Sunday, October 6, 2013

Scary Cemetery Stories

October is always a good time to write scary stories. Truth is, with all the time I spend in cemeteries, I don’t have many scary experiences. Probably the scariest one of all was last weekend when a thousand-pound headstone fell on someone. She got away with just a broken ankle. Hell, that thing would have crushed her if she had not jumped far enough out of the way. As she walked around it, she felt a vibration, and down it came.

Many people think of scary stories when they think of cemeteries, mainly because that is what the media feeds us. Working in cemeteries, volunteering to help restore them, raising money to keep them going – these activities bring you back to the reality that a cemetery is just a piece of land. Or is it?

Every once in a while, I hear a scary cemetery story, told by some seemingly sane person, even a close friend. As a result, it brings me right back to wonder about the whole idea! It was a nun they say invented barbed wire, Henry James tells us in his novel, Ulysses.

So I do hear my share of scary stories, and I thought I’d share a few with you. Here’s one: I was part of a photography workshop in a cemetery recently and a gentleman in his sixties told me that when he and his sister were young, maybe four and five years old, their nanny would sometimes dress the two children in white “Holy Communion” type outfits and lead them to the cemetery next door. This was in the mid-1950s. The nanny would have him and his sister lie down on graves “like little angels” and take pictures of them! Wait! It gets better! He STILL has the pictures!

Here’s another one: It’s not unusual to find dolls and toys propped up against a child’s headstone. Sad, surely. But this toy story has an odd twist. In a Philadelphia cemetery stands a large granite monument with a few names inscribed on it. You wouldn’t even look twice, it looks so average. I was walking past it with a friend of mine who said, “There’s the famous Currie monument.” I asked what she meant. She said a psychic had been through the cemetery and stopped at this monument, saying she sensed a “protector.” Supposedly the spirits of children surrounded this man’s grave. The reason? “He protects them from all the evil in this place.” She told me people put toys behind the monument for the children. I looked behind it and saw a toy truck and a doll.

Graveyard dolls
Speaking of dolls, they themselves are creepy enough, but finding one in a cemetery just adds to their creepiness. I’ve found voodoo dolls and this thing you see here, sort of a mammy doll (also at the top of this article) with a small pillow sewn to her back. The dolls that a friend of mine found once, though, were more disturbing. Knowing a particular cemetery quite well, he noticed something sticking up out of the ground in front of a headstone.

He went to investigate, and found a freshly covered hole, with a doll’s feet sticking out of the ground! He dug around it a bit and was shocked to find two naked Barbies tied together, facing each other, with shards of broken glass between them! Most likely some voodoo or Santeria spell. (Based on a five minute search of the Internet, here’s my analysis: a spell to break lovers apart. Perhaps some interloper trying to separate a couple of lesboterians? Or maybe worse.)

I leave you with yet another doll story, creepy, yet funny in its own way. A woman I know had spent her childhood living near a cemetery. She and her friends learned to ride their bikes there, played there, walked through it to get to school. One of their pastimes was to go into the cemetery at night and hang their Barbies from the tree behind the old crematory, "just to see if they would still be there in the morning." They always were.