Category Archives: Famous person grave

Gravesites of well-known people, whether contained in a cemetery or alone on their own property.

Cemetery of the Week #173: the Crypt of Our Lady of the Angels

 

The Cathedral Mausoleum at Our Lady of the Angels
Also known as the Crypt of the LA Cathedral or the Saint Vibiana Chapel Mausoleum
Address: 555 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, California 90012
Phone: 213-680-5200
Dedicated: September 2002
Number interred: 395, according to Findagrave

Note: the Cathedral Mausoleum remains closed at the moment, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Please check the Cathedral’s website or call before you visit to make sure it’s reopened.

In 1996, the Diocese of Los Angeles chose a downtown parking lot overlooking the Hollywood Freeway as the site of its new cathedral. Named for the city’s namesake, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated on September 2, 2002. It serves as the mother church to approximately five million professed Catholics in the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Sealed into the floor around the altar are 26 relics, including Saints Benedict, Catherine of Sienna, Charles Lwanga, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Francis of Assisi, Gregory the Great, John Neumann, Martin de Porres, Patrick of Ireland, Rose of Lima, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (the first Native American saint), and Junipero Serra, who founded the Spanish missions in California in the 18th century.

In the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs a reliquary with a fragment of the cloak worn by Saint Juan Diego that was miraculously stamped with Mary’s image when she visited him. The postage stamp-sized relic may be the only one of its kind in the United States. It was given by the archbishop of Mexico City to the archbishop of Los Angeles in 1941.

In the Chapel of Saint Vibiana, in the crypt below the church, rest the bones of a third-century Christian martyr whose grave was discovered in the Pretestato Catacombs near Rome’s Appian Way in December 1853. The original grave was sealed with a marble tablet which was marked with a laurel wreath, which indicated she was a martyr for her faith. Also in the alcove was a rose-colored vial, believed to contain dried blood. Despite a lack of history or miracles, Pope Pius IX canonized her as a Roman-era Virgin in 1854.

Vibiana’s bones were encased in a wax effigy. Bishop Thaddeus Amat, charged with overseeing all of California south of Monterey, took her relics on an eight-month tour before they arrived in Santa Barbara. Sometime in the 1860s, her reliquary was installed in Los Angeles. The Italian Baroque cathedral of Saint Vibiana was dedicated in her name in 1871.

In the 1950s, the Vatican dropped Vibiana’s feast day from the liturgical calendar for lack of historical information. In 1976, her relics were removed from public view and entombed in a marble sarcophagus. In 1994, the Northridge Earthquake caused damage to her cathedral and the diocese of LA took the opportunity to build Our Lady of the Angels. Vibiana’s, which had been named a City Landmark in 1963, was deconsecrated and is now available for rent as a wedding venue.

The construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was overseen by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, LA’s first native Angeleno archbishop, who was made a cardinal in 1991. A burial place is reserved for him in the crypt.

The Crypt Mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels lies one floor beneath the cathedral itself. It can be reached via the stairway or elevators at the rear of the Cathedral Church. The mausoleum is surprisingly large, containing some 1300 interment “crypts” and 5000 cremation niches, most of them empty at this time. Its walls are faced with polished Spanish limestone, lit by alabaster sconces.

It features 16 large baroque revival stained glass windows and 9 lunettes, brought from the original St. Vibiana Cathedral. The windows were created by the Franz Mayer Company in Munich in the early 1920s and restored by Judson Studios before being placed in the crypt. Since they are underground, they are lit from behind.

In the crypt stands a chapel dedicated to St. Vibiana. The altar was refashioned from the marble altar of her cathedral. The brightly painted stations of the cross came from St. Basil Church in LA. A marble sarcophagus contains Vibiana’s bones, still in their wax effigy. A replica of the plaque that marked her original grave hangs nearby, inscribed “To the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana.” She remains the patron saint of Los Angeles.

Buried in the Bishops’ Crypt are Thaddeus Amat y Brusi (the first Bishop of Los Angeles, who brought Vibiana’s relics to LA), John Cantwell (the first Archbishop of Los Angeles), Bishop Thomas James Conaty (who oversaw the restoration of the California missions in the early 20th century), Bishop Carl Anthony Fisher (the first Black bishop on the West Coast), James Francis McIntyre (the controversial second Archbishop of Los Angeles, who became a cardinal), Bishop Juan Alfredo Arzube (born in Ecuador), and John J. Ward (who served in the Vatican II discussions). Several of them had been buried at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral before being reinterred here.

