Halloween is approaching so I feel obligated to do a quasi-creepy post. I’m generally a pretty cheerful person, so it may come as a surprise to you that I enjoy visiting graveyards–the older the better. We have a site next to my church that predates the American Revolution by well over 100 years. It’s the Old Granary Burial Ground near Boston Commons, final resting place of such luminaries as Paul Revere (that’s his gravestone in the picture to the left) and the original 5 victims of the Boston Massacre (an incidence of violence that precipitated the events leading up to the British invasion and Paul’s legendary midnight ride).
Samuel Adams (the patriot, not the beer) is buried here. Along with Benjamin Franklin’s parents and signer of the Declaration of Independence John Hancock.
But there are simpler bones resting in this interesting old graveyard as well. Some of the headstones date to the early 1600’s. Some are so weathered, their inscriptions are mere dimples, unreadable shadows of the past.
One of the things I do when I wander old graveyards is collect period names. I found Mrs. Waitstill Trott, a wonderfully evocative name I’m using for my hero’s housekeeper in my current WIP, Touch of a Rogue. Another name from the Old Granary that will appear in that work is Gershom Flagg, who’ll be a blacksmith.
The art on these old markers is interesting. The winged skull is a frequently used device, more common than Christian symbology, which surprised me since there are many Puritan graves in the Old Granary Burial Ground. Some of the stones have admonitory verse on them, a reminder to passersby of their own mortality or a call to improve themselves prior to joining the deceased in their dark silence.
This picture isn’t clear enough to read, but here’s the verse on this stone:
Farewell Vain World I have Enough of the,
and now I’m Careless what thou Say of me
What Fault thou See in me
Take Care to Shun
There worke within thy Self
That Should be Done,
Thy smiles I Court not, nor thy Frowns I fear
My Cares are past my head lies quiet here.
As you can see, the spelling is irregular–“the” instead of “thee,” worke with an added e. This stone is pre-Daniel Webster and his dictionary which began to standardize common spellings. I’m not quite sure what rules of grammar governed the capitalization. It seems pretty random. Several stones in the graveyard use a figure that looks like a lower case “f” for an “s.”
Visiting graveyards does seem a little ghoulish, doesn’t it? So now I’m wondering if my fascination with them is unusual or if any of the rest of you enjoy a quiet stroll among the departed? Have you ever had an unusual experience in one?