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Yeah, I remember hearing of remains being displaced by floods, bogs, and the like. The Galveston, Texas, flood of 1900 killed so many people and covered such a quantity of ground they couldn't bury the victims and had to burn them! There is one famous story, which turned up in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, where the person was smart enough to have a well-sealed coffin with a brass plate on it, saying who they were and when and where buried. A flood unearthed the coffin and carried it back to the person's birthplace! Quite a story there.

I am glad to learn of the message boards at Find a Grave and Taphophilia which may help answer some of these questions or at least collect the stories!
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Discouragement here. After learning about the replaced headstones, the person at the city said it was "not uncommon" to replace markers fallen into disrepair with newer markers. The old markers were then chucked into the river dyke to hold back the river. The last burial in that plot was 1965 and she suspects the stone replacement was done right around then. That would put it in the same era as this "monumental" sacrilege: http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:x5b-lpFjxhUJ:www.eli...etery&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Not long ago, I viewed the early-to-mid 1960s as quaint and charming. Now I have to ask, WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? In the words of a wise teacher, or was that t-shirt, from the late 1970s, WHO INVITED ALL THESE TACKY PEOPLE? The ONLY things to be said in favor of the replacement stones, besides all matching, are that they are a little more readable than the old stones. But those ARE still readable, DESPITE being left in or near a river for 30 or 40 years for crying out loud! And what a story they tell. They give full birth and death dates and initials of parents. All the new ones give are names and years. Just because society was undergoing some changes in the '60s, they thought it was all right to toss EVERYTHING from previous times? All that was needed was to reset the original stones in new cement--not toss and replace the lot! (It reminds me of one of those "My Turn" columns in Newsweek so sad I saved it. The man told of his ancestors in the Civil War and how one of them carried a small hand mirror. Over a hundred years later, some tacky person decided to repair it by breaking the precious handblown antique glass, which only needed resilvering, and replace it with a modern mirror. So tragic.)

There was a big flood here in 1964 and another in 1996. The 1996 one was bad enough to bounce around rocks the size of cars, so it's not unreasonable to think these stones were washed up in that. And this guy moved to the house after 1996. The previous resident was an old lady who didn't even hack through the forest of vegetation in the yard, so she'd never have found them.

Since the stones were discarded, it's "finders keepers" as far as the owner. Since the man says he doesn't want them, I'm going to try to find a historic society to house them indefinitely until a family member can be located. At least they can be used to illustrate and demonstrate the kind of tacky things done in the name of progress. If I were the old lady, who lived through hard times (born before the Civil War, lived through pioneer days and the loss of relatives at young ages) and then died during the Great Depression, when people couldn't afford to waste, I'd be INDIGNANT at the loss of my PERFECTLY GOOD tombstone which my own family picked out, even if I had been dead 30 years when it was tossed! Know what would be interesting? If the person who did this just passed on and they are fighting it out on the other side just at the time these turned up!

I'm thinking "Pillar of Fire." Pillar...of...Fire!
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm thinking of colourising old black-and-white movies. Yours, of course are even better examples of what I believe C.S. Lewis referred to as "Chronological Snobbery", or something like that - when we think we know better than our ancestors.
 
Posts: 3167 | Location: Box in Braling I's cellar | Registered: 02 July 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The librarian is in touch with a family member. She's emailing her today and we'll see what she says about the matter. I also spoke to the historical society who will try to work out a storage solution. Right now they don't have display space. Tried to call the guy to tell him this, but couldn't get him on the phone. Hey, the old lady really was married three times and had children of at least two different last names. The last buried there was the state senator, and it's believed that the stone switch was pulled when he was buried.

Yahoo supposedly gives out free photo album space. If I can figure out a way to make it work, I can take pictures and post them so they will be online. Might also make an interesting Find-a-Grave story.
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Ravenswake:

I remember vividily a photo in the Minneapolis Tribune of an enbankment washed away to such an extent that coffins were sticking out into the air. At least they could be reburied, but like you said, what of the ones washed away?
 
Posts: 1525 | Location: Sunrise, FL, USA | Registered: 28 June 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yeah, they have an article there about that or a similar event: http://www.taphophilia.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1878
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well, after a number of attempted calls, I reached the homeowner on Monday, and said I would come over and tell him the story. I brought my still camera and my sister's video camera of which I have use for a few weeks. I already videotaped the replacement stones. Haven't still photographed them but probably will. At the guy's house I still photographed the original stones, and can post them online when I go through all the steps of figuring that out, then videotaped them and him describing where and how they were found. He's been there four years and they've sat there about the whole time. I was rather startled that the man who met me at the house was not the man I talked to at the yard sale! It seems the name he gave me was the name of the homeowner, who is his son or even his grandson, NOT his own name. I wanted to say, gee, I wanted the old man, he was kind of a character. But the young one was nice, very accomodating and interested in the whole thing.

