While in grade school, one of my favourite teachers took the class to a graveyard and showed us how to do charcoal rubbings of tombstones. The imprints we made on paper fascinated me almost as much as the cemetery.

We wandered the rows of towering monuments and smaller, plainer stones. Many of the older ones crumbled while struggling to remember who they were keeping company. Did the markers say more about who they watched over or those who had placed them there? I couldn’t say.

On Sunday afternoon, I thought I'd visit the Aurora cemetery to look for a headstone I'd heard about. John Bowser was a Canadian man who'd worked on the construction of the Empire State Building and helped bring the project in under budget and early but was not recognized for his efforts as well. When he died, a 10 foot tall granite likeness of the building was erected as his headstone.

After finding it and taking a photo (click to enlarge), I wandered around looking at some of the other stones. I couldn’t stay long because I’d naively been ready to admire the monuments but forgot that I was not prepared for a discussion with myself on mortality.

As I came upon a section of very small tombstones, some with teddy bears propped up against them, I felt glad not to have seen markers like these years ago as I wandered, charcoal and paper in hand.

Oh, life.


Yasamin said...

Is it wrong that i used to feel so very comfortable at Bellview Cemetery in so. Cal? When I was little my mom worked long hours and I was what mean people called a Latch-key kid. My best friend and I used to save our lunches until after school and go sit in Bellview amongst the oldest monuments and moseleums, eating lunch and just relax.

God my childhood was freaking weird now that i think about it. Too much death for a 9 year old.

Yasamin said...

by the way its a beautiful monument, one he truly earned.

Anomie-Atlanta said...

Graveyards are one of the last bastions of peace. Cave Hill in Louisville, KY; Oakland in Atlanta, GA; and Pere Lachaise in Paris, France are all great places.

BTW Dale, I'm going to be in NY in the next few weeks any casual restaurant recommendations (in the Midtown area)?

Chancelucky said...

Wow, that's basically the empire state building of headstones. I find teddy bears on gravestones spooky as well, though I guess they serve their purpose of letting you know that a child died recently.

Great picture of John Bowser's gravestene btw.

mellowlee said...

Your post reminded me of the Moyie cemetary (very tiny and no longer used, Moyie is a classified as a semi ghost town - is where I was raised) I think it was mainly people who died traveling along the Dewdney Trail who were buried there.
This was my favorite gravestone:

Maybe I will write a post about it someday soon :) Thanks for this post Dale.

Tumuli said...

"Graveyards are one of the last bastions of peace."

True. This time last year, some friends and I visited a cemetery on Mackinac Island. It was so solemn -- the quiet, the falling leaves, the stoic headstones. Almost eerily peaceful.

Anonymous said...

Dale- I am mad at you....

Old Lady said...

Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, famous for the picture of the "Bird Girl" in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is most beautiful and a place of wonder and picnics. I too am a graveyard freak. The oldest one in town-the Colonial Cemetery will teach a person the history of our modest city.

Jill said...

We did the activity with one of my professor, to show us that we could learn part of history through looking at graves.
I found it sad to see the grave of children. They don't deserve to have died so young, they didn't have a real taste of life

Dale said...

I can't speak to your childhood Yas but it sounds like a peaceful spot to have a bite with your friend. It is quite the monument isn't it?

Anomie - You're right about the peace. Also, doesn't it seem like we've got an eating for the dead series going now in the comments? I know a good breakfast diner (The Red Flame on W44th between 5th & 6th and Burger Heaven's okay for a ho-made burger) but for actual restaurants, Coaster Punchman might be the go to guy on this one.

It's pretty cool isn't it Chancelucky? Yes, there was an actual grouping of plots called Teddy Bear Way and it was very sad.

That's interesting MellowLee, you're not a semi-ghost blogger are you? The specific link you mentioned didn't work. I tried this and one came up but not sure if that's the one you meant. You should post about it sometime for sure.

It sounds idyllic Tumuli, not eerie.

Shroomy - Don't be mad, belated. Oops.

Who you calling freak Freak? They do tell their own stories don't they Old Lady?

mellowlee said...

It's the heart shaped one that's my favorite Dale :)
The ones for the children always made me so sad.

Tenacious S said...

Dale, I love old cemetaries where the headstones aren't quite level anymore and the words carved on them are slowly eroding away. It's OK to ponder mortality. We are ALL mortal last I checked.

Anonymous said...

When I was in grade school, we lived in upstate NY. Not far from my back yard was a cemetary. We used to go there just to see this one gravestone that had a picture of a Viet-Nam vet. It freaked me out because I didn't understand the war or what was going on yet. I can still remember exactly what he looked like and I'll probably never forget his face.

chelene said...

Is it wrong that when I look at that picture I only see the final scene from "Carrie"?

Coaster Punchman said...

I also like cemetaries, always have. They're so peaceful and for some reason not spooky at all. Probably because there are so many dead people and ghosts that they keep each other in line. Unlike if you get just one ghost in your house - he thinks he can do whatever he wants with impunity because no one is watching.

X. Dell said...

That looks so cool. I want an art deco headstone too. But not right now.

Ben Heller said...

I always read headstones in graveyards. Is it macabre do you think ?


Berry said...

I'd like to have a mirror built into my headstone, with the caption: "Freaky, isn't it?" You know... just for kicks.

Thanks for the history lesson, Dale. I never knew this about Mr. Bowser.

gizmorox said...

The cemetary my great-granparents are buried in, in Rutherford, NJ, has a whole huge section of only infant headstones. A lot of them are the same size, just tiny little white marble boxes. It's the freakiest thing, walking amongst all that potential that was taken too soon.

And I'm with OL, the Bonaventure cemetary is a fantastic place to lose yourself. When my blog stops being wonky I'll post some neat photos I have of it.

Bubs said...

Cemeteries can be beautiful places, peaceful like A-A said above. Is it wrong to have favorites? I personally love the public cemetery at the center of Key West. It's got roosters!

Beth said...

Oh, Dale. So lovely.

Dale said...

Good choice Lee, and yes, it was very sad to see.

I like that too Ten. S. Oh, and I know it's okay to ponder mortality, I just don't always like doing it.

Things like that have a way of sticking with you don't they Bluez?

Hilarious but frightening Chelene! I remember the real fright that threw into me when I first saw it.

Good point CP. You don't have a ghost do you?

Haha, brilliant X. Dell. I don't want one right now either!

Not so macabre Ben. That's why the put letters on them.

Berry, you've hit on something there, everyone would bend down a little to see what that shiny thing was. After the screaming would come laughter.

It's a sad thing isn't it Gizmorox? I noticed your blog went all wonky the other day. There's a ghost in the machine.

Yes, it's very very wrong Bubs. But since you mentioned roosters, I'll let it go this time.

Beth, you're too kind.

anne altman said...


Dale said...

Yes I am Anne Altman. Okay, I know what you meant.