Tales from the Dead: Interesting Cemetery Finds by Jeff Johnson
Travelling the small highways of this country gives you an opportunity to see things bypassed by the interstates. With credit to William Least Heat Moon, blue highways represent the two lane highways on the old AAA maps. This series is to share some of the more interesting places discovered during my two wheel rambles around North America.
Needing to memorialize the final resting place of a loved one is a long standing human tradition. From the pyramids of ancient kings to small flags at gravestones of fallen heroes, the need to maintain a memory is deemed important. As with the living, some of these monuments are incredibly interesting and/or exceedingly odd.
During a couple of Long Distance rallies, I was tasked with finding and documenting a few of these shrines.
In the fallen Confederate soldier section of the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, MS, there is a gravesite and headstone memorializing Douglas, the fallen companion of Col. M. H. Moore. ‘Ole Douglas’ was also a camel and is entombed along with his fellow soldiers in this sacred field of solitude.
Henry Wooldridge was considered by many to be a very eccentric man. He commissioned 18 life-size statues of family members, including his horse and his favorite hunting dogs chasing a deer and a fox, to surround his crypt. Henry is the only one buried among the monuments. “The strange procession which never moves” is located in Maplewood Cemetery, Mayfield, KY.
It is no surprise to most, that there are some rather odd memorials around San Francisco Bay. In the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, there are two such interesting markers.
The first is a grouping of tombstones marking the burial locations of twelve members of the Hells Angels. Each monument is complete with the member’s photo engraved on it.
And just over the hill in the same cemetery is a mass grave containing over 400 unclaimed bodies from the Jonestown Mass Suicide perpetrated in 1978 by the infamous cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana. Each of the victims’ names is engraved on the stone tablets laid on top of the tomb.
For the youngsters, this is where the phrase ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ came from.
Everyone has a storyboard of their life; some are just better documented than others for the future to witness. History is for the living but is kept alive by those that have gone before us.