My fascination with cemeteries began in primary school.
For a time, when I lived with my father, we had to walk to school and we often took a short cut through the local cemetery.
I enjoyed the ambiance of the place, even then. I know it sounds morbid, but there is just a vibe, a feeling, an atmosphere in a cemetery that you rarely find elsewhere.
I don’t really know what it is?
You could say it’s “restful”, certainly quiet….still. A contemplative stillness.
Sad, very sad, especially when there are photographs of the deceased on the headstone.
There was one like that in this cemetery, of a young woman with long blonde hair.
As a child, to see a young person’s photograph on a headstone is a shocking thing, a frightening thing, but it’s fascinating at the same time.
Young people die.
What a thing to digest, as a kid.
How did she die?
WHY did she die. Why God, why?
I wondered about her a lot.
Wandering through the paths among all the graves I loved the stone angels towering high against the sky the most.
The expressions on their faces…almost bittersweet little smiles. Gestures of gentleness, of love and compassion.
The angels seem to promise “There IS a heaven filled with angels guiding and protecting all who pass…There WILL be sanctity, and peace.”
It was comforting to look at those angels.
There were huge family crypts too, in one section of the cemetery.
The rich peoples section, as we called it. The fanciest, most ornately decorated graves were also for the “rich people.” Even in death they seemed to command additional revere and respect…and perhaps a bit of envy.
One morning on our way to school, we noticed that there was a crypt with a door cracked slightly open.
Oh my…how horrific! Had someone broken in there during the night? Like grave robbers?
It was the most exciting, terrifying discovery and we all huddled round the door wondering what to do.
Of course….”Should we look inside?” was the question burning through inquisitive minds.
What would we see though?
Stuff of nightmares?
Would some ghoulish zombie corpse rise from a coffin and grab us?
We stood there for what seemed the longest time contemplating the situation.
Of course we HAD to look inside!
We all took turns peeking in. Nobody was game enough to actually go ALL the way in….
There was a coffin in there, it’s lid slightly pushed askew…We could see the edges of thick frosted plastic sticking out.
Nothing else though.
No rotting hand grasping the side, with long curled claw like fingernails.
“Fingernails keep growing after you’re dead you know.” said one of the kids.
That was enough for all of us…
Our brush with death was over.
The next day the door was locked again and all the secrets within safely sealed away from prying eyes.
I had a friend who lived in a large block of housing commission flats right next to the cemetery.
Her flat was right on the top floor so she could see the whole cemetery from her bedroom window.
I thought it was the coolest thing ever!
I was so envious of her view, imagining how all the gravestones must look, at midnight, on a full moon…on misty early mornings…in the rain…
I asked her time and time again if she’d ever seen any ghosts.
No. it didn’t really excite her it seemed.
To her it was just a cemetery. Something she saw from her window every day but never really noticed.
One night when I slept over at her house I convinced her to sneak out of the flat, so we could visit the cemetery at midnight.
At the witching hour. The magical hour!
Midnight was a long time away, for eleven year olds.
We had to set an alarm clock because we couldn’t stay up that late.
The alarm went off and up we got. My friend was less enthusiastic than I.
I’ll never forget that feeling of doing something forbidden. Just sneaking out in itself was pretty….”bad’, but to then walk outside in the dark? Into a spooky, shadowy, cemetery, alone?
What a thrill it was!
Of course we didn’t stay long.
It was scary!
We didn’t see anything either, which was disappointing to me, especially having made the effort of all the planning and alarm clocks and all.
Should of at least seen ONE ghostly figure floating behind a headstone somewhere.
One thing we NEVER did, as kids was to walk over a grave.
That was just absolutely forbidden.
You should never disturb the dead, was the consensus, by stepping on a grave, and if you did, untold BAD LUCK would happen to you. You might even die yourself!
So, we could carefully balance on the sides of graves…Walk all amongst them in fact, following the edges, but never EVER actually tread upon the middle of the raised concrete platforms….right above where the bodies lay.
One time I accidentally lost my balance and my foot landed….God forbid….horror of horrors, ON TOP of the grave.
It was a terrifying moment.
My heart stopped.
I’d done it.
Stepped on a grave!
It was a momentous thing. A terrible sin.
Something you just didn’t DO!
Would the sky open up and cast a spear of lightning right through my heart?
Well, no…the seconds that followed seemed pretty devoid of immediate drastic consequence…as did the minutes, the hours, the days.
Eventually I figured someone had forgiven me.
After all, I didn’t MEAN to.
When I was a kid my mother would sometimes say that when she got a sudden shiver…it was because “Someone just walked across my grave.”
That always perplexed me.
She wasn’t dead and buried so how could someone walk across her grave?
Did she mean the place where her grave was to BE? Eventually?
What a thought.
It made me shiver too.
I don’t want to be buried when I die.
As much as I love cemeteries I just don’t want my body to be put underground to be eaten by worms and beetles.
The whole idea of ME, rotting away, turning into some kind of hideous mush under there repulses and terrifies me.
I also don’t want my children to have these thoughts….imagining what I must look like…a week after I’m buried, a month….a year….
How horrible for them!
I remember when this singer here in Australia died.
I can’t think of his name, but he was a huge man, really obese…His signature song, or at least the song I remember them playing in tribute to him was “What a wonderful world.”
When they buried him for some reason I could not stop thinking about how his enormous body would be decaying there under the ground.
It was a horrible, almost intrusive thought that went on for months.
It was then that I decided I would much rather be cremated, my ashes scattered in a forest somewhere.
I shouldn’t write these things down.
Now I’m feeling paranoid.
Like it’s bad luck or something even speaking of them.
The thing about cemeteries that always gets me is that when you think about just how many millions/billions of people who have died…how come there just doesn’t seem to be that many cemeteries around?
Surely there should be one HUGE one in every neighbourhood?
I know Australia doesn’t have AS long a history as other countries, and to be honest, we’re pretty slack about preserving the little we have…
Just doesn’t seem to be enough graves to account for all the dead people though.
So where are they all? Hmmm?
So intense is my fascination for cemeteries that I even wrote a song about them.
I wrote the song and filmed this in Western Australia. (One of the first video’s I made.)
The weirdest things happened when I was editing it.
Random sounds kept playing through my computer than no matter how much my husband checked and delved and dug to find the source, he just couldn’t.
They were sounds of dogs barking, of snippets of music….the most frightening was a little child’s giggle – which actually sent me flying out the room the first time it came through my headphones!
Freaked me out BIGTIME, especially since at the time we were living in this spooky old “castle” house and my music room was like a windowless dungeon right up the back of the house.
Who knows what it was….