Other bishops have cenotaphs to their memories, including Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany, who was sent to Northern California during the Gold Rush. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery Mausoleum in Colma, California, south of San Francisco.

The most famous person buried in the Crypt Mausoleum is actor Gregory Peck, best remembered for playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an Academy Award. Peck was nominated five times for the Oscar and received the Academy’s humanitarian award in 1968. He served as president of the Motion Picture Academy and was active in the American Cancer Society, National Endowment for the Arts, and many other causes. He died in his sleep in 2003. He’s buried in the crypt beside his wife, philanthropist Veronique Peck, who followed him in 2012. Their epitaph crosses the front of both grave plaques. His says, “Together” and hers “Forever.”

Actress Joan Marlowe (born Gisela Goetten) was billed by Warner Bros. as “the most beautiful girl on the screen.” She appeared in the Rin Tin Tin movies, acted opposite John Barrymore in “Don Juan,” and played a recurring role in the “Our Gang” shorts as the teacher Miss Crabtree. She also appeared in the first Laurel and Hardy movie, “Pardon Us.” After she married in 1933, she stopped acting in films. Initially buried in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, she was moved to the LA Cathedral crypt and interred behind the epitaph, “Help thy brother’s boat across and Lo! Thine own has reached the shore.”

Actress Helen Wagner was best known for playing Nancy Hughes in the soap opera “As the World Turns.” She spoke the first line on the show in 1956 and continued playing the part until a month before her death in 2010. She’s credited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-playing of a single role. Her husband, producer Robert Wiley, is also buried in the Cathedral Mausoleum.

Buried near the papal cross beneath the cathedral’s altar is Bernardine Murphy Donohue, who was rewarded for her Catholic philanthropy by being made a papal countess by Pope John XXIII. After her death, her family’s mansion was donated to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a retreat house.

Useful Links:
Map to the cathedral: https://catholiccm.org/cathedral-of-our-lady-of-the-angels-mausoleum
The Cathedral Mausoleum: http://www.olacathedral.org/cathedral/mausoleum/about1.html
The Cathedral homepage: http://www.olacathedral.org/
LA Time article “The Crypts that Keep on Giving”: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2002-feb-08-mn-26916-story.html
Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1543836/cathedral-of-our-lady-of-the-angels

My reviews of books related to this cemetery:

Laid to Rest in California: https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/05/05/cemeteries-paparazzi-style/

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels guidebook: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3908630237

Other graveyards of the Hollywood stars on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #5: Hollywood Forever

Cemetery of the Week #14: the Original Forest Lawn

Cemetery of the Week #40: Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #45: Hillside Memorial Park

Cemetery of the Week #51: Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #110: Holy Cross Cemetery

Resting Places of Horror Film Icons, Part Two

Many of our literary forebears have monuments we can visit, where we can thank them for their inspiration. (Check my cemetery column here for details.) Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of many of our favorite horror movie actors and directors. Too many of them do not have grave sites, whether they were buried in unmarked graves or their ashes were scattered – or I couldn’t determine the disposition of their remains. I wish we could find some appropriate way to honor them.

What follows is a listing of actors gathered from the Horror Writers Association Facebook page and conversations with my local HWA chapter and others. I’ve included burial places, when known.

Part 1 of this list appeared yesterday. If I’ve missed anyone that should be included in this list, please drop a comment below and I’ll put together a Part 3.

William Marshall was a Shakespearean actor who starred in the Blaxploitation movies BLACKULA and its sequel, SCREAM, BLACKULA, SCREAM. After he died in 2003 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease, Marshall was cremated.

Brooke McCarter played Paul in LOST BOYS and also appeared in an episode of the Twilight Zone reboot. He died in 2015 in Tampa, Florida of liver failure. His gravesite is unknown.

Mercedes McCambridge enjoyed a long career in character roles, but became a cult heroine after she provided the voice of Pazuzu in THE EXORCIST. She died in La Jolla, California in 2004 at the age of 87. Her ashes were scattered at sea.

Roddy McDowell was a child actor who worked into old age, starring in more genre movies than I can list, including THE HAUNTING OF HELL HOUSE and FRIGHT NIGHT. He died at home of cancer at the age of 70. His ashes were scattered at sea.

