taphophile (plural taphophiles)
If you haven’t noticed by now, I LOVE CEMETERIES! I think they are some of the most beautiful and peaceful places to visit. I love that the headstones often leave little hints about the people buried beneath them. If you take the time to learn a little about tombstone symbolism and wander around your local cemetery, you might be surprised at how much you can learn. And, if you take it a step further and do some research you might be surprised with some of the stories these people have to tell from beyond the grave. I definitely consider myself to be a tombstone tourist, and usually while on vacation I make a point to check out at least one cemetery.
The Dead History’s Top 5 Favorite Cemeteries:
5. Mt. Olivet Cemetery – Salt Lake City, Utah
Mt. Olivet Cemetery is my favorite cemetery in Utah. It’s located in Salt Lake City, near the University of Utah and directly across the street from the Rice-Eccles Stadium. It’s unique in that it is the only cemetery formed by an Act of Congress. Local churches petitioned the Federal Government for land to use as a non-denominational cemetery, and the government granted 20 acres. The Mount Olivet Cemetery Act designated the cemetery as a burial place for all people and signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874. ((http://www.mountolivetcemeteryslc.com/MO-History.html)) The cemetery holds approximately 26,907 burials, the first being in 1877. ((https://utahdcc.secure.force.com/burials/searchcemeteries?City=&County=&Name=olivet))
Mt. Olivet Cemetery is one of the most peaceful spots in all of Salt Lake City. It also has quite a few mausoleums which are my favorite type of monument. Deer can usually be found wandering around the cemetery or lying in groups in the shade. The reason Mt. Olivet Cemetery made my list of Top 5 cemeteries is because of the W.F. James Mausoleum.
From the outside, the W.F. James mausoleum appears like an average mausoleum. There’s nothing overtly intriguing about it. But, take a peek through the doors and you’ll see why it’s one of my favorites.
I’ve peered through many a mausoleum door and window, and it’s really uncommon to see a picture of the deceased hanging on the wall inside. Not only can you see W.F. James’ tomb, but there’s also a small altar and hanging above is a portrait of the man himself.
William Fletcher James was a well-known known business and mining man who spent many years in Salt Lake City. He died in Long Beach, California on December 19th, 1919 and his body was returned to Salt Lake City to be interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. It’s fitting that Mr. James was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He was a distinguished Civil War soldier who served with the Twentieth Wisconsin Regiment. He also happened to be a personal friend of Ulysses S. Grant, who signed the act creating this cemetery.((Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30th, 1919))
4. Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Hollywood, California
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and is the final resting place of many well-known actors, directors, musicians, and others from the entertainment industry. It also happens to be one of the first cemeteries Matt and I explored together. Founded in 1899 it holds approximately 46,798 interments.((https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=8033&CScn=hollywood+forever&))
By the time Matt and I got to Hollywood Forever Cemetery it was almost closing time, so, unfortunately, we didn’t have as much time to look around as I would’ve liked. We tried to see as much as possible by wandering around before they came to kick us out.
Some of the headstones, like the ones above, are pretty typically like you might see in any other cemetery. Others, however, are pretty unusual.
The final resting place for Carl Morgan Bigsby is one of a kind! Carl Bigsby was an artist and admirer of the space program. He died in 1959 and his monument is an exact to scale replica of the Pioneer Atlas which went into orbit on December 18th, 1958.
Johnny Ramone is remembered at Hollywood Forever with this amazing cenotaph. There were so many great monuments here it’s hard for me to say which one is my favorite. I would love to go back and spend more time wandering around because I missed many of the most well-known graves. If you want to check out some of the most famous interments at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, take a look at this site.
3. Green Mount Cemetery – Baltimore, Maryland
As far a “beautiful” cemeteries go, Green Mount Cemetery is definitely near the top of the list. It also has a ton of really interesting mausoleums. To enter the cemetery you must pass through a castle-like gateway, and once inside the headstones stretch out in all directions as far as the eyes can see. Established in March 1838, it was officially dedicated on July 13th, 1839.((https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Mount_Cemetery))
It’s most well known for the number of historical figures buried here, including John Wilkes Booth and two other Lincoln assassination conspirators.
The Booth family plot is located in the Dogwood area of the cemetery and is fairly easy to find if you look for a large obelisk. In this family plot are at least 11 members of the Booth family, including the infamous John Wilkes Booth. You won’t find a headstone for John Wilkes Booth, however as he is buried in an unmarked grave. In fact, even the cemetery it seems has forgotten just where his grave actually is.((http://www.surrattmuseum.org/effort-to-exhume-booths-body))
People assume that this small blank “headstone” pictured above marks his grave, but it is just the footstone for his sister Asia’s grave.((https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=13523390)) Regardless, as you can see people still leave pennies in homage to Lincoln.
My favorite part of Green Mount Cemetery is by far the mausoleums. There are a ton of them, and there are many different styles. Seriously, they are amazing!
There was one mausoleum that caught my eye and I had to go take a peek inside. You don’t know how bad I wanted to walk down those steps! I don’t know how many people are buried in that mausoleum, but from what I could see it looked like it was quite a few.
2. Père Lachaise Cemetery – Paris, France
Père Lachaise cemetery had been on the top of my list of places to visit for years, mostly due to my obsession with Jim Morrison during my youth. I finally got the chance to visit a couple of years ago and it was amazing! Père Lachaise is an enormous cemetery, over 100 acres and literally packed full of graves. Opened in 1804, over 1 million people have been buried there to date, with estimates of 2-3 million counting the remains kept in the Aux Morts ossuary.((https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery)) It’s also the most visited cemetery in the world with over 3.5 million visitors each year.
It took a lot of wandering and getting lost a couple of times (because I didn’t grab a map) but I finally found Jim’s grave. Click here to read more about my adventures inside Père Lachaise.
1. Mt. Moriah Cemetery – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mount Moriah Cemetery is just an amazing cemetery, and, it’s a cemetery that is in need of our help. Created in 1855, what began as 54 acres of burial plots grew over the years to more than 200 acres. In the time period when Mount Moriah was created, there was a new style of cemetery, the rural ideal. The rural cemeteries were laid out like giant parks with large open spaces of landscaped grounds. Prior to the garden cemetery, cemeteries were usually located in small lots inside the city. These were often overcrowded and graves would need to be emptied and reused at some point.
So why does Mt. Moriah need our help? This is where things get really strange! Mt. Moriah is considered to be an abandoned cemetery. In 2011, the city was made aware that the last board member of the group that “owned” and cared for the cemetery had died years prior. The cemetery was officially closed and ownership has been locked in legal battles ever since.
When Matt and I visited the cemetery in the summer of 2016 we saw that people were using parts of the cemetery to dump junk and trash and most of the cemetery was completely overgrown. The group, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery are working so hard to care for this wonderful cemetery. The work they are doing is truly amazing given just how large this cemetery is.
My favorite part of Mount Moriah is mausoleum hill. I’m really hopeful that The Friends of Mount Moriah are one day able to fully restore the beauty of this fantastic old cemetery.