Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween, cemeteries, and vandalism

Halloween (which I love), unfortunately also often means vandalism for too many cemeteries. Just Google 'cemetery vandalism' tomorrow morning.

I wanted to do an article on cemetery legends and hauntings, but decided against it for fear of encouraging excursions and increasing the risk of vandalism by even the well-intentioned.

Being a Massachusetts resident, surrounded by some of the oldest cemeteries in the country, I cannot emphasize the fragility of many of our cemeteries and monuments. Some of our oldest slate stones will surrender a large piece, sliding off, at even a moderate touch. Deliberate vandalism is not something I can understand. If you go to a cemetery, even just for the spooky, fun, most superficial reasons - why would you then want to destroy it?  What drives the urge to break someone's headstone, that's stood through time and weather for who-knows how long - sometimes hundreds of years?

Why?

That question echoes across hundreds of cemeteries the day after Halloween. It is never answered, even when the vandals are caught; there is never a reason. There can be no reason for an irrational act of destruction, I suppose.

One brilliant solution is the example set by Portland, Oregon, and the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery. After an unprecedented act of vandalism in 2000, where over 80 stones were broken or damaged, this group formed to restore the damage. One idea born of this group was to conduct the Halloween night Tour of Untimely Departures through the cemetery; a spooky, candlelit tour, weaving tales from the residents of the cemetery -some of whom you will meet at their tombstones, in period attire, telling their ghastly tales of untimely demise - with local legends and chilling atmosphere. This insured the security of the cemetery that night, generated revenue and increased interest. I hope this idea sparks similar ideas in other places that confront recurring Halloween vandalism. Even high schools or college drama departments could volunteer for such projects in lieu of an interested outside group being available. Many historic cemeteries already offer tours; if they do not offer them on Hallows Eve itself, it may well be worth considering.

Finally, in order not to be a complete buzzkill for Halloween, Tapho wishes you all the very best Hallows ever.




 Above animated graphic is the marvelous work of the talented Kevin Weir.
All images not copyrighted to TaphoTribes are linked to their source.

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