Ask Me Anything on Saturday

This Saturday, April 9 from Noon to 1 PM Pacific: I’m doing my first AMA on Twitter.

I’m a little nervous that no one will ask me any questions, so please, if you are curious about cemeteries, headstones, symbolism, places you should travel to, what the best cemetery books are, what cemetery bloggers you should follow on Instagram, cemetery podcast recommendations, etc…

I’d be glad to answer questions about the Death’s Garden Revisited Kickstarter, too.

You’d make my day if you would come to Twitter on Saturday and ask me something! I’m @morbidloren, if you don’t already follow me.

Death’s Garden contributor: M. Parfitt

I’ve known M. Parfitt since the late 90s, when she submitted a wonderful essay about dressing up as a little girl for an after-dark tour of Sacramento, California’s Old City Cemetery to my Morbid Curiosity magazine. You can read that story here.

The essay she submitted to Death’s Garden Revisited is about becoming a tour guide at the Old City Cemetery. Her dedication to the people she brings back to life on her tours is really inspiring.

M. Parfitt in mourning garb

Officially, M. Parfitt is an artist, writer, collector of exquisitely awful junk, keeper of hair, and hoarder of yellowed newspaper clippings. You may find her wandering down a deserted alley, traipsing through an old cemetery, or peering into an abandoned warehouse. Her collages incorporate photographs, bloodstained paper, and other unexpected materials.

What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?

Take photos, look for “Mattie” on headstones, and (in the Historic City Cemetery) tell stories!

Tell me about your favorite cemetery.

Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery is as old as the City of Sacramento and it’s the permanent home of more than 25,000 interesting people. It’s always been a city-owned cemetery, so it’s a very egalitarian place. When I give tours, I tell visitors that any color, any creed, any race, any religion, ANYONE could be buried there. The only color that mattered was green — if you could afford a plot, you could be buried there. There are still about a dozen interments a year, but if you want to spend eternity there, you better have a deed or proof that your ancestors bought a plot, because that’s the only way to get in now. That means I’ll never be buried there, but that’s fine — I just want a little bit of my ashes tossed in on a windy day so they scatter to different plots and sections.

Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?

I would love to visit Highgate Cemetery in London.

Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?

“Long Black Veil.” It’s been recorded a million times, but Johnny Cash’s version is my favorite.

Loren again:

I had a lot of fun putting together a playlist of cemetery songs recommended by the Death’s Garden Revisited contributors. You can listen to it here.

I would also love it if you’d check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is available for preorder on Kickstarter now. This beautiful book will be full of 40 amazing essays about why visiting cemeteries is important. Check it out — and please consider joining the other backers: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lorenrhoads/deaths-garden-revisited-relationships-with-cemeteries

Death’s Garden Party

This Saturday, April 2, I’ll be hosting a party on the Cemetery Travel Facebook page from Noon to 3:00 PM Pacific to celebrate the successful Kickstarter for Death’s Garden Revisited.

Some of the contributors will stop by to discuss their favorite cemeteries and the stories they added to the book. There will be cemetery-focused prizes and lots of like-minded souls.

Make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of cordial and join us at the Cemetery Travel page on Facebook. Here’s the direct link to the party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1416064368811830

Death’s Garden contributor: Carole Tyrrell

I met Carole Tyrrell years ago, when I discovered her blog Shadows Fly Away. She wonder a wonderfully in-depth feature where she examines one symbol that appears on gravestones, usually in England, and provides history, analysis, and beautiful photos to illustrate it.

Always attracted to the dark side of life as it’s much more entertaining, Carole has been involved with cemeteries for over 30 years. They are an oasis of peace and history. Carole’s fascination with cemetery symbols and their meaning has led to her blog, leading symbolism tours, and a forthcoming book. I can’t wait to read it.

Carole’s essay in Death’s Garden Revisited is about falling in love with London’s Nunhead Cemetery — and how the cemetery changed her life.

What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?

Appreciate the calm.

