Fracking in Cemeteries

Against fracking 01

So it has come to this. In the never-ending quest for profit alternative forms of energy, natural gas companies are looking to drill in cemeteries. Yes, fracking is coming to a graveyard near you.

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on fracking but I did watch that Oscar-nominated documentary about the process and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As did this story about leasing mineral rights in cemeteries – some highlights:

Loved ones aren’t the only thing buried in the 122-year-old Lowellville Cemetery in eastern Ohio. Deep underground, locked in ancient shale formations, are lucrative quantities of natural gas.

Whether to drill for that gas is causing soul-searching as cemeteries – including veterans’ final resting places in Colorado and Mississippi – join parks, playgrounds, churches and residential backyards among the ranks of places targeted in the nation’s shale drilling boom.

Opponents say cemeteries are hallowed ground that shouldn’t be sullied by drilling activity they worry will be noisy, smelly and unsightly. Defenders say the drilling is so deep that it doesn’t disturb the cemetery and can generate revenue to enhance the roads and grounds.

“Most people don’t like it,” said 70-year-old Marilee Pilkington, who lives down the road from the cemetery in rural Poland Township and whose father, brother, nephew and niece are all buried there.

“I think it’s a dumb idea because I wouldn’t want anyone up there disturbing the dead, number one, and, number two, I don’t like the aspect of drilling,” she said.

Township trustees received a proposal this year to lease cemetery mineral rights for $140,000, plus 16 percent of any royalties, for any oil and gas. Similar offers soon followed at two other area cemeteries

John Campbell, a lease agent for Campbell Development LLC, a company based in Fort Worth, Texas, declined a request for more information on his proposal, which was not expected to stir any graves. He said only that the offer was not accepted.

It was just more fuel for drilling opponents in the Youngstown area, already rocked by a series of earthquakes that have been tied to deep-well injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and other drilling activities. They’re now fighting for a citywide drilling ban.

Concerns are driven largely by a lack of information, said John Stephenson, president of the Texas Cemeteries Association.

“A lot of it just has to do with the way that it’s presented,” he said. “You’re hundreds of feet below the ground, and it’s not disturbing any graves.”

It’s possible to reach oil and gas deposits now from drilling rigs placed sometimes miles away because of advances in what’s called horizontal drilling. The technology has made vast new shale energy deposits available under the Northeast, Texas and elsewhere.

Stephenson leased mineral rights under two of his cemeteries within the past three years, he said. Each is about a century old and populated with 75,000 graves. Revenue from the leases – he wouldn’t say how much – has allowed him to pave roads, repair fences and make other improvements during economic hard times.

Plot owners have no legal claim to the mineral rights at a cemetery, Stephenson said. Their agreements are for an indefinite rental of sorts at the surface level – and a promise the site will be maintained, he said.

Well. Is nothing sacred anymore? Not even the land where our ancestors are buried? What do you think of fracking in cemeteries?


Cemetery Etiquette


Hello, my name is gravetender and I’m a cemetery-holic. And I’m not the only one (phew!).  There are hundreds (thousands? hundreds of thousands?) people just like me all over the world who enjoy visiting cemeteries. And when we visit cemeteries we follow the rules of cemetery etiquette.

‘Cemetery Etiquette: How to Act When Graveyard Hopping’ is an article penned in the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal. And just what exactly is a Graveyard Rabbit, you ask? Well, a Graveyard Rabbit is a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits and they are dedicated to the “academic promotion of the historical importance of cemeteries, grave markers, and the family history to be learned from a study of burial customs, burying grounds, and tombstones; and the social promotion of the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information written in cemeteries.”

So back to the article (which you can read in full here) and the generally accepted rules of cemetery etiquette, which are:

  • Appreciate memorials as they are. Do not add to, take away from, or modify a memorial in any way.
  • Do not intrude on funeral or memorial services.
  • Do not bring alcohol, firearms, or entertainment items into cemeteries.
  • Keep pets leashed and under control. Clean up after them. [If the cemetery has an office, first check to make sure pets are welcome.]
  • Do not litter (this includes cigarette butts), and do not interfere with plants and wildlife.
  • Keep vehicles on designated roadways or in parking areas. Idling vehicle engines can be harmful to landscaping and historical structures.

