Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Graveyards, Boneyards and Cemeteries


Orphan at the Cemetery,
Eugene Delacroix,
Loure, Paris.

Students of the supernatural try to classify their anecdotal collections of spectral encounters based on standard criteria, one being, like real estate agents, location, location, location.

Because one theory about ghosts is centered in the idea that some essence of a once-living spirit is tethered to its bones, may haunt its final resting place, and may, on occasion, rise up to clutch at the unwary in morbid, resentful vengeance, a graveyard (the modest form of the term necropolis, city of the dead) is, therefore, the subject of a high degree of superstitious fear.

Crowded cemeteries comprised of tombs, mausoleums, and crypts -- and rumours of strange lights and eerie sounds and necromantic conjurgation among the stones and sepulchers -- enhance this theory of the restless dead rising from their houses. Or uncoiling from catacombs, from those ways beneath the marble.

The fact that cemeteries of that sort were often the abode of refugees, bandits and excavators -- since tomb raiding is also among the oldest professions -- serve to supplement the legends and contribute to the sense that such places are to be avoided, at least in darkness. At midnight when the dead walk, by their choice or another's, when the solitary wayfarer cannot discern, by his lantern-cast shadows, between the real and the unreal -- and fears both.

And I have a true tale to tell about a fiendish twig on the family tree, if you stroll by Friday.

38 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Ooh, I'll definitely stroll by Friday.

I've had it in mind for years to use the idea of bokors (evil witch doctors, basically) using human bones for their black magic or for their zombie creation. A cemetary would be a fitting setting for that.

Or someone digging up family bones so as to keep a certain power in the family, or to protect the family. Ancestors were traditionally buried beneath the floor of the family dwelling in many African villages. They were protection and were consulted before major decisions were made.

And I've always liked the term necropolis.

BernardL said...

It’s weird, but I find walking through a graveyard at night to be oddly comforting. My favorite is an old one just above the ocean in Monterey, with huge decorative tombstones. The fog covers it most nights. I took my Grandson there during a weekend stay last summer. We peered at the dates and epitaphs in the darkness with a chill wind blowing off the ocean carrying the fog up with it. He wants to do it again around Halloween.

Carla said...

I shall look forward to your Friday post.

ChrisEldin said...

You tease and tantalize...
Will be by on Friday!
:-)

writtenwyrdd said...

BTW, I believe I saw that painting at the Louvre. Amazing how the photographic process can change the colors so much.

Charles Gramlich said...

Many of the cemetaries in New Orleans have become havens for drug dealers and junkies after dark and aren't suited to walk in at night. Although I used to enjoy being in cemetaries at night, I don't go here.

Bernita said...

Ancestral power, Written.
Often bones and grave dirt was collected from cemeteries but rites took place elsewhere with the help of a nganga, but I agree.

You realize you may have contributed to another ghostly tale by your wanerings, Bernard! That flitting figure in the fog!
I also find them pleasant places - a probable remnant of a Victorian view of graveyards as philosphical sites.

Thank you, Carla.He was, by all accounts, a totally irreverent dude.

Chris, I just didn't want my post to be too long.

Add to that, the quality - or lack of it - of my scanner, Written.

December/Stacia said...

Oooh, can't wait for Friday!

I love cemeteries. I love using them in books especially.

Bernita said...

The criminal tradition of the graveyard carries on from antiquity, Charles.

Bernita said...

Thank you, December. Inevitably, A Malignity employs several cemetery scenes.

spyscribbler said...

Well, I love the history in cemeteries, so we often visit a bunch when traveling, rub the tombstones, etc. Even in the same day, there are some I love, and there are others where DH can not get me out of the car for anything.

SzélsőFa said...

Count me in your cemetery walk this Friday, Bernita :)
I'll be sure to read this one as well.
Did you know that there are places in our modern worlds where very poor, homeless families actually live within burying chapels. They keep it clean and safe from invadors and burglars, and so they are allowed to have a place to live. Those people surely do not afraid of the ghosts of a cemetery - and will become one when their time comes...

raine said...

Oh, I like Szelsofa's idea--a cemetery walk! I'll be here.
I've never taken a stroll through one at night. Must do so sometime.

Bernita said...

The older ones especially, Natasha,when the stones were often less abrupt with their information.

Yet another example of history repeating, Szelsofa.
What an interesting subject for a book!

Dificult to do these days, Raine, without inviting a visit from a highly suspicious cop.

Scott from Oregon said...

We have a cemetary virtually "next door" and I won't go there at night.

Too many skunks wandering about.

Bernita said...

