Cemetery Dance

"Graves," Arlington National Cemetery, VA, 1990

“Graves,” Arlington National Cemetery, VA, 1990

What is it about cemeteries that draws us to their hallowed grounds?

Yeah, I know, “they just can’t stay away,” and are….

But, really, what is the allure?

Once you get past the well-manicured state of most cemeteries, the beautiful landscaping…what really draws our fascination?

I admit to visiting them. I find them calming. I also don’t believe that when we die, that’s it—in any sense of the word. I believe in quite the active “afterlife.” When I stroll through them I wonder about the all the lives that have been lived—and I’m excited for their souls. In my eyes they are now moving on to other things with the consciousnesses that had once inhabited those “vehicles of life.” Hopefully, I like to think, they have learned something useful from their lives to apply to other lives they’ll live, or move on beyond reincarnational existence (I actually believe in simultaneous lives, but let’s not go there now).

I’ve tried to explain my own curiosity around graveyards to myself, but, in the end (pardon the pun), I’m not quite sure what really got the interest going—maybe it is as simple as life’s “beginning and ending points,” which do fascinate me, or that death really isn’t the end, or how people die as well as how they live—I’m just not quite sure.

And when you get into the “atmosphere” of graveyards, especially the more established and older ones which I prefer to roam, their leafy trees and old, old buried dead, is it all the years of watching spooky movies? We all do seem to have some measure of inherent “joy of fear,” especially for fear that is removed and not really in our faces, as we watch from living rooms and theater seats. Read books we can put down. But where many cemeteries are built, they are usually at places I like to frequent—full of large, flowing deciduous trees tossing in the breezes, they’re quiet. Calm. Lawns are well-kept. Who wouldn’t one like to stroll through such an area, short of the realization you’re walking over, well, many, many, uh…dead bodies….

So, maybe it does have to do with a little or a lot of all of the above. But I do marvel at the lives lived and wonder how they fared…how they birthed…how they died. How they loved and strove. What kind of people were they? Were they kind? Giving? Hard working? Fun loving? Love the artistry in effort, whether a little or a lot, that went into making the headstones. Headstones say a lot about the dead over which they rest. How well liked they were, how affluent they or somebody who cared for them were. What material was available, what skills. “The sign of the times.”

Are they kept up?

Who’s keeping them up?

Some even show a sense of humor…irony:

Quod tu es, ego fui, quod ego sum, tu eris

The above phrase is said to go back to ancient Roman times, and is included in the more modern version most are probably more familiar with:

Remember me as you pass by

As you are now so once was I

As I am now so you will be

Prepare for death and follow me

And, in all my journeys, I’ve never (to my knowledge) seen any ghosts among the dead—and I’ve tried. Asked for some to present themselves. Never once. Now I have seen ghosts, but not of the human variety, so I know I’m capable of it.

One note: included in the pictures below is a “mummified” human forearm. That photo was taken in a small (at the time) museum in the back of local shop, on the road into Sharpsburg, MD. It was on the left side of the road, as driving up from Alexandria, VA. There was a small article attached to the glass, thought I’d taken a picture of it, but I didn’t find it. What I remember of the article was that the arm was thought to have come from the battle of Antietam, that it looked to have “flash fried” as it was blown off its owner. I forget the rest of the details, or where it was found, maybe when an building was being excavated? Just don’t remember. But it was creepy, and, once again, rammed home the horrors of war.

Okay, originally, I was going to include more photos of other cemeteries, but once I scanned in the set, below, I thought, these look so cool on their own, give off such a great, creepy, atmosphere, I have to keep them by themselves. Like my previous post, all the shots in this post were taken with film, then scanned. I love how they came out. And these are just the ones I could find, I know I have more. I might do another post for other cemeteries, but for now, I’m keeping the “Cemetery Row” work (Alexandria, Virginia, back in 1990), below on its own, with a few from Sharpsburg, Maryland (Antietam Battlefield, same 1990 timeframe) as their own post.

So…what better time to revisit and share some of my favorite cemeteries than during the haunting month of October?


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About fpdorchak

Speculative and paranormal fiction author. Please check out my website: https://www.fpdorchak.com/. Thank you for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Leisure, Metaphysical, Reincarnation, Spooky, To Be Human and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Cemetery Dance

  1. Nice to know I’m not the only one who appreciates and visits cemeteries, just for their sake! I can’t fully explain it either – it’s not the “spooky” factor to me. It’s the astounding number of lives that once existed (and where they are now – I can’t fathom, I can only hope it’s incredible) – it can be overwhelming to me, especially in a very old cemetery, as in my recent first trip to Boston. It started when I was a teenager and decided to care for some late family members’ monuments. I soon realized the the “couple next door” didn’t seem to have any visitors, so I “adopted” them. Now, I have to visit a cemetery on every vacation!