Darren McGavin will be remembered forever for playing journalist Carl Kolchak, THE NIGHT STALKER. After his death of natural causes at the age of 83, McGavin was buried at Hollywood Forever in Burbank, California in 2006.

Vic Morrow died during the filming of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE in 1982. He was buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California. His grave marker says, “I loved him as Dad.”

Paul Naschy was a Spanish actor who made his debut as a werewolf in FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR in 1968. He died in 2009 at the age of 75 and was buried in the Burgos Municipal Cemetery in Castille, Spain.

The original Horror Hostess Vampira set the bar for all who followed. Maila Nurmi may be best remembered as Bela Lugosi’s reanimated wife in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. When she died in 2008 at the age of 85, friends arranged for her to be buried at Hollywood Forever in Burbank, California.

Heather ORourkeBlond child actress Heather O’Rourke starred in the POLTERGEIST movies as Carol Anne. She died at the age of 12 of a bowel obstruction before the final movie was released. She is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Although Russian-born Maria Ouspenskaya is best remembered for playing the gypsy fortune teller opposite Lon Chaney Jr. in THE WOLF MAN, she was twice nominated for Academy Awards. She died after suffering a stroke in 1943 and was buried in Forest Lawn, Glendale.

After Bill Paxton climbed up on the bar in NEAR DARK, vampires would never be the same. He also featured in ALIENS and PREDATOR 2, among many others. He died unexpectedly at the age of 61 of complications following heart surgery. Paxton was buried in the Court of Liberty at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Anthony Perkins created the career-defining role of Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 60 in 1992. Perkins was cremated and his ashes kept on an altar at his residence in the Hollywood Hills. His urn is inscribed, “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Born in Poland, Ingrid Pitt was interned in a Nazi concentration camp as a child. After the war, she moved to England. Her breakout role was THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, followed by COUNTESS DRACULA, and THE WICKER MAN. She is buried in the Richmond and East Sheen Cemeteries, in London, England.

From THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL to THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES to Roger Corman’s Poe movies, Vincent Price was always elegant and at least slightly mad. His ashes were scattered off Point Dume, California.

Claude Rains played the iconic INVISIBLE MAN twice. The 1966 remake was his final movie role. When he died of an abdominal hemorrhage at the age of 77, Rains was buried in Red Hill Cemetery, Mountonborough, New Hampshire. His monument says, “Soul, once living, lives forever.”

Basil Rathbone played Baron Wolf von Frankenstein in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and returned to horror in Roger Corman’s TALES OF TERROR. Rathbone died of a heart attack in 1967 and was buried in the mausoleum at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Oliver Reed starred in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF as a young man, played Bill Sikes in OLIVER!, but really outdid himself as Urbain Grandier in Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS. Reed died in Malta in 1999 while filming GLADIATOR at the age of 61. He was buried in Bruhenny Graveyard in County Cork, Ireland, where his headstone was placed with a view of his favorite pub.

Michael Ripper worked for Hammer Horror for 25 years, playing character parts opposite Christopher Lee (9 times) and Peter Cushing (7 times). In all, Ripper appeared in 35 Hammer movies. He died at the age of 87 in 2000 and received a non-cemetery burial. I couldn’t find any more information.

German Robles’ performance in EL VAMPIRO is said to have influenced Christopher Lee’s DRACULA. Robles died in Mexico City in November 2015, but his burial site is unknown.

Lina Romay starred in 150 low-budget films directed by her partner Jess Franco. She debuted in LA MALIDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN but her first major role was in FEMALE VAMPIRE. She died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 57. Her ashes were given to family or friends.

George Romero, father of the modern zombie movie, is buried at the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery in Ontario, Canada. Romero died in his sleep while battling lung cancer in 2017. He was 77.

Zelda Rubenstein came to acting in her 40s, but found fame playing the psychic Tangina Barrons in the POLTERGEIST franchise. Rubenstein was one of the first celebrity AIDS spokespeople. She died of cardiac and pulmonary failure in 2010 at the age of 76. Her ashes were given to her family.

Remembered for playing Count Orloff in F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU: EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUNES, Max Schreck is buried in Wilmersdorfer Waldfriedhof Stahndorf in Brandenburg, Germany. He was 56 when he died in 1936.

