First off, Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of this, one of my favorite holidays, I am going to share some pictures and history on some of my favorite creepy places…cemeteries!
At first, to admit that you really like cemeteries can seem a little morbid, but when considering the history you can learn by simply reading tombstones and the artistic value of the statues and monuments that grace the burial grounds, it becomes perfectly understandable why cemeteries are so intriguing. And yes, they are still a little bit creepy.
Three of the most intriguing cemeteries I have ever visited are right here in Georgia. Colonial Park and Bonaventure Cemeteries are located in Savannah and Historic Oakland Cemetery is located in downtown Atlanta. Since I am way into photography and history, I want to share some of my pictures and interesting facts that I have uncovered about these places.
This is the gate to Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah. Inscribed above the entrance are the letters D.A.R. for the Daughters of the American Revolution, who erected this memorial in 1913. This is the oldest cemetery in Savannah, opening in 1750, and was the primary burial ground for 103 years until it became too crowded and the beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery was established. There are over 11,000 bodies buried here, but only 600 markers are still standing in the graveyard. You are literally walking all over the graves when you enter the gates. The disappearance of these headstones has partially to do with hand of time, but a good number fell victim to vandalism by both British soldiers and Union troops as they occupied the city during Savannah’s times of war.
Along the back wall of the cemetery are a line of broken or misplaced headstones that indicate the handiwork of Union troops as their camp occupied the cemetery. A fine example of “leaving their mark” is the revised dates on many of the tombstones. One member of Colonial Park died at the young age of 11 and left behind his bride of 17 and son of age 12 according to the revision. And one man lived to be 1700 years old according to his tombstone. Also along the wall of removed tombstones are some very interesting, unaltered epitaphs such as the story of one young man from Philadelphia who was simply walking through the streets of Savannah when he was suddenly attacked and killed by pirates.
Among those who make this cemetery their home are many Revolutionary War heroes and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But this is not the resting place of merely war heroes and statesmen but also of notorious duelers, and your average joes who were victims of the Great Fire of 1820 and a Yellow Fever epidemic that killed 1 out of every 10 Savannahian.
But the one thing about the cemetery that is most interesting to me are the old brick vaults that you will see scattered among the grounds. They would appear to be New Orleans style above-ground burials. However, they are not. On one side of the vault you will notice a sealed-up former archway entrance. Inside the archway, many years ago, you would have found stairways that led down into the vault. At the bottom of the stairs you would have found 3 shelves on either side of the room lined with either coffins or shrouded bodies. In the center of the room there would have stood a large urn. The urn was to hold the bones of the older corpses as the shelves became overcrowded with new burials. Ewww. That’s just a little creepy to me.
I wish that I had more (and better) photos of this cemetery to share, but while visiting Savannah, I rarely make it into this cemetery before the gates lock up at the too-early time of 5:00 p.m. We can thank the participants of a suspected gruesome voodoo ceremony complete with a sacrificed goat found in 1999 for the cemetery’s early closure.
I do, however, have many photos of the beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery that replaced Colonial Park as the prime burial ground. It is still an active cemetery today. It is the final resting place of a famous American author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Conrad Aiken, and the resting place of Johnny Mercer, known as one of the greatest American songwriters of our time.
Bonaventure was made famous by John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and by the movie of the same title starring Kevin Spacey. The statue on the book’s cover known as the “bird girl” drew so much attention that it was removed from the cemetery and placed in the Telfair Museum to protect it from vandalism.
This cemetery, with the Spanish moss-draped oaks, gorgeous statues and monuments, and the Wilmington River as a backdrop is lovely year round, but particularly beautiful in the spring when the azaleas are in full bloom, as you can see in this photo. It could rival any botanical garden, in my opinion, in beauty. I took this photo in early April, 2004.
Meet little Gracie Watson. The statue sitting above her grave sculpted in her likeness is the most visited one in the whole cemetery. The Watson family owned and ran the Puluski Hotel in the 1880's and their little daughter Gracie was a huge hit with the hotel's guests. She was so well loved that a sculptor who had been a guest at the hotel sculpted this likeness of her to be placed on her grave when he found out that the beloved seven-year-old Gracie died of pneumonia. I think Gracie is still just as popular today as she had been in 1889, when she passed away.
I took this photo using a soft focus filter on a bright summer day to give it that "foggy" look.
This statue happens to be my personal favorite, however. The blank stare of this woman is both creepy and sad. It sits in the Lawton family plot along the Wilmington River. The name on the marker is Corrine Lawton.
I took this black and white photo using a fog filter to soften it up and give it a "classic" look. I have so many pictures of this one statue, but this is one of my favorites.
And so now, I'll show you a cemetery much closer to my home. This is Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. It is the final resting place for many famous Georgians. Some of the most notable are: Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, the golfing great Bobby Jones(whose golf ball-covered grave cannot be mistaken for anyone else's), Joseph Jacobs, the pharmacist who introduced us to Coca-Cola (God bless you, Mr. Jacobs!), and Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta.
There are so many statues that I would like to share photos of such as "The Lion of Atlanta" that was erected to honor the unknown Confederate Dead. This lion lies on its side across the Confederate flag with the most pained look of anguish upon its face and it is heart wrenching to look at it for very long--a very appropriate statement to make for any unknown dead that gave their life in vain for what they believed in without any glory or any recognition at all. There is another often photographed statue of a mother and daughter sitting side by side in front of intricately designed Celtic Cross. It is a glowing example of the Victorian period.
One that I must share is this picture on the left. I think it is the creepiest one in the cemetery. This poor woman lost her head, arms, and one leg somehow. I am not sure whether this happened at the hands of vandals or the hands of time and weather, but it is most definitely creepy-looking. Notice how the one leg she stands on has become stained over time and is nearly flesh colored.
And this photo is my favorite Oakland shot. I did not use any special filters at all to capture this. I was just lucky enough to photograph this image during the time of day that photographers refer to as the "golden hour", just before sunset. The last rays of dying winter sunlight had briefly illuminated the angel with golden light and I got it just in time.
So I guess this concludes my Cemeteries of Georgia Tour. I may not be a live tour guide, but I will still accept tips. ;)
I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween!
2 weeks ago