And here are some more:

  • Move nothing except obvious trash.
  • No loud music. If in your vehicle, the music should not be heard by anyone outside of it.
  • Keep cell phone conversations quiet.
  • Do not do rubbings without permission. Each cemetery has a different stance on this. Some will allow it, some will not. Some will require permission from the lot owner. Always ask.
  • Drive through cemeteries at a slow speed.
  • If asked to put away your camera, do so. Some cemeteries are considered private property. Some consider each lot to be a private property.
  • Never trespass. If a cemetery is located on private property, get permission from the land owner before visiting.
  • Keep conversations with companions at a respectable volume. I don’t think a whisper is required, but shouting is obviously disrespectful and unnecessary.
  • Leave no evidence of your visit.
  • Report fresh vandalism incidents immediately.
  • Cemeteries are not to be used as a camping ground or “lovers’ lane.”
  • Picnics are usually acceptable, but be sure to leave the area cleaner than when you arrived. (I imagine this to be true in the many park-like cemeteries, but I would not assume this to be true at every cemetery.)
  • Do not pick flowers. Not even the ones that are part of the general cemetery landscape. This is against the law in some places.

These are good rules to follow. Do you have good cemetery etiquette?

Everlasting Love in the Cemetery

Valentines heart

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. I don’t celebrate the holiday any more…I used to when I was young (and naive). But now that I’ve grown into a cynical adult, I don’t see the point of buying an over-priced card or receiving over-priced flowers or eating an over-priced dinner on February 14 just because the card/flower/restaurant industry demands it. And Gravetender Hubby agrees with me. We’re both cynical adults so it works for us:)

However, I did find this story about “A Mystery of Eternal Love” to be sweet and romantic:

Over 50,000 flowers have been placed on the grave of a young girl who died almost 145 years ago in Freiburg, Germany. Who places them there, no one knows. Every morning, under summer’s sun and winter’s snow, a fresh flower has been placed on the grave of Caroline Christine Walter.

Caroline Walter and her beloved older sister Selma moved to Freiburg to live with their grandmother after their parents died. She went to a school for young ladies and by the time she reached the age of 16, she already had a number of admirers who were attracted by her young beauty. When her sister married, Caroline happily went to live with her and her new husband.

In the early summer of 1867, just before she turned 17, Caroline contracted tuberculosis and passed away a few short weeks later.

Her sister Selma wanted to create a lasting memorial and asked a sculptor to cast a grave in her sister’s likeness. The life size and life like sculpture depicts Caroline just as if she fell asleep reading in her own bed.

Caroline Christine Walter (1850-1867)

The grave was placed against one of the outer walls of the Alter Friedhof cemetery which had already been in existence for more than 200 years. It was a peaceful setting, made more peaceful by the beautiful grave of the sleeping girl.

It was soon after Caroline passed away, and the flowers on her grave from the funeral were wilting, that her sister began to notice that a fresh flower was always on the grave when she visited. Months and then years passed and still no one had discovered who might be leaving the flowers. The cemetery groundskeepers could provide no clue but perhaps they were sworn to s

In the early summer of 1867, just before she turned 17, Caroline contracted tuberculosis and passed away a few short weeks later.

Her sister Selma wanted to create a lasting memorial and asked a sculptor to cast a grave in her sister’s likeness. The life size and life like sculpture depicts Caroline just as if she fell asleep reading in her own bed.

The grave was placed against one of the outer walls of the Alter Friedhof cemetery which had already been in existence for more than 200 years. It was a peaceful setting, made more peaceful by the beautiful grave of the sleeping girl.

It was soon after Caroline passed away, and the flowers on her grave from the funeral were wilting, that her sister began to notice that a fresh flower was always on the grave when she visited. Months and then years passed and still no one had discovered who might be leaving the flowers. The cemetery groundskeepers could provide no clue but perhaps they were sworn to secrecy.

Caroline had never mentioned any young man in particular to Selma however legends abound. The most common one is that the flowers were placed by one of Caroline’s tutors who had fallen in love with her and mourned her passing for the rest of his life. But, even had he lived to be a hundred, he still would have died more than half a century ago. Did he leave instructions for future generations to carry on the tradition?

Today, only a little sunlight filters through the boughs of the trees overhead, moss has grown over the place where she sleeps but every morning since that fateful day in 1867, a fresh flower blooms on Caroline’s grave.

What a wonderful story! Maybe there is hope for this world yet…I shouldn’t be so cynical.

Do you have any stories about everlasting love?

No Fake Flowers In Cemeteries?