Angus Scrimm gained fame playing the Tall Man in the PHANTASM movies. In 2016, Scrimm died at the age of 89 from prostate cancer. The location of his grave is unknown.

Creator of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and NIGHT GALLERY, Rod Serling died of complications from heart surgery at the age of 50. He was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Interlaken, New York.

During World War II, French actress Simone Simon made CAT PEOPLE and its sequel CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE. After the war, she returned to France, where she died in 2005 at the age of 94. She is buried in the Cemetery of Chateau-Gombert in Provence. Her grave is marked with lovely ceramic flowers called immortelles.

Mexican actress Lupita Tovar starred in the Spanish-language version of DRACULA, which was filmed on the same sets as the Lugosi version in the evenings after the English version wrapped for the day. She was 20 at the time. She died of heart disease in 2016 at the age of 106. She was buried in Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California. (Thanks to Lisa Neff for the information!)

Long before he appeared in CASABLANCA, Conrad Veidt appeared in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and THE MAN WHO LAUGHED (whose title character inspired Bob Kane’s Joker). After Veidt’s death from a heart attack while golfing, his ashes were originally kept in the columbarium at Ferncliffe Cemetery in New York. After his wife’s death, remains of the two were commingled and enshrined at Golders Green Columbarium in London, England.

David Warbeck starred in Fulci’s THE BEYOND. His last movie was the vampire film RAZOR BLADE SMILE. He died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 55. The location of his grave is unknown.

The director of Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, James Whale drowned himself in his swimming pool in 1957. His ashes reside in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

As Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Gene Wilder rewarded our love for the old Universal monsters with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Wilder died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2016 and was cremated. The disposition of his remains is unknown.

Bob Wilkins, the host of Creature Features and other shows in Northern California, retired to Reno, Nevada, where he died of complications of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2009. His burial site in unknown.

After featuring in DAMNATION ALLEY, WRATH OF KHAN, and THE TERMINATOR, Paul Winfield died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 64. He was buried in the Court of Liberty in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills with his husband, Chuck Gillan Jr.

Director of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the so-called worst movie ever made, Ed Wood died of a heart attack at the age of 54 in 1978. His ashes were scattered.

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Natalie Wood’s monument

Natalie Wood drowned mysteriously during the filming of BRAINSTORM, which was finally released two years later in 1983. An investigation into her death has recently been reopened. She was buried in Westwood Memorial Park.

One of the first of the Hollywood Scream Queens, Fay Wray is best remembered for playing Ann Darrow in KING KONG. She died at the age of 96 in 2004 and is buried in Hollywood Forever under a very minimal black headstone.

Remember, if you catch an error or think of anyone I’ve missed, please let me know.

Resting Places of Horror Film Icons, Part One

In my other life, outside the cemetery, I write horror stories. Many of horror’s literary forebears have monuments we can visit, where we can thank them for their inspiration. I’ve written about them before: https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/10/28/horror-writers-on-cemetery-travel/

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of many for our favorite horror movie actors and directors.  Too many of them do not have gravesites – or I couldn’t determine the disposition of their remains.  I wish we horror writers could find some appropriate way to honor them.

What follows is a listing of actors gathered from the Horror Writers Association Facebook page and conversations with both my local HWA chapter and others.  I’ve included all the burial places I could find.

Part 2 of my list will appear in tomorrow.  If I’ve missed anyone that should be included in this list, please drop me a note below and I’ll put together a Part 3.

One of the most important actors, directors and producers in Mexican film & TV, Ernesto Alonso starred in EL MALEFICO. He was buried at the Church of San Antonio de Padua in Mexico City.

British actor Lionel Atwill starred in 50 movies in the 1930s and 40s, including SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. His ashes were placed at the Chapel of the Pines in Pacific Palisades, California in 1946.

Director of BLACK SUNDAY, THE MASK OF SATAN and KILL, BABY, KILL, as well as 70-some other giallo films, Mario Bava was buried in the Monumental Cemetery of Verano. He died in 1980 of a heart attack.

Ingmar Bergman, the director who brought us a chess-playing Death in THE SEVENTH SEAL was buried beneath a boulder in Faro Churchyard in Gotlands län, Sweden.

A prolific Shakespearean actor who appeared in HOUSE OF DRACULA, VAMPIRE HOOKERS, and a host of other B movies, John Carradine died of natural causes at the age of 82 in Italy. He was given a naval burial at sea off the coast of Catalina, California.

