Monday, March 23, 2015

Wisconsin Death Trip

Aaaaaand we’re back!

Holy shit, y’all: Wisconsin is FULL OF DEAD PEOPLE. I’m not kidding. You can’t go a mile in any direction without stumbling over a gravestone. And while half of the cemetery plots I’ve seen in the Fox River valley area are the yawnworthy wedge-o-granite variety, this area was settled by white folks with funereal hang-ups in the Victorian era, and many of their resting places show off the aesthetic values (or lack thereof) of those wonderfully repressed people.

Guess the Good Book fell out of favor with this family after a generation?
Or maybe the family fell and couldn’t get up...

My serendipitous partner Scott and I made a photo trip through Oak Hill Cemetery in Neenah, Wisconsin a few weeks ago when there was still a bit of snow on the ground. (Isn’t that a great name? Don’t trip! NEENAH NEENAH!) We snagged a few pics of anything which caught our attention, from lovely, ornate carvings to Victorian hubris. So grab a snack, ‘cause trompin’ around in the snow with dead folks makes you hungry.

MAUSOLEUM: n. The Final and funniest folly of the rich. – Ambrose Bierce

First up: the mausoleum of one Charles R. Smith, with a decidedly Deco flair. Note the stylized sphinxes and gratuitous Latin. (I’m pretty sure it reads: “Here lies a dude with lots of money who wanted his tomb right up front here so everybody knows what a swell guy he was.”)

The cherry on this sundae is the cool lion guarding the door:

There are a handful of rare iron tomb markers here. Useful for keeping the fae folk in their damned graves, I guess. (Zombie tommyknockers?) All the ones we found were impressed in German. Many of the cemeteries here have a high percentage of Germanic, Dutch, and Nordic names; I’m having a field day collecting them. Never know when you’ll need an obscure German surname for a story. (I’m lookin’ at you, Sue London.)

The anchor on that guy’s marker isn’t the only sign of seamen being buried far from the briny deep, nor the coolest. That  honor goes to this wonderful mashup of treestump and naval symbology:

Esoteric orders often found in abundance in the burial grounds of the South seem largely absent here, though we did run across these two subtle proclamations:

There also seem to be some disturbing graves here. I really hope these aren’t premonitions in stone.

Doctor Strange is a comic hero. Joss Whedon writes comics. 


We also discovered some curious tracks, leading from and to nowhere... (cue suspenseful music):

Despite some car trouble (oddly starting soon after we took those three photos...I’m not saying it’s aliens, BUUUUT...), we had a great day. And there are many more boneyards just in our immediate region to explore and document! The loveliest of them, Riverview Cemetery in Appleton, begs for an afternoon of tromping around. 

We haven’t had the opportunity yet to fully explore it, but here’s a teaser, taken at dusk on Valentine’s:

Remember: if you haven’t yet mapped out where the graveyards are in your neighborhood, you’ll be caught unprepared when the zombies rise. Don’t let this happen to you!

More photos! Check out the gallery on my G+ page.

ICYMI: My flash-fiction "The Munchies" was posted on deadlyeverafter as part of a series of   "March Madness" fiction shorts. Not for the squeamish, but you can read it here. Be sure to check out the other entries as well: some great mad-creepy things throughout the month!