Besides the three headstones and one footstone found intact, there were parts of a large monument scattered around on the bank. I identified it as a "Woodmen of the World" marker due to the fact that there are at least two still up in the cemetery and the ivy on them is identical. He thought he might piece it together, but (if I can get hold of him again) when I tell him where one of the originals is to be found he will find the task, to say the least, daunting. These markers are about six feet tall and built like a section of a tree, and what he had were just tiny fragments! I suppose some research would reveal which family member had this stone.

He also had another footstone, this one with initials. The last initial does match one of the family names of people buried there. He has been using this as a downspout on his rain gutter! The descendant is on vacation so the librarian has been unable to contact her. We doubt she can do anything about this. I am still pursuing the historical society angle. He says the society is welcome to them--that "they aren't going anywhere" due to the fact that "it takes about three guys to move one" of them. This is why we can't comprehend anyone doing all this--going to the trouble and expense of making the new stones, and hauling the old ones off! I told him to be prepared for some surprises elsewhere on the property. The river used to come through there, but now it is a swamp with an island in the center--very atmospheric and I took a lot of scenic shots. He's now thinking of putting some Halloween-themed display out there.
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dandelion,

You mentioned something somewhere about writer's block. You don't need me to point out, do you, that all of the above would make an excellent short story?

Nah. Didn't think so.

Get to it, girlfriend.

Best,

Pete
 
Posts: 614 | Location: Oklahoma City, OK | Registered: 30 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Just from the fragments of stone left, I was able to tell the "Woodmen of the World" marker was almost certainly for a male buried between 1890 and 1900. Narrowing it down to people buried in that plot should pretty well indicate whose stone it was. I told the people where to find two identical stones in the cemetery for comparison. This makes definitely five and possibly six remainders of markers found--as I said, I believe the total to be at least eight. When I was telling the lady there all this stuff, she said she found it rather disrespectful of a later person to come along and remove memorials that earlier people intended as permanent, which were my sentiments exactly. She wanted to know who did it and why. I said if I could learn that, I *might* write an article--otherwise I'll just leave it to a few internet postings.

Yeah, pterran, I come across great material continually. It's that mysterious transformation into fiction which forms the block!
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Little footnote on the footstone. Tuesday I photographed the group of graves only. Wednesday I photographed the individual stones. The only "J. F." in that plot died in 1962! (At least, according to the replacement stone, unless they really got it wrong!) Yet I would swear this was a 19th century marble footstone! I wonder if they were even bothering with footstones in 1962, let alone that style! Another mystery develops.
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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My favorite radio program, "This American Life," is just bursting with stories, but the one on "Hitler's Yacht" http://www.thislife.org/ would go perfect in Bradbury territory. It has all the elements, perfectly meets and passes that line where history blurs with the surreal and crosses into legend, not to mention a menagerie of carnival freak characters.
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dandelion,
What a fascinating tale! I was intrigued to hear that you saw a newly dug grave with debris suggesting the reuse of an old grave! It supports a theory I've had for a while. I think a lot is being covered up at cemeteries and in mortuaries. The numbers just don't add up. With the number of poeple who ought to be dying every year, they must be reusing graves. I imagine the cemetery people cataloguing (sp?) and keeping track of which graves haven't been visited in many years so that no one will notice when the grave goes missing... And what becomes of all the extra dirt from a grave, once it's filled in? If the hole is dug and the coffin is buried, then upon refilling the hole, there must be a good 40 or 50 cubic feet of dirt, right? Where soes that dirt go? Another thing that I've noticed is that you never see them filling the graves. I'm sure all the digging and fillling is done by machine these days, which is probably their excuse for doing it at night, because it would be insensitive to bring out the backhoe during visiting hours, but who's to say what happens after the cemetery closes but before the grave is filled in? How do we know that anyone is even buried anymore? Maybe the bodies are all just cremated after hours? Then what happens to the caskets? It seems like a waste to pay several thousand dollars for a fancy hardwood box that will only be used on one day, doesn't it? I suppose they have to actually bury certain people: famous people, murder victims, people who die of mysterious causes... anybody who may need to be exhumed later. It would be unfortunate if they were needed for medical or historical evidence and they weren't there... The whole cover story would be blown. The government wouldn't be able to keep every grave from being exhumed.
 
Posts: 554 | Location: Azusa, CA | Registered: 11 February 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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When the relative/descendant returned from vacation, the librarian/genealogist notified her. She was upset at what happened, but couldn't do anything about it. We agreed that who did it, when, and why, would make quite a story, but if you dug into that you might learn things you didn't even want to know. So for now everything is let lie as it is.

Yes, there are many scandals involving cemeteries, and no, quite bluntly, you CAN'T make sure EVERYONE is buried, though I still believe most are. I remember one some years ago about a crooked undertaker which reminded me so of Ray's story "The Handler" I sent him the clipping. People didn't get cement vaults they'd paid for and I don't know what-all else.