Known best for playing Mina Seward in the Bela Lugosi version of DRACULA, Helen Chandler died in 1965 after surgery for a bleeding ulcer. She was cremated at the Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles, California. Her ashes are shelved in a section of the columbarium not open to visitors.

The original Lawrence Talbot in THE WOLF MAN, Lon Chaney Jr. went on to play Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy Kharis, and Dracula, along with many other roles in horror and western films. He died of alcohol-related health problems at the age of 67 in Orange County, California. He donated his body to science. He doesn’t even have a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Lon Chaney, the Man of 1000 Faces, played Quasimodo in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and the Phantom in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA before he died of throat cancer at the age of 47. He was buried in the Sanctuary of Meditation at the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Arguably the most influential Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Colin Clive died of pneumonia at the age of 37.  His ashes were scattered at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles, California. He is remembered on a cenotaph in the Garden of Memories.

After playing both Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing for Hammer Studios, Peter Cushing went on to play both Dr. Who and Grand Moff Tarkin.  Cushing died in Canterbury, England after a long battle with prostate cancer and was cremated. The disposition of his ashes is unknown.

Rhoads Bette DavisAlthough she had a long and illustrious career, I include Bette Davis here for WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE and HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE. Davis died of cancer at the age of 81 and was buried in the Court of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Burbank, California.

Yvonne DeCarlo will be remembered for originating the role of Lily in THE MUNSTERS. She died in 2007 at the age of 84 in Woodland Hills, California. She was cremated and her ashes given to a friend.

Dominique Dunne was best known for playing Dana Freeling in POLTERGEIST. At the age of 22, she was murdered by a jealous ex-boyfriend. She was buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Chosen by Mel Brooks to play Igor (it’s pronounced Eye-gore) in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Marty Feldman died of a massive heart attack at the age of 48.  He was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Jonathan Frid played the vampire Barnabas Collins on the soap opera DARK SHADOWS. He died at the age of 87 in Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. He was cremated. The location of his ashes is unknown.

Known for playing both Renfield in DRACULA and Fritz (the quintessential Igor) in FRANKENSTEIN in 1931, Dwight Frye was a devout Christian Scientist who hid his heart condition until it killed him on a bus at the age of 47. He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

A gentle giant who played Herman in THE MUNSTERS and the kindly neighbor in PET SEMETARY, Fred Gwynne died in 1993 of pancreatic cancer.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery in Finksburg, Maryland.

Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s list of The Greatest Screen Villains. She died of a heart attack at the age of 82 and was cremated. Her ashes were scattered over her property in Dutchess County, New York.

The original Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, Gunnar Hansen died of pancreatic cancer in Northeast Harbor, Maine, at the age of 68. The location of his grave is unknown.

Julie Harris played the tormented wallflower in THE HAUNTING, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Harris died of congestive heart failure in West Chatham, Massachusetts at the age of 87. The disposition of her ashes is unknown.

Disfigured by a pituitary disorder possibly caused by his exposure to mustard gas in World War I, Rondo Hatton was called “the monster who needed no makeup.” He played villains in B movies in the 1930s and 40s. After his death in 1946, he was buried in the American Legion Cemetery in Tampa, Florida.

Alfred Hitchcock, director of PSYCHO and THE BIRDS, died of heart failure at the age of 80.  He requested that his ashes be scattered.

Irish actress Valerie Hobson played Elizabeth in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and appeared in WEREWOLF OF LONDON, both in 1935. She died at the age of 81 and was buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard in Surrey, England. She shared the grave with her second husband, politician John Perfumo.

Tobe Hooper, director of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and POLTERGEIST, died in August 2017 of natural causes at the age of 74. I haven’t been able to determine what happened next.

In a career that spanned from ALIEN to 1984 to DR. WHO, John Hurt was nominated for Oscars for THE ELEPHANT MAN and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.  He died in January 2017 of pancreatic cancer. He was 77. No burial site has been announced.

Michael Jackson, included here for the short movie THRILLER, died in 2009 of an overdose of anesthetic. He was 50.  He is buried in a locked chapel in Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum in Glendale, California.

Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson appeared in a number of films, but is best remembered for PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. He died at the age of 67 and was buried in Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall, California.

