Well, clearly I can do nothing but hope it does lol. I have been beyond remiss in keeping JAUT updated, but it’s not totally without reason. Amid quite a bit of craziness on the home front over the last year and a half or so, I’ve undertaken a personal project that I hope will hit this page in the near future.

NH, my home state, has within its borders hundreds and hundreds of burial grounds. I’m endeavoring to compile a list of of those that are open to public access. The little ones, the big ones, and everything in between. If I’m successful at all, the fruits of this random labor will result in a series of files by county or town, with addresses and coordinates. (Okay, it’s not totally random… I’m suffering a case of the winter doldrums and crawl withdrawal and fully intend to hit the ground running when spring comes. Budget restraints mean my plans to travel well outside my comfort zone this year have been placed on the back burner… so it’s time to uncover the rest of NH’s charms lol).

Wish me luck, my friends. Until I see you again… crawl with care.

Yes, it’s true… I’m a bona fide, officially-elected-by-the-peoples, Cemetery Trustee in my home town. The reasons I chose to run for the position are many and varied; not the least of which is my, obvious, love of them. I find, though, that the longer I serve the greater my appreciation is of, for lack of a better term, the other side of the coin. For, not only do I relish the role of crawler, but I have a keen insight into the view OF us and our kind held by many a Trustee, Superintendent, or family member. You’ll notice I ask of my readers, often, to “crawl with care”. This lends itself to far more than the obvious “be careful so you don’t get hurt” warning. No, it is also akin to the notion of do no harm, for even the best intentions can sometimes go awry.

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You may recognize the lovely lady that follows… or maybe not given her lovely make over! Indeed, this is the vine choked statue from  my Bellevue post. I did return over Labor Day weekend, and was tickled pink by what I found! You all remember how dismayed I was at the neglect and vandalism, well,  the City of Lawrence put a small group of prisoners to work cleaning it up. Kudos to them is all I can say. No, uber-kudos! The place looked amazing, and they must have worked themselves like dogs to get it done.

I, for one, thank them wholeheartedly :)

Ad Summam:

  • Founded: 1841
  • Acres: 85
  • Design: Garden Style
  • NRHP: Yes #98000543
  • Topo: Fairly equal mix of hilly and level… something for everyone
  • Neighbors: Not even remotely sketchy
  • Gear: Flip flop approved

So, here at long last, I present one of the first cemeteries that has the potential to require a multi-day crawl. Lowell Cemetery followed closely on the heels of the nation’s first  rural / garden-style cemetery, Cambridge’s Mt. Auburn (another blog unto itself… patience gentle readers). At an impressive 85 acres, one could arrive to discover one of two scenarios… broad expanses of vacant, unused space or a somewhat more dense offering of monuments to explore. Lowell is comprised of the latter and definitely requires one to gear up for the trip. I’m talking water, snacks, a pack of smokes if you need them, extra batteries, a pretty good amount of time to linger… and a small trinket or token (more on that later). My daughter and I spent easily four hours or so meandering the winding paths, and I’m fairly certain we STILL missed a good amount of goodies.

What we didn’t miss was the Lion…

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Although taphophiles everywhere do share a distinct set of characteristics, each is possessed of individual preferences, quirks, and the like. Some care only to stumble upon exceedingly worn bits of slate bearing centuries old dates beyond the walls; while others seek to bear witness to nothing save the most magnificent examples of modern artistry. There are those whose adventures must be shared with a grouping of like-minded seekers; while others wish only the solace of their own company along their quests. Some enter bearing worn bits of charcoal and rustling sheets of paper while others rely on a lens to capture each nuance; still others enter with palms laid bare, seeking to leave with nothing other than the residual effects of the quiet aura within. To some, only the small, forgotten burial grounds hold any interest; while others care only to lose an entire day meandering along garden-style, Victorian paths. To some, it is their Monday Night Football – inescapable and fervent fodder for the water cooler; to others, it’s naught but a closely guarded secret.