Never the safest place at night without a good light, Scott.The ground underfoot can be quite... uneven.

laughingwolf said...

i'll be here friday, bells, and a bit more, on ;) lol

speaking of the dead:

Necrophilia, also called thanatophilia and necrolagnia, is the sexual attraction to corpses.

It is classified as a paraphilia by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

The word is artificially derived from Ancient Greek: νεκρός (nekros; "corpse," or "dead") and φιλία (philia; "friendship").

The term appears[1] to have originated from Krafft-Ebing's 1886 work Psychopathia Sexualis.[2]

Rosman and Resnick (1989) reviewed information from 34 cases of necrophilia describing the individuals' motivations for their behaviors: these individuals reported the desire to possess an unresisting and unrejecting partner (68%), reunions with a romantic partner (21%), sexual attraction to corpses (15%), comfort or overcoming feelings of isolation (15%), or seeking self-esteem by expressing power over a homicide victim (12%).[3]

Bernita said...

Quite, Lw.
And zombies may return the favour.
Lillie makes reference to it.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I lived at the fence to a graveyard for some years and never saw a ghost. Some visitors, though, couldn't understand how I could like living near such a scary place.

The reason is simple: no one was going to fell the trees and build some ugly house there.

Bernita said...

And we lived in the second house from one, Gabriele.
Intellectually, I can understand people's fears and reservations about graveyards, but cannot share them.

writtenwyrdd said...

My inlaws lived across the street from a graveyard. Thus they had an uninterrupted view of the lake. No one was ever going to build and spoil their view, either.

They were very quiet neighbors!

Steve Malley said...

We have a mighty fine cemetery here in Lyttleton. You can see it in that old Michael J Fox movie The Frighteners. My favorite thing about it: so many of the graves have iron fences around them, one assumes to keep the living out or the dead in.

Big fan of Delacroix, btw.

Vesper said...

Oooh, a fiendish twig on the family tree... can't wait to find out about it!

Bernita said...

"No one was ever going to build and spoil their view,"
Sadly, that's not always true, Written.

Steve, "good fences make good neighbours"
Fences were one way to assert the family plot and prevent encroachment by other burials.

He was a scapegrace, Vesper!

StarvingWriteNow said...

Last year at a writing retreat we had a psychic come visit, for fun and career "advice". Right in the middle of everything she leans around everybody, looks me dead in the eye and says, "Your grandmother is with you. Did you know that?" After a moment of "Who me?" and "What?" I was informed that spirits attach to people, not to places. It was interesting in a creepy sort of way.

Bernita said...

It would seem that some do, Beth, but there are several varieties of ghosts.

haunted author said...

Wow- this is really cool! Love graveyards. Theres a small one on the road to our house- its really overgrown and one would not know it was there, unless you knew it was there.

In late fall, early winter when the brush and stuff dies away, my son and I go in and clear it up. It seems so sad to me that its just abandoned. One time we went by the road and a neighbors cows had gotten in! The neighbor was upset- he had forgotten about the proxcimity of the cemetary to his field. He and my husband went in together and fenced it off- the old fence had disinigrated.

I have been doing a lot of research on the Bell Witch legend- one theory is that the Bell House was built on- wait for it- yes! an Indian burial ground.

Bernita said...

Haunted, there are a lot more abandoned graveyards than many realize from old settlements.
Even with known ones, the burials have been found sometimes to extend beyond the present perimeters.Records lost in fires, epiemics.

laughingwolf said...

cool, but i still await weirdly 2, in book form....

Aine said...

I've always been comfortable in cemeteries. I suppose that at a young age I decided that those spirits are at peace. It's the locations of traumatizing deaths where I thought the wandering spirits would be found. An old house can be much more unsettling to me.

Bernita said...

Lw, I have no idea at the moment when, or even if, Weirdly II will see print. The last I heard from my editor they had 18 books in the pipeline.

Still, the belief persists, Aine, and is why, I suppose, so many older tombstones reveal the hope (or alternatively, the charge/demand)that the dead "Rest in Peace."

Lana Gramlich said...

The ghost idea might also stem partly from the Celtic notion that the land, itself, retained memory of events that took place there. In a similar vein, the dead were often buried under or near trees, to give their spirits/souls/what have you a new "home." To the Celtic mindset, the body might die, the person's spirit still lived in (& could be contacted via,) the tree.

Bernita said...

In early times, where I come from, Lana, it would have been difficult NOT to plant a body near trees!

Many cultures have felt it is unwise to disturb the dead.

Barbara Martin said...

I'm here Friday, but much too early, yet.

Very fine post this, getting spooky before October even arrives.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Barbara. It's up now.

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
innocent said...

well walking in the grave yard at night is seductive

Bernita said...

To the imagination, certainly, innocent!