Duane L. Jones made history when he appeared in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. He was the first African American actor to star in a horror movie. When he died of a heart attack at the young age of 51 in 1988, his ashes were given to his family.

When Bela Lugosi refused to take a role in which his face would be unrecognizable, Boris Karloff became a star even though he didn’t receive screen credit in the initial release of FRANKENSTEIN.  Karloff died at home in England from emphysema at the age of 81.  After his cremation at Guilford Crematorium in England, Karloff’s ashes were buried under a rosebush in the Garden of Remembrance at Mount Cemetery. He deserves a grander monument.

German actor Klaus Kinski was captured by the British on his second day of combat in World War II. He appeared in a spectrum of movies including NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE before being diagnosed with psychopathy. He died of a heart attack in Lagunitas, California in 1991. His ashes were scattered over the ocean.

Director of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE SHINING, and 11 other films, Stanley Kubrick died of a heart attack shortly before the release of EYES WIDE SHUT. He was buried on his estate near St. Albans in England. The boulder marking his grave is inscribed, “Here lies our Stanley.”

Fondly remembered for playing both Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the monster’s bride in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Elsa Lanchester died at the age of 84 in Woodland Hills, California. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.

Director of M, METROPOLIS, and DR. MABUSE, Fritz Lang fled Nazi Germany for the US. He died at age 85 in 1976 and was buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Rhoads Brandon LeeKilled by a mis-loaded prop gun on the set of THE CROW, Brandon Lee was buried beside his father Bruce near the crest of Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington.

From Dracula to Saruman, Christopher Lee was a towering figure in horror films.  He died of heart failure in June 2015 at the age of 93. One report says he was buried in Karoro Cemetery in Greymouth, New Zealand, but I cannot confirm it. Findagrave reports that his ashes were scattered over the Surrey Hills in Englang.

Janet Leigh said she was never able to take a shower again after starring in PSYCHO. After her death at the age of 74 in 2004, she was buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Cast as the psychopathic child murderer in M by Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre started on a career of playing villains and outcasts. He died in 1964 from a stroke. His ashes were interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever. Vincent Price read his eulogy.

Rhoads_HC_Lugosi001

Bela Lugosi’s gravestone in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City. Photo by Loren Rhoads.

After a successful run of DRACULA on Broadway, Hungarian-born Bela Lugosi became a star in Hollywood. He died during the filming of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Frank Sinatra paid for Lugosi’s grave in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  Lugosi was buried in one of his black opera capes. I wrote about visiting his grave here: https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/10/01/communing-with-my-idol/

If you find an error or think of anyone I’ve missed, please drop me a note. Part 2 will go up tomorrow!

Death’s Garden: Paris’s Secret Cemetery

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Photo of Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix by LPLT, Wikimedia Commons

by Erika Mailman

I’m not sure when it first dawned on me to wonder what happened to the corpses of all the people guillotined during the French Revolution. It seemed unlikely authorities would permit families to take the bodies home for a burial ritual…so where’d they go?

I started googling and learned a partial answer: there are two mass graves at Picpus Cemetery in Paris. The nuns at the associated chapel have carried on a perpetual prayer for over 200 years for the victims of the Terror. There’s even a historical celebrity buried there: the Marquis de Lafayette. His wife’s family was guillotined while he was helping Americans with our own revolution.

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The grave of the Marquis de Lafayette and his wife, photographed by Tangopaso.

Not far from Picpus is the Place de la Nation, where the guillotine stood. Carriages brought the bodies from there to Picpus under cover of night.

In 2006, I went to Paris and, among other things (sewer museum, anyone?), went to visit Picpus. I was alone and relying on instructions from a somewhat unclear website. I ended up taking the wrong exit out of the Métro and wandering around aimlessly. I stopped and asked a few people where the “cemetiére de Picpus” was, but no one seemed to know. It’s in a very residential area, so this surprised me. The people I saw were just out doing their marketing. Somehow the double mass grave in their neighborhood had escaped their notice.

I finally found my way there and entered a very quiet space. Gravel walkways lead to the visually unassuming place where 1,300 people lie headless, massed together.

It is said that we only know of these pit graves because of the bravery of a little girl. Her father and brother had been guillotined. When the carts took their bodies away, she followed. We know nothing of her mother and are just left with the sad visual of an orphan who didn’t know what else to do except stay with the bodies. That story further darkened an already overcast day. I went into the chapel (it dates only to 1814 and replaces a convent on the grounds which actually predated the Revolution) and paid my respects.

