I love cemeteries. Boneyards. Graves.
Maybe it’s the dichotomy of these places being inherently peaceful yet frightening at the same time. We see the trees, the well-manicured gardens, maybe a gentle body of water as a backdrop to various works of art in granite and other, cold, solid stones. But we know all of this is decoration for what’s just below the surface. It’s like the ornamentation and pleasant setting is the curtain to a very dark and unknown stage. We’re curious as to what’s behind the curtain, but still we pray we won’t find out… at least not today.
Each stone in the cemetery has a story to tell. But some of those stories are so obscure that we pay them no attention. A name, two years, and a hyphen in-between. If the name is unfamiliar, what they did with that hyphen is irrelevant to us. If the name on the stone is a loved one, we don’t need the hyphen to tell us the story this person wrote on our hearts.
We walk through a cemetery and though our eyes and ears lie to us about the tranquility, something far more primal deep within knows we’re walking on a field of bones just below. We know our own inevitable fate lies somewhere down there.
So many cemeteries garner a haunted reputation. We hear of specific cursed graves, or stones where people come to leave coins and other tokens. The legend of those graves call to some, and frighten away others. That reputation is a powerful force. But are we talking about spirits lingering near their headstones or something else?
I’ve often posed to audiences, “If you died, and your spirit could go anywhere, if you had to pick a haunt, would you linger in a cemetery?” No! Of course not. It’s boring. You may choose to haunt your former home. Sure, I get that. It’s familiar. Some of us might haunt the 50-yard-line seats of our favorite football team. But a cemetery? Never.
Then I’m reminded that cemeteries mainly exist for the living. We’re there because we’re not quite ready to let go of the physical parts of our friends and families. We visit, we bring flowers to show respect and love, and we’re a little bit afraid because it feels almost like swimming in the River Styx. That fear may just open up a psychic part of ourselves. A piece of our brains that’s only triggered through fear. The part that will ready us for fight or flight. When we’re afraid, all of our senses get sharper. That little bit of fear may just allow us to tune in to the people and not the bones. We call to them subconsciously, they oblige, and haunt us.
So in a sense, the haunted reputation has everything to do with the living, and very little to do with the dead. Still, we must admire the ritual, the artwork, the pomp and circumstance that has evolved around the boneyard. We all had a hand in making them haunted. I think that’s worth celebrating.
This month I invite you to share your own tales of haunted cemeteries in our Encounters Section (LINK). And since we’re on the subject, I’d like to remind all of you Ghostvillagers to make sure you leave an interesting obituary someday. Do all you can with your own hyphens.