Yes, I am one of those people who love to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting an art museum; an opportunity to enjoy rarely appreciated sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture in a tranquil outdoor setting. This is a blog about cemetery culture; art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me, something that makes me want to dig deeper - relevant, yet fascinating. Care to join me? Read on.....
Today is April 1st - April Fools’ Day.A day celebrated around the world with jokes, hoaxes and pranks.Also known as All Fools’ Day, the tradition is believed to have begun in France in the 1500’s.
Although wit is not something you expect to find in a cemetery, our ancestors did have a sense of humor about life…and death. Epitaphs, those tributes and verses engraved on tombstones, can provide a bit more insight into the deceased’s character, all the while offering it with a wink and a nod.With that in mind, I thought a bit of‘grave humor’ was in keeping with the day.
In Hillside Cemetery at Eastport, Maine, Lorenzo Sabine was buried in 1877.On his stone is one simple word, Transplanted
Boot Hill Cemetery
Tombstone, Arizona started in 1879 as a mining boomtown that grew up quick and grew up mean.It briefly became part of the ‘Wild West,” where cattle ranchers, cow boys and carpet baggers all held sway, with a gun. It was during 1881 that Marshall Wyatt Earp and his brothers fought the cowboys at what became known as the shootout at O.K. Corral.In the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, almost 300 of these former citizens are buried and remembered with some interesting epitaphs.
Here lies Butch.
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger
But slow on the draw.
Wells Fargo Agent, Lester Moore was also buried in Boot Hill with the following epitaph:
Four slugs from a 44
England is also the home of many cheeky inscriptions –
On the stone of Anna Wallace in a cemetery in Ribbesford, England is this supposed inscription:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife
And the Devil sent him Anna
From a London cemetery comes this,
Than he could pay
Even the barristers appear to have had a sense of humor.
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer
And that is Strange
Rebecca Freeland was buried in an Edwalton, England cemetery in 1741 with this rejoinder –
She drank good ale
Good punch and wine
And lived to the age of 99
Some cleaver epitaphs may be a bit too clever.When I researched to locate these, I found that the cemetery locations continued to change from one state to another, from one mention to another.But, regardless of existence, they are humorous.
Here lies the body
Of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana.
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
This inscription has been reported in a cemetery in Hartscombe, England and also in New Jersey.Same name, different days of death – in England on June 22, in New Jersey on June 30 but no year of death is given.
On June __,
Went out of tune.
In Elkhart, Indiana the stone for S.B. McCracken, a teacher reads –
School is out.
Teacher has gone home.
The famous also have some epitaphs that produce chuckles –
Mel Blanc, the man behind hundreds of character voices for Warner Brothers Studios, went out with the tagline of every Warner Brother’s cartoon….
That’s All Folks
American singer, actor and 50’s Rat Pack member, Frank Sinatra closed out with a line from one of his songs,
The best is yet to come
Television host and media mogul, Merv Griffin ended his life segment with –
I will not be right back
After this message.
For Spike Milligan, an Irish comedian, writer and actor,
"Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite"
English translation:“I told you I was ill.”
It is also rumored that a similar epitaph exists in an unnamed cemetery in Georgia for a B.P. Roberts with the words -
I told you I was sick.
The sudden passing of John Belushi left us with a smile –
I may be gone but
Rock and Roll lives on.
Then there are the anonymous epitaphs:
Again, from England –
This spot is the sweetest I’ve seen in my life,
For it rises my flowers and covers my wife.
Beneath this silent stone is laid
A noisy antiquated maid
Who from her cradle talked to death
And ne’er before was out of breath.
This epitaph is seen in nineteenth century cemeteries throughout the U.S.
Behold and see as you pass by
For as you are, so once was I
As I am now, so will you be
Prepare unto death and follow me
But someone supposedly felt a reply was needed to this plea and carved, somewhere -
To follow you, I’ll not consent
For I don’t know which way you went.
And to close out with my favorite:
Here lies an Atheist.
All dressed up and no place to go.
Have a Happy April First, and remember in those immortal Main Ingredient song lyrics…