Archive for the ‘Tales OF the Crypt (book/media commentary)’ Category

This weekend we went on Woodland Cemetery’s Killer Cleveland tour, which highlighted some of the violent and tragic deaths suffered (or caused by) those who now rest in the cemetery.  Because it was a fundraiser for the cemetery foundation, the cost was $20 per person, but I thought it was worth it.  It was a good length, about 90 minutes, and there was sufficient time allotted for questions and the reasonable amount of walking that was expected.  It was a chilly, overcast day with constant  threat of rain, but that’s Cleveland in October.  Most of the tour was over in the single grave section of Woodland, and almost none of the killers or victims had tombstones.  I’ll talk about more of the stories in detail later, but there won’t be a lot of tombstone photos with those posts because they simply don’t exist.  We visited the grave of a baby murdered by her mother’s jealous husband after his release from an asylum, along with the baby’s cousin who was shot as he left to get the police.  The tour lead us to the graves of a man who shot his wife while she was sweeping up the lamps he threw at her during a late night argument.  Two of our stops featured unsolved murders: Inez Smith, found stuffed in a trunk floating in Lake Erie (and likely murdered by her husband) and another found dead in her home along the Central Viaduct more than 100 years ago.  We heard about the Collinwood School Fire from the president of the Collinwood Nottingham Historical Society and a fantastic re-enactor told the story of the murder-suicide of Mrs. Cabalczak’s children and then herself from the murderess’ point of view.  We ended with a stop at the Mary Keokee Monroe statue, which I’ve written about before, where we discussed the history of the statue, the legends associated with it, and the interesting photographs obtained on a paranormal investigation in the cemetery. 
The extras included with the tour were pretty nice.  The cemetery had a program that contained summaries of the stops and excerpts from contemporary newspaper reports.  Each person got that, a cute little Halloween candy stick, and a raffle ticket.  They drew three tickets at the end of each tour for a free book by John Stark Bellamy II (I won a copy of The Corpse in the Cellar), and there was a grand prize drawing for a gift basket with copies of Casey Daniels’ Pepper Martin book series.  Daniels was the main tour guide.  And there was a table filled with lots of hot coffee and pastries to help us try to keep warm.

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Sadly, the Woodland Cemetery Living History tour scheduled for tomorrow, June 26, is cancelled.

Woodland does have some other exciting activities planned for later this year:
August 21, 2011 — Annual Scavenger Hunt (1 pm)
We did this last year and it was a lot of fun.

September 24, 2011 — Geocaching with the Boy Scouts (but open to the public)
I haven’t done this, but my understanding is that the locations they find correspond with the Boy Scout oath.

October 2, 2011 — Murder Tour 2011
This is new, and I’m really excited about it.

East Cleveland also has a Halloween tour scheduled again for this year – October 22, 2011. This was a great time last year, and they have promised to have a different tour this year to encourage repeat visitors.

This is what I know about right now – I will update with more dates as I know about them.

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I want to take a moment today to give some attention to a website that I have found very useful: Find A Grave. It’s an initative to help people find cemetery records for both the famous (that’s its own subset of the site) and the not-so-famous. Basically, those who do cemetery research for whatever reason (genealogists, local historians, cemetery enthusiasts) upload information about cemetery interments and markers, often including photos.

Being created by volunteers, it’s not a perfect website – there are errors of spelling and transcription, and confusing monuments lead to confusing entries. For example, every single child whose name is listed on the back of the Collinwood School Fire memorial in Lake View is treated as if they were buried there. But it can be incredibly useful, particularly for those doing research on family members buried far away. If a photograph of the tombstone is posted, you can review it yourself, and the site allows for photo requests. You can put out there that you are looking for a photo of a particular memorial, and some kind volunteer might scour the local cemetery to find it for you.

I’ve been working to add my East Cleveland Township Cemetery photos to the database, as there has been very little research done that I can see posted.

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My friend Diana was kind enough to go to Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati and pick up their 2011 calendar. (The calendar is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. I need to drop a check in the mail to them.) The concept behind the calendar was kind of interesting – the photographs were chosen from a competition pool created by the cemetery’s Facebook fans. A lot of the photos are visually well-composed and striking.

On the other hand, the overall effect is more like a calendar of photographs that just happened to be taken in a cemetery rather than a calendar about the cemetery. Monuments are rather static or at least very slow to erode, so the decision about which photos to include for which months seemed motivated more by what was happening with the grounds around the monuments – the photos for the winter months feature snow and ice, spring and summer have explosions of floral blossoms, and fall has the dramatic reds, oranges and yellows of changing leaves. In some photos, you almost can’t tell you are looking at a cemetery.

The calendar does include dates of planned events for the whole year, which would be great for a cemetery enthusiast in the local area. I don’t know if I will make a special trip down to southwest Ohio just for one of those events but who knows?

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Both of the tours we went on this past weekend were very enjoyable and will feature in upcoming blog posts for months to come. Euclid’s walk in the morning was much more focused on the geography and history of the local area, led by historian Roy Larick. It was coordinated with the Euclid Historical Society and was followed by an open house at the Euclid Historical Museum. It was more of a coincidence that this tour coincided with Halloween – it was not holiday-themed.