A large plaque in the chapel lists all the names of the people in the pits outside. The plaque was also my first introduction to the fact that the revolutionaries renamed months and years, repudiating all that came before them. Lobster Thermidor? It is named for the eleventh month of their calendar (which doesn’t correspond to our eleventh month: more like mid-July, says one source).

At the time I visited Picpus, I was under the impression that the heads were elsewhere. Subsequent research unearthed the information that the heads were separately clumped in red barrels at the time of execution and the barrels were also emptied into the pits. An X-ray would reveal a chaotic mishmash of bodies and heads. Sad and disturbing.

There are more tales to be told about Picpus, like the Carmelite nuns who sang together in line for the scaffold until one by one their lives were extinguished. Imagine being the last woman singing. The crowd’s ferocity and bloodthirsty glee was at such a level that if I think too hard about it, it takes my breath away.

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Erika Mailman smallErika Mailman is the author of The Murderer’s Maid: a Lizzie Borden Novel. See www.erikamailman.com/events for readings and signings this month in northern California.

(Loren’s note:  Erika will be joining me and Dana Fredsti at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco on Sunday, October 29 at 6:30 PM for a special Women in Horror edition of SFinSF.)

Erika also recommends Lynn Carthage’s novel Betrayed, in which characters visit Picpus in the present day—and then timeslip to the French Revolution when it was an active burial site.

Photo of Erika by Petra Hoette.

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Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

I am starting up the Death’s Garden project again. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submission guidelines are here.

Death’s Garden: Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin mausoleum002

Modern postcard of Lenin’s Mausoleum

by Melodie Bolt

In January 1988, I stood in Red Square with thirty American college students watching Lenin’s Honor Guard change.

The replacement soldiers exited the Kremlin gate and moved parallel to the Kremlin wall. The duo marched in long wool military coats, black boots goose stepping. But what seemed inconceivable was the position of their rifles: gripped in the left palm, with a steady aim at heaven. With boots tocking across the stone, the pair relieved the guards on duty to keep the watch.

Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin’s mausoleum is a squat ziggurat constructed from black stone and red marble. He died in 1924 at the age of 53 and was embalmed shortly thereafter. Thousands have visited the Bolshevik leader to pay their respects. A few days after watching the guards, we returned to see Lenin ourselves.

One of our professors, a Hungarian, told us the rumor that the only “original” pieces on Lenin’s body were the head and hands, preserved, while the rest had been buried or burned. It sounded grisly. Since we were in our late teens and early twenties, such things only excited our curiosity. Giggling as we piled off the tour bus, we filled the air with American smiles, hard currency, Marlboros, and Levi’s. Our bright Gore-Tex jackets added confettied splashes to the solemn scene.

The line for the presentation of the dead wound down—a black ribbon—from the mausoleum. We joined the queue in the Alexander Garden.

The garden, commissioned by Tsar Alexander I, was built long before the Bolshevik Revolution to celebrate Russia’s defeat of Napoleon. The garden later became a pivotal scene in Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita. The story, set in the 1930s, follows the havoc created by the Devil and his minions in Moscow. Interwoven with the Devil’s arc is the story of Pontius Pilate and the trial and execution of Jesus. It is in Alexander Garden that the Devil’s demonic assassin, Azazello, meets Margarita and pulls her from Communist reality to the supernatural (Christian) sphere. Bulgakov’s writings and plays were banned by Communist censorship. He died in 1940. Master and Margarita remained unpublished until 1966.

How ironic that our pilgrimage to the mausoleum started in the same garden created by a Tsar and the location where a demon from Christian mythology takes a Soviet woman to Satan’s Ball. Lenin, a devout atheist, despised religion and firmly believed in Karl Marx’s assertion that it was opium for the people. Standing there in January, the same month that Lenin died, I watched St. Basil’s draw nearer as the line moved toward the mausoleum’s entrance.

Our professor admonished us to enter two-by-two, to be respectful, and for God’s sake, to be silent. It was bitter cold. For all the people in line, it was exceptionally quiet.

