We always try to visit an old cemetery during the Halloween season. While visiting a cemetery can be a spooky experience for some, its also very peaceful and calming. It can give you a chance to reflect on life, our lost loved ones and our own mortality. Personally, we love the old cemeteries that are so hard to find nowadays. We don’t like the “plaque in the ground, looks like a park” type, we like the kind that has old headstones, crypts and mausoleums.
My wife was lucky enough to grow up back east and lived just down 2 blocks down the street from the town cemetery. It is a large, rambling cemetery with small rolling hills, lots of trees, hundreds of headstones and monuments, including her family’s section. She liked to go there as a young girl to read the tombstones or read a good book and just be alone for a while. It was her private escape. As a teen, she and her friends would go there all year long to hang out. But on Halloween night they always went for ghost stories, hide and seek and generally just to scare the wits out of each other. To this day, it’s hard to keep her away from a good cemetery! Every time she goes back for a visit, she, her mom and her sister take the 80 mile drive to the town they grew up in to look at their old houses and visit her families section where her dad’s ashes now resides.
Since no one we know personally is buried at our local cemetery, which is dates back to cowboy days, we pick a grave at random and honor that person by clearing the area of over growth, brushing off the headstone and placing a bouquet of fresh flowers. Our local cemetery has been around since the “old west” days so there are some very interesting headstones there that are very old. As a tribute to those who have gone before us, we like to recite a short poem like “Walking Among Different Graves” by Gwendolyn Golden.
Different people, different names
Yet, the same story follows all
Death has claimed the life
So many headstones
Beautiful flowers blooming wildly
Death is silence upon the grave
If we go in a group to a cemetery at night, sometimes we sit in a circle and take turns telling ghost stories. After all, what better place could there be than a graveyard? We bring some pillar candles in glass holders, so we can light them and make a circle to sit in or place them on top of some of the tombstones to light up our area. We then take turns telling a ghost story that we’ve heard, either real or made up. By the time we are done, we are all a bit on edge. Even adults can get scared, you know! Keeps that adrenaline flowing, it keeps you young. Everyone has at least one urban ghost story to tell or one that actually happened to them.
Check out the Halloween Ghost Stories web site for lots of creepy ghost stories. They have long stories by some known and unknown authors, also poems, urban legends and works of Edgar Allen Poe. There’s plenty of stuff there to use or to give you ideas on what to make up for a ghost story! There is also a wonderful article published at the Halloween site that has tips and suggestions for the best way to tell a ghost story. Yes, there really is a way to set things up to make a spooky story even spookier!
Gravestone rubbing is a technique used to make a paper print transfer of the carving on a gravestone. There are some truly beautiful and interesting old headstones and taking a rubbing is a unique way of duplicating its face and has actually become an art form. We frame and hang up some of our better rubbings as house decorations for Halloween.
Before attempting to make a rubbing, make sure you get permission from the care taker first, do your research to learn how its done and never do anything that could damage or harm a gravestone. We never take a rubbing of a stone if it is badly worn or crumbling as it could damage the stone even more. Look for the very interesting, the older the better, the ones with a most intricate design on them. Those make the best rubbings.
You can use black or sienna stick charcoal and large sheets of thin tracing paper, which can be found at any arts and crafts store. Some people like to use loose charcoal powder and a stiff brush but we find that the stick form works best for us. Using a sienna (it gives the rubbing a sepia look to it) is a good choice if you are going to frame your rubbings. This subtle reddish color just makes it look old and gives it a rich, deep quality. Check out Gravestone Rubbing Supplies for a full line of tools and supplies. If you don’t purchase from them, you can get an idea of what you need from your local art store or craft dept. at a mass market retailers.
Always show respect! If you decide to visit a cemetery, make sure that it is a public cemetery and that you know its rules of operation. Only go during its posted visiting hours and never disturb any grave site. If it is a private cemetery, get permission before entering. Some cemeteries actually have a no rubbing policy. The people buried there deserve your respect! Take pictures, do rubbings, walk around and look at the tombstones, but never take anything and never disturb anything! A cemetery can be a very peaceful place to connect with death as well as life, so treat it with the respect that it deserves! and remember, there are people laying just 6 feet below you when you walk from grave to grave. Unless we are taking a good look at a headstone we try and stay at least 6 feet away from the head stone so that we know that we aren’t standing on someone. That alone can creep you out, knowing that just below you lies the remains of a person that once had a life and family. Unless you plan on being cremated like we do, that could be you under there someday!