One of Carole’s lovely photos from Nunhead Cemetery.

Tell me about your favorite cemetery.

Very overgrown, very Gothic, great view from the top of the hill.

Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?

Too many to mention! One is Arnos Vale in Bristol.

If you have anything to say about it, what would your epitaph be?

See you soon.

Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?

“Cemeteries of London” by Coldplay.

That’s perfect! You can check out Carole’s contributor to the Death’s Garden Revisited playlist on Spotify.

I would also love it if you’d check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is available for preorder on Kickstarter now. This beautiful book will be full of 40 amazing essays about why visiting cemeteries is important. Check it out — and please consider joining the other backers: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lorenrhoads/deaths-garden-revisited-relationships-with-cemeteries

Death’s Garden contributor: Sharon Pajka

I’ve known Sharon Pajka for years through the Association for Gravestone Studies. She’s been writing about graveyards for a long time, both at her blog Goth Gardening and now in books. Her most recent, Women Writers Buried in Virginia, was conceived, researched, written, and published during the pandemic. She makes me feel like a slacker.

Her essay in Death’s Garden Revisited is about making a pilgrimage to honor the actor who inspired so many people by playing Herman Munster.

Officially, Sharon Pajka, PhD, author of Women Writers Buried in Virginia (2021), is a professor of English at Gallaudet University. On the weekends, you can find her in the cemetery, giving history tours or volunteering and running the website River City Cemetarians.

What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?

Aside from walking around and taking in the beauty, I love finding a mystery! Finding an interesting epitaph that leads me down a research rabbit hole or finding a connection between those buried in two adjoining graves, that’s what I live for. There is nothing better than finding the stories of those who came before us. There’s real magic in learning about their lives and telling their stories.

Tell me about your favorite cemetery.

Isn’t picking a favorite cemetery like picking your favorite child?

Yes, that’s exactly right!  Still…

Our forever home is Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, so that is one of my favorites. It’s a beautiful garden cemetery with winding paths and the most amazing trees I’ve ever seen. When my husband and I picked out our plot, we were told that it wasn’t a good place for a funeral as it is on a slight hill and under a large magnolia tree. I knew it was our place before I even made eye-contact with my husband to see if he felt the same. He said it was the birds flipping up leaves searching for bugs and how the place was both simultaneously private and public. I knew it our perfect spot because we basically had to do a Scooby-Doo creep behind a mausoleum just to get to it.

Okay, I had to do the Scooby-Doo creep. The cemetery manager and my husband just walked around the mausoleum.

I also adore Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia for all its Edgar Allan Poe connections. And Odd Fellows Rest in New Orleans was probably the most magical cemetery I’ve ever visited (legally, in 2015, with others members of our American Culture Association Cemeteries and Gravemarkers area, as the cemetery has been closed to the public for quite some time).

Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?

Highgate Cemetery in London. I have Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder that causes severe vertigo, so I don’t fly well, especially long flights. In 2011, I visited London for a conference and only had one afternoon free. All I wanted to do was go to Highgate Cemetery, but I let an older colleague persuade me into visiting all the popular tourist attractions instead. I will never forgive myself for letting that happen. If you’ve been around me, you’ve heard the story.

What would your epitaph be?

My husband and I are using a Harold Pinter poem that we recited at our wedding. We had planned a small wedding with only a few friends, but then decided to marry a couple of months earlier. It was just us. We’re private people and we’re that level of introvert. The poem speaks to our relationship. We’re not sure if we’ll include our birth or death dates. We don’t have kids and we’ll most likely outlive most of our family. We like the idea of keeping our epitaph somewhat cryptic.

Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?

The Smiths – “Cemetry Gates”

Loren again: I would love it if you’d check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is on Kickstarter now. The book reached its initial funding goal in 8 hours and is now available for preorder. This beautiful book will be full of 40 amazing essays about why visiting cemeteries is important. Check it out here — and please consider joining the other backers: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lorenrhoads/deaths-garden-revisited-relationships-with-cemeteries