Most cemeteries have specific rules regarding grave decorations which state what one can and cannot leave at the gravesite. Fresh flowers are mostly OK, but some graveyards strictly prohibit fake flowers, plantings and anything glass or plastic. These policies are put in place to help with maintenance (especially during mowing season) as well as to give the cemetery a certain ‘look.’ But these rules can be annoying for folks that lean on the creative side:

Behind the long ribbon of the cemetery wall all is quiet and damp and very grey. Rising from the ground at a hundred different angles, the headstones of Kensal Green, north-west London, are softened by lichen, moss and  mildew. Beyond the older graves, this sombre scene is suddenly brightened by tropical splashes of colour: artificial yellow tulips, plastic poinsettia, fake lily of the valley, great sprays of plastic roses and other indeterminate artificial shrubs and flowers in vivid orange, purple and red.

The proliferation of plastic flowers bedecking ever more elaborate graveside memorials, featuring Pooh bears, T-shirts, flags, pictures and poems and windchimes and windmills, has sprung from a growing individualism, the mourning of Princess Diana, the spread of foreign traditions and even health and safety regulations that forbid glass and metal in graveyards. For many people these vibrant, personal displays are a vital expression of their relationship with the deceased. For others they are kitsch, shouty and intrusive.

Modern graves are far more humble – and more individualistic. In Kensal Green, they feature everything from a rain-soaked toy Eeyore left for a –  presumably grumpy – grandad to framed pictures of dogs, snow globes, Chelsea T-shirts, caps and earmuffs.

One is adorned with a picture of a sunset, a poem for “mum” and a small half-drunk bottle of Glenfiddich. A memorial to a 21-year-old boy is dominated by a T-shirt hanging from a wooden cross with “playboy” on it; around his headstone is a lantern, a model flute-player on top of a wind chime, a poem and great splashes of colour from plastic floral arrangements.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Bath, says such decorations are mourners “staking their claim” and emphasising that their loved one was important – and an individual.

“There are competing expectations about grief. For some people it’s about moving on. For others it’s about an ongoing relationship,” she says. “There is a view of stages of grief that ends with ‘letting go’. Some people don’t do that. They never will let go, and that is OK.”

I don’t have a problem with fake flowers, plastic windmills or whiskey bottles on a grave. If that’s how you choose to memorialize your loved one, then so be it. However, I think cemetery staff have every right to remove these decorations if they pose a hazard or get blown away by the wind. And really, some of these grave adornments are just hideous (yeah, I said it). But variety is the spice of life (or death?), I suppose.

Anyway, it’s nice to see flowers or other mementos on a grave – it shows that people still care about those they have lost. It’s the thought that counts. So, the next time I’m in a cemetery and I see a large basket filled with fake tulips and plastic bunnies, I’ll just keep it moving. To each their own:)

Do you think fake flowers/plastic decor should be banned in cemeteries?

You Are A Minority If You Live In This Town

Welcome to Colma

Colma, CA has 1,792 above-ground residents and  1.5 million below-ground souls. The town is home to 17 cemeteries and is known as the ‘City of Souls’. But the town’s motto says it best – “It’s great to be alive in Colma.”

Can you imagine having all your next-door neighbours living six feet under? At least you wouldn’t have to call the cops to complain about loud, late-night parties. It must be a calm and quiet place to live, although I’m sure there are numerous local stories about cemetery hauntings and wandering zombies disturbing the peace. And Halloween probably draws a large number of out-of-town “ghost hunters” and the like, although with a long history of being a necropolis, Colma likely has its own way of dealing with such intruders.

Colma is located in San Mateo County, not too far from San Francisco and has a total area of 1.9 square miles. The town became the ‘City of Souls’ when San Francisco announced its land would no longer be used for cemeteries in 1900 (increased property values made the land too valuable to be used just to bury the dead). Then, in 1912 San Francisco evicted all the cemeteries from its city limits so the cemetery operators relocated to Colma and have continued doing business there ever since.

Some of the cemeteries in Colma include:

  • Cypress Lawn Cemetery – William Randolph Hearst (publishing magnate) is buried here.
  • Hills of Eternity Memorial Park – Wyatt Earp is buried here.
  • Holy Cross Cemetery – Joe DiMaggio (baseball legend) is laid to rest here.
The mausoleum of Joe DiMaggio at Holy Cross Ce...

Joe DiMaggio's Grave

  • Pets Rest Cemetery – they offer cremation and lawn burials

Colma, CA sounds like the perfect place for someone like me! Anybody else interested in moving?