    • fpdorchak says:

      Yes, the topic elicits interesting responses from people, doesn’t it?

      But, that’s a very caring act on your part, blackcatpratt, very nice of you to do so for the family. I tip my hooded-Death’s-head to you! :-]

      And thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Karen Lin says:

    I LOVE CEMETERIES. But the ones with the verticle headstones…older the better. I love reading the stones, the peace, the emotion. I figure I’m surrounded by people who are actually having the chance to slow down and smell the roses. Creepy? No… My boys used to hold their breaths as they passed a cemetery….as if a ghost will come and whoosh up their noses…who am I to say that can’t happen (sinus infection anybody?). My hubby is Chinese with about 5,000 superstitions (one for each year of recorded Chinese history). He believes a ghost can go home with you in a camera so doesn’t feel comfortable taking photos in them… I wrote a screenplay with just that as the inciting incident — Frank, you may remember that is how we met.
    My favorite was Pere Lachaise in Paris. Even without Morrison’s grave.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Oh, yes, the OLDER the better! I always look for the oldest stone around. I no longer recall what that year is, but back in New England I found one in [only] the late 1700s, I think it was.

      So, we met over some dead bodies? Really?

      My heart be stilled. ;-]

      Well, you might have to refresh my memory, cause I tend to switch realities kinda frequently, so can’t keep things straight, nor remember all the different lines-of-chronology…. ;-]

      It’s not that I’m at all “creeped” out in them, as in scared…it’s the ATMOSPHERE I’m talking about in the really “good” cemeteries (the trees, old stones, layout, crypts, etc.), the Night of the Living Dead-lilke atmosphere. I love it.

      Thanks for stopping by, again, Karen!

  3. Yvonne Montgomery says:

    Wonderful post, Frank. I, too, love cemeteries, my favorite being Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Boston. So many historic monuments provide perches for hawks and other less predatory birds. And the grounds are so beautiful. I have hopes of visiting some of the Civil War cemeteries one of these times.
    Thanks for the slide show, too. And Happy Halloween.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thanks, Yvonne!

      Yes, the Civil War ones are quite heart-wrenching. I suppose any war-graves are. The massive scale of lost souls. The emotion, the anger, the terror. The utter tragedy of all war. I’ve visited about 6 or more Civil War sites, and they all get me right deep into my soul. They’re quite moving to me. There’s little in the way of explanation the way they so dig deep down inside me, short of reincarnational explanations. No other way to describe it. I hope you do get to visit some.

      Thanks for commenting, and happy Hallowe’en to you, too!

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  5. Ron H says:

    The most amazing experience I’ve ever had at a cemetery was the Memorial Day candle walk at the Union cemetery at Maryes Heights in Fredericksburg Virgina. On the walkways, there were over 15,000 candles burning in paper bags. Before taking the walk we had spent a couple of hours on the battlefield and I swear I could hear the rattling of caissons, the snorts of the horses, the roar of the cannon.

    A most sobering event.

  6. Wendy Brydge says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Frank. You know, my mom always loved cemeteries, used to like to stroll around them in the evening, but I don’t share that desire to go out and ‘mingle’ with the dead. I don’t know what it is, I just never found cemeteries to be peaceful.

    Only a few miles up the road is the cemetery where my mom is buried. It’s an older cemetery, with the earliest stone dating to 1898. And I’m sure it’s even older than the oldest marked grave, because walking around, it’s obvious that there are many unmarked graves too. But there’s one marker at the back of the cemetery that perhaps explains why I don’t enjoy going to cemeteries. It was just a flat, on the ground plaque. It had been carelessly run over by the lawn mower so many times that it was broken into pieces, many of them missing. And all it said was “Mrs. John Brown”, 1873 – 1924. That is the coldest, most loveless grave marker I’ve ever seen.

    As a Christian, of course I don’t believe that death is the end. I don’t see death as a bad thing, and I certainly don’t fear it. But I don’t like it either. And being in a cemetery only makes me think of the people who were left behind to mourn these dead. The pain they felt. Or like Mrs. Brown, the poor souls who had no one to love them. So I don’t make many unnecessary trips to them. Although being the family genealogist, I DO enjoy seeing the graves of long dead ancestors. In fact, I’d love to make a trip to the Oxbow Cemetery in Newbury, Vermont one day. A lot of important family are buried there from the late 1700s.

    Sorry I’m writing a book here, Frank! :- P But I hope that Mrs. Brown is resting peacefully now. Last year, my dad and I, unable to walk by her pitiful grave any longer, gathered up all the remaining pieces of her marker, put it all back together, filled in the missing parts, repaired what was there, and made a concrete base for it so that the lawn mower can do no further damage, then coated the entire thing in wax to further protect it.

    Placing that newly repaired stone on Mrs. Brown’s grave and saying a prayer for that unknown lady is the one fond memory I have involving a cemetery.

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