As a Catholic who is also a firm believer in reincarnation, I do not think that our final resting place is a hole in the ground at a plot in a cemetery -- and yet I have always been drawn to these locations. Maybe it's the ghost hunter in me, but I can spend hours treading through the sprawling sites, battling bugs and soft spots, stooping down to read the inscriptions. Usually, you will learn the basics: the person's name, date of birth, date of death, perhaps who they are survived by or buried with. On some of the older headstones, the epitaphs try to tell a story about the individual they represent, using poems and verses to gently lay the body to rest. Unfortunately, many of the markers used back in the 1800s were made of marble, which wears and dissolves over time, rendering the inscriptions unreadable. Sometimes if you attempt a rubbing (a method of reproducing the texture of the gravestone epitaph by placing a piece of paper over the surface and rubbing lightly with a pencil or charcoal) you can make out what they say. Other times, you are left to wonder what words these people, or the ones who loved them, chose as their very last.
Most of the gravestones are either simple (and a little boring) or heartbreaking. There isn't much that can be said about a man named William Archer who lived from 1847 to 1912 and is buried next to his wife, who was born in 1850 and died in 1914. He lived a long life, and since there are no further details, one can only assume that his passing was uneventful. Hopefully he died peacefully in his sleep. Other stones, particularly those belonging to babies (which you see a lot of from the 1800s) will quite simply break your heart in half. Just this past weekend my mother and I were investigating a Baptist cemetery in our hometown when we came across the grave of a husband and wife who were buried with their five children. Not one of the children lived past the age of five. In fact, the mother herself died less than a year after the death of her last daughter, in 1803 -- probably of a broken heart. In our travels we have also seen the wife of a reverend who died at the age of 12, a family of four children who all died on the same day in the mid-1800s, a mother and daughter, Rhonda and Rhoda, who both passed during childbirth when Rhonda was only sixteen, and countless others. It is tragic to think of the mortality rate of the previous centuries, when babies died from asthma attacks and the common cold could wipe out an entire neighborhood simply because they didn't have the medicine and technology we take for granted today.
Then you have the headstones that make you pause and say, "Wait...what?!" The ones with strange epitaphs, ridiculous poems and weird carvings. It's always refreshing to come across one of these, to spot a beacon of light among a sea of decaying, depressing stones. And it's nice to see that a good sense of humor can carry over into the great beyond.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia: Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102 , The Good Die Young.
Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery: Here lies Johnny Yeast, Pardon me For not rising.
Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia: She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her.
Grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania: Who was fatally burned March 21, 1870 by the explosion of a lamp filled with "R.E. Danforth's Non-Explosive Burning Fluid."
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery: Here lies an Atheist , All dressed up And no place to go
Larne, Ireland - On a hanged sheep stealer: Here lies the body of Thomas Kemp. Who lived by wool and died by hemp.
On a coroner who hung himself: He lived And died By suicide
On a waiter: Here lies the body of Detlof Swenson. Waiter. God finally caught his eye. April 10, 1902
On a watchmaker: Here lies in horizontal position the outside case of Dear George Routleight, watchmaker, whose abilities in that line were an honor to his profession -- integrity was the mainspring, and prudence the regulator of all the actions of his life. Humane, generous, and liberal, his hand never stopped until he had relieved distress. So nicely regulated were all his movements that he never went wrong, except when set agoing by people who did not know his key; even then he was easily set right again. He had the art of disposing his time so well that the hours glided away in one continued round of pleasure and delight, till an unlucky moment put a period to his existence. He departed this life November 14, 1802, aged fifty-seven. Wound up in hopes of being taken in hand by his Maker and being thoroughly cleansed, repaired, and set agoing in the world to come. St Petrock's Church, Lyford, Devon, England
New Hampshire cemetery: Tears cannot restore her -- therefore I weep
On an adulterous husband: Gone, but not forgiven Atlanta, Georgia
Stowe, Vermont: I was somebody. Who, is no business of yours.
EDIFICE COMPLEX: Tomb of John Davis + Wife
Vladimir on May 11, 2018:
For the record, the "Russian grave" is a tombstone of Yuri Vladimirovich Nikulin's grave, one of the most memorable artists of the region :)
Susan Saver on April 27, 2018:
My favorite here is the stone of Myrtle Ertle. What was she thinking when she agreed to marry Mr.Ertle?
WILL RAMAGE on September 05, 2017:
The Russian grave looks very much like Al Jolson from the early 1930s film Im A Bum (Tramp). Especially, right down to the slouch hat he wore in the film. Whats ironic is that Al Jolson was in fact Asa Yoelson born in Russia.
Nannette Serra from St. Louis, MO on January 15, 2015:
Who thinks it isn't fun to visit cemeteries? Thanks for the article.
lukea on May 14, 2013:
In the scrabble one, is there an 'L' missing from lovabLe? I hope that's not a mistake . . .
undertaker on July 11, 2012:
trying to compose a cool epitaph for myself. too bad i will not be there to admire it
Tiffany from Springbrook, AB on March 03, 2011:
I can see my dad having Yoda on his... sigh...