  • RIP Tofu (

Top 5 Cemetery Jokes


Though not the most popular location for a joke to occur (I think that dubious title belongs to a bar – after all, how many jokes have you heard that start with “Three men go into a bar…??”), a cemetery does inspire humorous jokes. Here are my Top 5:

#5. Two men were walking home after a Halloween party and decided to take a shortcut  through the cemetery just for laughs. Right in the middle of the cemetery they  were startled by a tap-tap-tapping noise coming from the misty shadows.  Trembling with fear, they found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping  away at one of the headstones.
“Holy Cow, mister”, one of them said after  catching his breath. “You scared us half to death. .. we thought you were a  ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?”
“Those fools!”, the  old man grumbled. “They misspelled my name!”

#4. A woman was leaving a 7-11 with her morning coffee when she noticed a most  unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery. A long black hearse  followed by a second long black hearse about 50 feet behind. Behind the  second hearse was a solitary woman walking a pit bull on a leash. Behind her  were 200 women walking single file. The woman couldn’t stand the curiosity. She  respectfully approached the woman walking the dog and said, “I am so sorry for  your loss, and I know now is a bad time to disturb you, but I’ve never seen a  funeral like this. Whose funeral is it?” The woman replied, “Well, that first  hearse is for my husband.” “What happened to him?” The woman replied, “My dog  attacked and killed him.” She inquired further, “Well, who is in the second  hearse?” The woman answered, “My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my  husband when the dog turned on her.” A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence  passed between the two women. “Can I borrow the dog?” “Get in line!”

#3. Your momma is so ugly, when she walked through the cemetery two men  came after her with shovels.

#2. Did you hear about the plane that crashed in the cemetery? Search and rescue workers have recovered 100 bodies and expect that number to climb as digging continues.

And my top cemetery joke, an oldie but goodie, is:

#1. The cemetery up the hill is really popular. People are dying to get in.

HA HA HA! Funny, no? To me, anyway:)


source for jokes 2-5:

The Amazing Race: Cemetery Edition

Logo of the United States edition of The Amazi...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s that time of year – The Amazing Race is on CBS on Sunday nights! This is Season 19 (have they really raced around the world 19 times? And handed out $19 million??) and so far nine teams remain in the running. Just in case you have no idea what The Amazing Race is (possibly because you’ve been living under a rock for some time), let me explain – it’s a reality TV show where teams of two people who kinda-sorta know each other race around the world, visit different countries, perform various tasks, solve riddles and essentially try to be the first team to cross the finish line. The  team that wins gets $1 million.

I’ve always wanted to be a contestant on The Amazing Race but alas, my time is yet to come. After watching the most recent episode, I wondered if the teams have ever had to solve a puzzle in a cemetery. A quick Google search later and jackpot – there’s an Amazing Race type event in Arizona called the Cemetery Crawl! I know, this isn’t exactly what I was looking for¹ but searching for clues and solving puzzles in local cemeteries? Sounds amazing to me! Debe Branning, one of the creators of the Cemetery Crawl, writes:

‘Just what exactly is the Cemetery Crawl? Well, unlike the Amazing Race, where teams visit five continents and eight countries, the Cemetery Crawl stops in five Arizona counties and eight selected cemeteries. Teams receive an envelope with directions to a cemetery along with a poetic clue of a tombstone they must photograph. After they locate and photograph the correct grave marker, they must show the picture to the “cemetery attendant” who hands them their next clue.

But, wait! There’s more! As the teams travel down the Arizona highways there are several detours and challenges to photograph and complete. Some of these road blocks include taking pictures of historical markers or whimsical roadside characters. Sometimes it includes asking an unsuspecting traveler to pose in a photo with them at a popular tourist mecca. Challenges include visiting gravesites of Arizona historians or placing a flag on a marker of a US veteran. There are puzzles, tests of memory, and challenges of map reading skills.’

What a great way to spend a weekend! You get to visit local cemeteries, check out tombstone epitaphs, challenge your mind and learn some history along the way. So you probably won’t win $1 million, but think of the lives you’ll change! (OK, I made that last part up). For more information on the Cemetery Crawl, click here and here.

Would you go on The Amazing Race? Who would you pick as your partner?

¹The Cemetery Crawl was a pleasant distraction from my original goal – yes, The Amazing Race has visited a cemetery. In Season 5, the teams had to find the grave of Eva ‘Evita’ Peron in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina to get their clue.