Hello and welcome back! This week’s topic, cemeteries, varies a bit in that Ruth Ann Musick didn’t really cover it in either of her books. This is going to be more anecdotal from me, and remember, this series is my sharing with you my heritage as a horror fan and how it ties into my home state of West Virginia.
You kinda don’t get to be me without having spent a lot of time in graveyards.
Believe it or not, I’ve never had a seance in a graveyard, nor have me and my friends used a Ouija board, hoping to make contact with those beyond the veil. Nope, my time spent in graveyards was much more family bonding-type time.
My paternal grandfather used to mow the small family graveyard on top of the hill behind his house. Now, this wasn’t as tiny as other family plots. It had at least 100 stones and markers and most of them were the newer, gleaming granite kind. But, when my brother and I were small, my grandfather would take us up to that graveyard where we would do things like hunt for the snake skins shed by the local reptiles, or ride ponies, or even have weenie and marshmallow roasts. You’ve never had a s’more until you’ve eaten it perched on a stranger’s headstone.
To my grandparents, this wasn’t disrespectful at all. They were friends with the family who owned the plot and they didn’t mind that we spent time up there. It was quiet, you couldn’t hear the coal trucks thundering down the road and it was open so having a bonfire up there wasn’t as dangerous as it was down the hill, where brush was plentiful. I know that in olden times and in different cultures today eating with those who’ve passed on is totally normal, but it was strange to some that we did this.
Cemeteries are everywhere in my hometown. This past weekend, my family and I drove in to visit and I was amused that in that small town, on the short stretch of road, there are no less than three major cemeteries/graveyards right by the main road. Now, I am using graveyard and cemetery interchangeably, it seems, but there is a difference. A graveyard has a church butting up next to it, whereas a cemetery does not. My hometown has both of these in abundance.
Where I live now, places where the dead rest are not nearly as plentiful. In West Virginia, we live among our dead just as much as people in other areas live among grocery stores.
Family plots are not rare. People live in homes that have markers in their backyards. My best friend in high school lived on a large hill. Her neighbors, who hadn’t lived in their house long, had a family plot on their land. It wasn’t their family and they let the plot become overgrown and sink back into the thick woods, but you could find it easily and it was creepy as hell. I think it was the overgrown part that made it creepy, but I’ll swear to this day that my friend and I heard strange noises out that way more than once. If you insist it was in our minds, I’m okay with that, but…but…YOU WEREN’T THERE.
My grandma is buried in a very secluded town called Center Point. It’s less than a mile away from her childhood home. I used to visit that home with her often when I was a child. There was a general store at the bottom of the hill that still had hitching posts out front and if you wanted a cold soda, you had to get it out of a metal cooler that had a bottle opener on its side. We would go to the graveyard (church attached), where she would someday rest, a lot. It has an old section and a newer section. The old section has crumbling angels and weather beaten stones while the newer section is more familiar. It’s on top of a hill (as many things in WV are) and it is surrounded by thick forest. Old craggy trees surround the quiet place and when I go to visit my grandma while I’m in, I still hear her yelling at me to not walk on the mounds where the bodies lie beneath.
“Walk between, Somer. Don’t bother ’em.” She’d tell me. I still make sure to not step on them.
The last time I was there, it was a gray day, gloomy and wet and my husband was with me. As I was kneeling before the granite block that marks all that remains of my grandma’s physical form, my husband tapped me on the top of my head. We had visitors.
Again, these birds aren’t rare, well, anywhere. But it was weird to see so many gathered at this graveyard. I took a lot of pictures, and most of them are bad, but they were perched on the obelisk-looking markers, on the headstones, on the fence that separated the old and new sections, and all over the roof of the groundskeeper’s house. Not, unnatural, just…weird.
But that’s West Virginia. Wild, Wonderful, and Weird. And I have a million beautiful memories from there.
Next week will be a bit more organized. Ever read Finnegan’s Wake? If you’re familiar with it, maybe you know where next week’s post goes.
Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have any graveyard/cemetery memories!