PaperNotes on February 15, 2011:
Awesome! These tombstones really make statements!
Rusty Wray on February 05, 2011:
Well as atheist I too find myself fascinated by graveyards. I think it's because there is so much information like how long he lived versus her. Their kids were often buried near them then so you can figure out how old she was when she had the child. All kinds of scenarios
Pat on November 28, 2010:
Take a real good look at the picture of Julia Buccola Petta. That picture is on her tombstone. It was taken after her exhumation. She had been in the ground 5 or 6 years before being exhumed. When she was buried, she had been buried without her wedding ring. Her wedding ring was put on her hand before she was reburied. Not only did she die in childbirth, but the child she was giving birth to died as well. They were buried together in the same coffin. When it was exhumed, although Julia was in perfect condition, the child had experienced the process of decay. Julia had originally been buried in the same cemetary where Al Capone is buried. At some time unknown to me, her body was moved into a mausoleum at another cemetary across the street. Even though her body is no longer interred in Mount Carmel Cemetary, there are reports that people often hear the rustling of a Taffeta dress near Julia's original grave. Her complete tombstone is magnificent! It is a larger than lifesize sculpture of Julia on her wedding day in her Taffeta wedding dress.
DwainL on November 26, 2009:
It is amazing how people still need attention even after they are dead. Good hub.
marissa on November 04, 2009:
Brit on August 28, 2009:
I swear, when I die I'm going to have, "She's dead, Jim." on my gravestone. Hopefully it'll give someone passing in the cemetery a much-needed smile.
Joilene Rasmussen from Ovid on July 04, 2009:
I especially love the story about the body that wouldn't decompose. Is there a fuller, known story behind this?
Valerie Lynn on May 06, 2009:
Nicely done. We who loved it, mourned when it came to its end. Might you resurrect this, or birth a new hub, should you come upon more of these images and epitaphs on your journeys? This would be heavenly! Valerie Lynn
electricians st from uk on April 09, 2009:
wow that's amazing i dont think i've ever seen anything quite like that......
Alexander W. on February 26, 2009:
They don't make 'em like they use to, do they? How fasinating. I've found graveyard to be mysterious and really enjoyed viewing these tombstones. Good stuff, thanks!
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 07, 2008:
Great hub! I too find cemeteries fascinating places, and also don't believe our "final" resting place is a hole in the ground. At least not for our spirit. However, I am surprised that a Catholic would admit to "being a firm believer in reincarnation". Hooray for you! I live between two cemeteries four blocks apart. The one to the east is sprawling and non-denominational, has a duck pond with a gazebo, and is used by locals as a place for quiet walks and quiet picnics. The one to the west is a Catholic cemetery, and used for nothing else. However, it has one unique feature...only visible at night...a tombstone topped by a red light! I'm sure there's an interesting story there, but I like to think it marks the grave of a photographer...his Eternal Darkroom. <G>
A town nearby is the home...sort of...of the Traveling Tombstone. A young Civil War soldier was buried in a little country cemetery west of the town, the grave marked with a very thin, rectangular stone with his name, rank, etc. Problem being it never stayed in the cemetery long...kept getting stolen and ending up in the yards of families with children. Oddly, for such a thin stone, it remained in one piece. A few years ago, new owners of the latest house it was "visiting" located the soldiers' relatives, who returned it to its "rightful" place over his grave. Even had it set in concrete, but those who know the history doubt a chunk of concrete will keep the "Wandering Soldier" from wandering again.
CecilleChase05 on May 01, 2008:
Cool headstones! This hub is really unique. Great job!
Craig on April 30, 2008:
Interesting post.The shot of the tombstone reading 'In Memory of Sundays' is a photo I took in Scotland a few years back, I'm wondering how it is you found the shot?
funcoolcollect from Cobleskill,New York on April 24, 2008:
What a great hub! I really enjoyed reading this. Lot of interesting and unusual information.
Theophanes Avery from New England on February 25, 2008:
The scrabble one was pretty creative! Epitaphs are morbidly fascinating sometimes. I think I want my epitaph to be, "Currently playing with the worms." It'd make some people shudder and some people laugh. I've seen a lot of old baby stones too including one family who also had five children, all daughters, one set of twins. All of their stones read the same day of birth and death. Sad. Good Hub and interesting read.
skatoolaki from Louisiana on February 20, 2008:
This is a great, fun hub! I love cemeteries and absolutely *love* unusual headstones. Some of these I'd heard of, but some were new to me - thank you SO much for sharing! Thumbs way up!
Seattleicity from Seattle on July 26, 2007:
Some of these stones are amazing. I used to find myself drawn to cemetaries--I loved reading the headstones, imagining who the people were.
jstankevicz from Cave Creek on July 25, 2007:
Great collection of unusual stones and epitaphs. Cemeteries can be sad places, but they also can be interesting and amusing. Fun HubPage!
reza on July 25, 2007:
pictures are very interesting for me.