Exploring Historic Cemeteries, Part I
Just in time for Halloween, a tour of selected locations from a new cemetery travel guide
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Some folks like to visit museums or art galleries. But San Francisco author Loren Rhoads has carved a niche for herself visiting — and writing about — cemeteries. Her “Cemetery Travel” blog features essays, book reviews, and a “Cemetery of the Week” (172 and counting). Her recent book, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, takes readers on a tour of notable graveyards on six continents, from the Old Burial Ground in Kittery Point, Maine, to Waverly Cemetery in New South Wales, Australia.
She also writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including In the Wake of the Templars, a space opera trilogy.
Rhoads discussed her cemetery travels during a Sept. 16 presentation at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.
Prior to her talk, Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation director Terry Hamburg informed the attendees that they could be regarded at “taphophiles,” or people who love cemeteries. Rhoads has written that she considers the term “too clinical” and prefers to think of herself as a cemetery “devotee.” (On the other side of the spectrum are people who suffer from coimetrophobia, a debilitating fear of cemeteries.)
How did she choose the cemeteries in her book? “I wanted to talk about places that were beautiful, because I wanted to encourage people to visit,” she says. And “I wanted to talk about history, especially places where history has changed over time,” or places that she deemed “historically important.”
At first, her publisher wanted a book about the top 99 cemeteries, she recalls. “I sat down and made a list, and I found out quickly that 99 cemeteries were not very many,” so she suggested the larger number. Even with 199, she had to omit many notable locations. For example, she had space for only one cemetery in Russia, “which is a crime,” she says. “I didn’t even put in Lenin’s Tomb.” The book includes three cemeteries in the Boston area, but she could have added others.
The book is richly illustrated. For each location, she offers a brief history and an explanation of the cemetery’s significance. She’s personally visited about 70 cemeteries that appear in the book, so her travels are not done.
199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound. Links to the booksellers are on her website. On the Amazon page, you can see the complete list of cemeteries by clicking on the book cover.
With Halloween looming, we figured this would be a good time for some cemetery exploration of our own, beginning with locations in the U.S. and Canada. In the gallery below, you can see many of the most visually striking cemeteries from the book, especially the ones with roots in the 19th century. In Part II, we’ll look at cemeteries in Europe. Part III will cover cemeteries in the rest of the world.
Photos (from top): Adobe Stock photo by Sandra Cunningham; Loren Rhoads speaking at Cypress Lawn.