The girl walking with me wore a beret reminiscent of the one that Prince sang about in 1985. Not quite raspberry, its lavender sequins glittered atop her golden curls. My partner and I settled into a respectful demeanor until the student behind us cracked some juvenile joke. We snickered, at got hissed at by the professors and the older, more mature students, and tried to compose ourselves again.

As I stood in front of the oppressive architecture, I began to panic. My thoughts raced. Lenin died at 53. When I entered the mausoleum, he had been embalmed for 64 years. How decayed would the body be? Would it be evident that the head and hands had been severed from the body? How far would the labyrinth would go until I could leave? I felt claustrophobic. I wondered if the room would be brimming with lilies. I hated that rich funereal smell.

The line kept moving. There was no time to prepare. I entered and Lenin was right there. The line moved continuously with no time for genuflection, no real time to study the body. There was only the red and black stone, the shuffle of boots on the floor, and the body.

Lenin corpse003They call it lying in state. Glass walls enclosed a dias. The coffin looked more like a canopied bed with the body angled so his head raised a little higher. Great ruffled black satin, looking almost Victorian, draped over his legs and spilled toward the floor. The canopy top was a replica of the mausoleum’s ziggurat design, but made of wood. He wore a black suit. His hands rested near his waist, one clenched in a fist, the other open, palm down.

His face looked as though he were sleeping, more waxen than the freshly dead. His hair and goatee were exactly the same as the black and white images in our history books, but the tinge of copper surprised me. Lashes rested against his skin; face calm, serene.

There was no time to look closer, to stand in awe. The line kept pushing me forward. As I serpentined around his feet and back up the other side of his body, I caught the faces of the Russians in front of me observing his supine form; their dark eyes unreadable in the dim light. I turned back for one last glance. So much power, so much fire in his rhetoric to spawn a world power to be reckoned with. Suddenly, I was back outside, breathing the refreshing January air that moments ago had seemed so bitterly cold. Spilling into Red Square, our voices were subdued, including the joker behind me.

It wasn’t until I began writing my essay that I looked online for more information regarding Lenin’s mausoleum. You can easily find images of his body online, both from inside the mausoleum and during the embalming process. I have to admit that seeing the graphic images him disrobed have cheapened my memory. The frail, naked body with the great gash doesn’t seem to honor that moment in time, Soviet power and Soviet history as perceived by an outsider. There was so much mystery to Moscow and the Communists.

Here are some interesting facts I discovered while writing this:

  • Turns out that the body is Lenin’s without his organs and brain. The brain is preserved elsewhere. The corpse is frequently re-embalmed to keep discoloration from the skin.
  • Lenin’s body was removed from Moscow to protect it during WWII and then returned later.
  • Stalin’s body was also on display next to Lenin’s until it was removed when the Soviet Union began the de-Stalinalization process.
  • In 1993, Yeltsin removed the Honor Guard from Lenin’s tomb, but it remains today at the eternal flame honoring the military dead near the mausoleum. You can find youtube videos featuring the guards.
  • The embalming process is top secret and other heads of state from other countries have been embalmed by the Moscow team.
  • Recently, a Russian movement has urged the government to have Lenin buried.

Perhaps Lenin, being an atheist, wouldn’t mind his body being handled by scientists honing their embalming skills with images available online for any curious eyes. Perhaps science is the truest end for the man who started the greatest revolution by promising power, not heavenly rewards, to the people.

References

https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/in-the-flesh-russian-scientists-work-to-preserve-lenins-corpse-52771

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45480

Lenin’s Mausoleum was a Cemetery of the Week on CemeteryTravel.

CemeteryTravel’s review of Lenin’s Embalmer.

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Melodie HeadShotMelodie Bolt writes poetry and contemporary fantasy & dark fiction. She earned an MFA in Writing from Pacific University in Portland, Oregon and an MA in Composition & Rhetoric from University of Michigan Flint. Her poetry has appeared in magazines like TOTUVerse Wisconsin, and Yellow Medicine Review. Her fiction has been recently published in the anthologies Incarceration (Wolfsinger Publications, 2017), Hoofbeats: Flying with Magical Horses (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016), and the magazine Witches&Pagans #31, 2015). She is currently working on a dark fiction novel set in Flint, Michigan. Melodie has been a member of the Flint Area Writers for over a decade and frequently contributes to the blog at www.flintareawriters.org . You can also find more of her work here.

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Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

I am jump-starting the Death’s Garden project again. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.