East Cleveland Township Cemetery Foundation, on the other hand, explicitly tailored their tour to the holiday. They combed through the records of the cemetery to find residents who had arrived there by tragedy: suicide, murder, and, in one case, a fire.


Our tour guide led us through the cemetery by tiki-torch-light. There were also a few other lanterns and flashlights, but the light overall was very dim. (Hint: If you ever find yourself in this situation, shuffle your feet so that you bump into the sides of low monuments rather than trip on them.) Each stop on the tour was marked by a single tiki torch, and there was a fairly even distribution of marked and unmarked graves. The tour guide also stressed that the stories on this tour differed from any they had used before, and they had enough stories that they would be able to provide different tours for many years to come. This is great news for those who enjoy these kinds of tours.


I’m planning to do some more research on the actual stories covered in the tours and post about them at a later date, so please forgive the generic nature of this review. If you get an opportunity to take one of these tours in the future, I recommend it.

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We went on a tour of Lake View Cemetery this weekend that was titled “Angels and Sculptures.” While some of what was covered was interesting, I have to warn anyone considering the tour that it is not precisely as advertised. The tour guide, whose name I cannot remember, works for the Cleveland Museum of Art and seemed to be extremely knowledgeable. Part of the problem was that she started out with background knowledge of architecture and art of the period of the Garfield monument to prepare us for the angels that we were going to see – for 45 minutes of a tour scheduled for two hours. I don’t think I would have minded if the information on artistic styles and movements had been provided in little bits as we were moving around the cemetery, but it was presented as a big long lecture while we craned our necks up to see what she was discussing on the Garfield monument.


There are four angels with the points of the compass on the ceiling of the Garfield monument, and at the one hour mark of the tour, they were the only angels we had seen. In total, we only visited 6 sites in two hours – the angels on the ceiling of the Garfield monument, 4 other sculpted angels, and the statues of the mourners I showed last Friday. (The mourners at the Peck monument are not angels, but I am willing to give that a pass since they are such cool statues.)


I don’t know how many additional angels I would have seen if I had followed the tour to its conclusion, because after 6 sites we had reached the end of the two hours. She did offer to continue the tour for anyone who wanted to continue, but she hadn’t shown me any sculptures I couldn’t have found or understood on my own, so we peeled off from the tour and did some exploring of our own.


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I had heard of Vicki Blum Vigil’s Cleveland Cemeteries book before I ever saw a copy. John Stark Bellamy II has referred to her book in more than one of his publications. The book has its strengths and weaknesses.

One big point in the book’s favor is the extensive listing of cemeteries. For every cemetery listed, Vigil provides the address, caretaker, office and gate hours (accurate at the time of publication, of course), cemetery size, and number of burials. This information is really helpful for planning a trip. Of course, the sheer number of cemeteries listed in the book translates to only a few pages for each one. My one caveat of the book is that it feels very cursory for this reason. Most cemeteries have information on fewer than 10 of the residents buried there, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of consistency in what kinds of graves merit note. Revolutionary War veterans generally receive mention, and sometimes Civil War veterans as well, but after that it is unpredictable. I noticed this after I explored the Euclid (Township) Cemetery. In Blum’s book, she mentions the grave of Raymond Gould, victim of the Lake View School fire of 1908. But seven victims of that fire have markers here – in addition to Raymond Gould, there are three double-gravestones: Fern and Wanita Robinson, Lillian and Otto Rostock, and Erma and Rose Buschman. The Rostock and Buschman markers mention the fire specifically. The inconsistency combined with the limited space means that you might not find information on a lot of the graves. This does, however, keep the book small and light enough to toss in your bag and keep with you. The information the book incorporates on address, hours, and size make it worth owning for anyone looking to explore the many cemeteries of Cleveland and the vignettes included will appeal to any history buff with an interest in Cleveland, but it’s a beginning rather than a comprehensive guide.

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A few notes before we begin are in order. Sometimes I will use this blog to comment on media that pertains to cemetery research and visiting. Most of these are not likely be full-scale, professional reviews – I’m planning to tell you what I liked and found useful to me as a cemetery visitor, researcher, and blogger. I’ll also let you know if there were any flaws that I noticed.

I just finished reading Marilyn Yalom’s The American Resting Place, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in United States cemeteries. Using a sampling of cemeteries (approximately 250) from across the U.S., Yalom traces uses cemeteries to trace American history, particularly attitudes toward death and dying, shifts in religious sentiment and observances, and the migration of ethnic groups. One of the things I appreciated about Yalom’s work is that she did not pretend to be comprehensive – in the opening pages of the book, she acknowledges that staggering number of cemeteries that dot the United States. The graveyards she highlights are examples of larger trends she wishes to illustrate, but retain their distinct individual eccentricities and personalities. Yalom narrates the book with a passion for cemeteries and a tenderness towards the deceased the cemetery buffs will appreciate and recognize. The photographs, stunning in the starkness of black and white, are the work of her travel companion and son, Reid S. Yalom. They alone are worth the price of the book.

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I received part of my order today from Amazon.com, including Douglas Keister’s Stories in Stone and Marilyn Yalom’s The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds. I’ve only gotten to page through them briefly so far, but I’m pretty excited. I’ll given some reviews and commentary as I’m reading them.

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