it, then yes, it should be banned. Family members (or conservationists) should be the only ones puttering around the site in this manner.

If you really must have an actual cache, place it outside the cemetery boundaries. It’s simply a matter of discretion and respect.

However, caches should not be banned if they are location-less:

(A description is given for something to find, such as a one-room schoolhouse, and the finder locates an example of this object. The finder records the location using their GPS hand-held receiver and often takes a picture at the location showing the named object and his or her GPS receiver).

…Or virtual sites:

(Caches of this nature are coordinates for a location that does not contain the traditional box, log book, or trade items. Instead, the location contains some other described object. Validation for finding a virtual cache generally requires you to email the cache hider with information such as a date or a name on a plaque, or to post a picture of yourself at the site with GPS receiver in hand).

Old cemeteries and ghost towns have enough problems with vandals as it is and if there is a way to generate interest in local history then by all means, let’s keep it. In fact, BTG posted an article last week about one teacher doing just that.

Cemetery geocaches are most likely here to stay and the only way to slow them down, or perhaps stop them altogether, would be to remove the GPS coordinates from online sites like FindAGrave.com, a valuable tool to both genealogists and cachers alike. Since this is highly unlikely, perhaps the best approach to cemetery caching is to simply apply some respect and a whole lot of common sense.

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Filed under Commentary

8 responses to “Cemetery geocaching: Has treasure hunting gone too far?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Cemetery geocaching: Has treasure hunting gone too far? « Beyond The Ghosts…A Cemetery Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. I’ve been contemplating a mystery cache near one of the local cemetaries, but the container would be outside of the boundaries of the burying ground. Like anything else it simply requires respect and common sense. Unfortunately, some are lacking in either or both and it reflects poorly on other cachers.

    • G.E. Anderson

      It really is too bad because caching is such a great outdoor activity and it can be really beneficial to so many historical spots.

  3. Lisa

    I think cemetery geocaches are a really great thing. There are cemeteries out there that do not really get visited for one reason or another and this way it brings people to the great history that is there. All the geocaches I have found in cemeteries are respectful. I have even hidden some cemetery caches and I never hide them near a headstone.
    Because of geocaching I have learned alot about cemeteries. I never new some headstones would tell how old the person was in years, months and days. There are so many cemeteries i would have never seen if it wasn’t for geocaching.
    I really don’t think they should be banned at all. I have been dealing with an injury and it is nice to get out and do some easy caches and visit these cemeteries and walk arond them and learn some history.

  4. Sseegars

    They were not banned in SC. We reached an agreement for the good of the sport. The politician who rode this to the senate was an evil, lying, manipulative person. And morally corrupt. Perception is everything though, or so they say.

  5. Christopher

    Each location is unique. One of our local cemeteries, recognized nationally (http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/dec/05/1205_vale/), Vale Cemetery, Schenectady, NY, treats geocaching as many parks, preserves, and other locations do: they see it as a venue to advertise their existence and a way for people to visit and enjoy it. Bernard McEvoy, the President of the Board for Vale embraces geocaching. Fellow cachers have hosted an event in the past to help mark notable graves with coordinates. I have a couple of mystery caches that help to point out many of the notables and other cachers have also placed caches in different parts of the cemetery. But as mentioned, different locations are more sensitive than others. Reach out to your cemetery before placing any caches so that you have the full picture of what is good and/or bad for your cemetery.

  6. Pingback: Thoughts for Thursday: Geocaching in Cemeteries | Preservation and Place

  7. Pingback: No peeing (or pooping) in the graveyard. | Beyond The Ghosts...

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