My dad was a minister and had a closet full of anecdotes. In one burial in Indiana, one of the straps holding the casket broke and the casket fell into the grave face down. Turning it over would have required terrible exertions. Only the minister and a few others, such as cemetery staff, were there. The guy in charge said, "You didn't see that," and there it lies to this day. In another case, a corpse was shipped out of town for burial in stocking feet. Later the people received a bill, outrageous for the time, maybe $40, to put shoes on the body, and someone asked, "How do you know they put shoes on him?"

From time to time "Inside Edition" or such shows run cemetery scandals. In one case, they had a place where a lot of burials were taking place in a short time. To put it bluntly (I could catch hell for saying this at all, but what the heck, we speak out on this board) it was in a predominantly black neighborhood and a lot of young men were dying sudden violent deaths. The cemetery didn't keep the best records. A mother who went to plant something on her son's grave dug no more than a few inches and struck bone! The cemetery officials tried to tell her a dog must have dragged a body there and buried part of it. Even were such a thing possible, why were they letting something such as a body, which should be in a casket, lie around where something such as a dog could get hold of it? It sounds very much like digging for the new grave stirred up an old one. Another mother became suspicious about her son's grave and had the place exhumed. As soon as the casket was out, she burst out crying, as it was NOT the one bought for her son, and now she may never know where he is. In another story, different cemetery I think as this was a Jewish family, items supposed to be buried with a man only a few years ago--who would presumably have relatives still visiting the grave--were found dumped out back, and what happened to the remains themselves did not look good.

Of course there is the occasional odd story, such as the undertaker who murdered his wife and placed the body under that of an old lady about to be buried. Suspicious officials exhumed the casket and found the double occupancy.

I had an interesting talk some years ago with a guy regarding a story I was working on, about a cemetery being relocated for a building project. In that case, the bodies were being removed. I think they were put in another cemetery, but yes they would have had to find room for them. In a case in LaGrande, Oregon, a cemetery was moved to build a university and the bodies were simply left stacked in the basement for over 100 years!

The most notorious story took place in Georgia several years ago. A woman walking her dog discovered a skull in a wooded area near a crematorium. Although the guy running the place was only 28 years old, the oven (that the right word?) had been busted for a good ten years or more! The bodies were simply scattered, or stacked up, some embalmed in caskets. (Peter Jennings said he didn't know what those bodies were doing there, but as a matter of fact it is state law that a body to be displayed/viewed must be embalmed. So yes, some people are both embalmed and cremated.) Relatives were given jars of cement or whatever looked like human ashes. It was a huge, HUGE scandal!

As for the dirt. Since in many places state law requires those concrete/cement vaults, that means even less dirt is needed to fill a grave. In the old days, they used to mound graves, as dirt settles, nowadays they have a way of letting it settle, then sodding it. Some dirt needs to be kept on hand to fill in places which settle, but see Ray's story "Free Dirt" for one interesting possibility of dirt disposal! (I use a lot of fill dirt for gardening. So far, none of it has come from there, though I have been offered, "as long as it's just a bucket or something, and not too much." Now, I wonder with all the graves they dig, why they would worry about too much dirt being taken? What DO they use it for? Hmmm, now you've got me going off on another wild grave chase!)

No, the government could NOT keep every grave from being exhumed, and probably most that are vandalized are in rural, not city cemeteries, which can't be watched as well. On the flip side, graves which are disturbed are probably in city cemeteries, where they have the crowding/reuse problem, so six of one, half a dozen of the other. I don't believe any large scale "Pillar of Fire"-type project will ever occur. No one has the means for all that digging and disposal! But then, some mighty strange things take place now which can't have been imagined thousands of years ago. Egyptians and Native Americans were not far wrong in placing curses on their final resting sites. Don't just plant 'em and forget 'em.
 
Posts: 7306 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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groon,

I think you've answered your own question: none of those coffins contains a body, so they use all that empty space inside the coffin to hide the dirt!


- Phil

Deputy Moderator | Visit my Bradbury website: www.bradburymedia.co.uk | Listen to my Bradbury 100 podcast: https://tinyurl.com/bradbury100pod
 
Posts: 5029 | Location: UK | Registered: 07 April 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dandelion,

The incident you reported about graves being re-used happened not too far from where I live. It was a Jewish cemetary that coffins were being removed and thrown into nearby woods. A disgruntled employee took a video showing items from coffins lying on the ground in the woods.
The video did not show remains, but they were there. The plots were being resold. It was quite a scandal here in the Ft. Lauderdale area but also a sister cemetary in Palm Beach County was doing the same thing. A vice president of the firm that ran the cemetaries committed suicide and fines were levied against the company. The whole thing is rather ghoulish don't you think?
 
Posts: 1525 | Location: Sunrise, FL, USA | Registered: 28 June 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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