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Ad Summam:

  • Founded: 1840
  • Acres: 20
  • Design: Garden Style
  • NRHP: Yes #352595
  • Topo: Fairly level sections/slight rolling areas/steep inclines to plateaus
  • Neighbors: Not so very sketchy
  • Gear: Flip flops NOT recommended

Valley Cemetery, located in the heart of Manchester, came to be through the generous donation of a substantial parcel of land to the city from the Amoskeag Company. In keeping with the times, it was laid out in sprawling, rural style replete with walking paths, stairways leading to the (surely) prized summit areas and strategically placed resting areas for the living. Like Bellevue, it must have been a glorious site (and sight) in its heydey, as can be glimpsed in the following, circa 1920 photograph. Today however, like Bellevue, it has fallen victim to economic hardship, disinterest, neglect, and the overall hazards of big city life. Graffiti and vandalism are all too present; the horizon is marred by the unsightly encroachment of the living, and the solitude is often interrupted by the raucous behavior of the local youth who appear to, sadly, have been uneducated in the most basic of values… respect.

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“It is overgrown, encroached upon by a sagging swath of vivid green just barely parted down the center by the continual passage of one, small traveler. You tread carefully, avoiding the largest of the  pebbles that jut harshly from the powdery sand and velvety grass — pebbles poised to thrust their sharp edges into bare, warm weather soles like so many glinting knives. Thick, blistering air weighs upon you, a sweltering cloak, as the hot July sun draws rivers of sweat from your flushed face. The woods, fragrant with pine, are quiet, yet never silent. Instead, the white noise of a million invisible insects hovers just beyond the ear as if waiting to be interrupted, if only rarely, by the distant cry of an unseen bird.

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Ad Summam:

  • Founded: 1847
  • Acres: Unknown… a LOT
  • Design: Garden Style
  • NRHP: Yes #351163
  • Topo: Rolling areas/steep to mild
  • Neighbors: Not so very sketchy
  • Gear: Flip flops NOT recommended

So here it is… our first official crawl together. Walk with me.

I first visited Bellevue and the adjacent Immaculate Conception and St. Mary’s cemeteries (we’ll take a closer look at the latter two in a future blog) on a viciously cold, New England fall day in 2008. I, mistakenly, thought it might be a short trip… wrong. You can’t imagine the vastness of this place unless you’ve seen it. I don’t know how many acres it spans overall, but each small(!) section is, in itself, seemingly endless.  It crosses the road in two different areas, and extends deceptively farther back than one would guess.

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A lot, actually. Depending on your point of view.

“Taphophile”.  By definition, taphophilia is a love of cemeteries. In some circles – freakish. In others – freakin’ cool! If you’re here, odds are good that you reside in the latter bunch… so, welcome!  I hope you’ll hang around as I wander around my home base and neighboring states exploring and photographing whatever cemeteries I happen to stumble upon. Well, okay. I don’t always stumble upon them – sometimes I spend hours searching the web and planning my strolls beforehand. Sue me.

To the former – we’re not really freaks even though you might think we are. Perhaps, as you peruse my idle ramblings on my random wanderings, you’ll catch but a glimpse of the serenity, history, art, and emotion that we taphophiles find on our journeys. Perhaps… your taphophobia will ease, if only a bit.

I must confess that this blog is not born solely out of love for cemeteries, however, but also frustration. It is my hope that, perhaps, it’ll catch some feedback and morph into a central repository of one-stop shopping for northeast crawlers that currently doesn’t seem to exist anywhere in the entire vastness of the Interwebs. Hey, I can hope, right?

Until we meet again… crawl with care!

Oh… one small note. You’ll find in my personal ratings reference flip flops… strange I know. In truth, I’m a barefoot baby and tend to go about as such whenever possible. I do not like to wear shoes when the weather is being agreeable but, given the hazards one can encounter while crawling I opt for flip flops to offer some protection. If they’re not being recommended, that usually means good traction and support is called for.

Welcome! I'm Jezebel and I'll be your cicerone for this particular taphophilic journey. Shall we head out?

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