Winding down for Winter

The leaves have almost all fallen and the icy weather is making its cold return. Winter is almost here!

It’s been a great summer/fall season for cemetery visits, I hit my target and surpassed it – visiting over 100 cemeteries! But, I am not a fan of winter and trudging around in the snow, so I mostly hibernate in winter. I plan on taking full advantage of cozy couch time, to catch up on my reading; AGS Quarterly, back issues of Markers, and my ever-growing to-be-read-pile of fiction and non-fiction. Now that I have a better handle on my blogging and social media schedule, I want to take advantage of this downtime and introduce some new things on the blog.

For one, I would like to start a book review series, featuring reference material and cemetery-related books. I’ll take a look at some of my favorite past reads and reference books, as well as document what I am currently reading. I am always looking for recommendations as well, so feel free to post them in the comments!

Secondly, I also want to take this time to do some much-needed portfolio updates. I have collected a lot of new photos this year, that need sifting through and editing. I will flag these updates on my social channels when there are new photos up. I may also play with the layout of my portfolio section on the website – we’ll see!

River Road Cemetery, Massey ON ©2021

Thirdly, I will be planning more road trips for next year! I have gotten into the habit of using Google’s My Maps to create maps for cemetery road trips. I love researching areas and discovering abandoned and hidden cemeteries, as well as roadside attractions and oddities. All this research may spawn some blog posts along the way as well.

Speaking of which, expect more posts on the blog! I have a lot of posts on the back burner right now. Many were started months ago but were put aside because I was busy with road trips or personal matters. Many posts are half-started, or just bare-bones at the moment. Some are just ideas floating around in my head. I had planned a few spookier posts for the Halloween season, but unfortunately, they never came to be. October is always super busy for me, and those posts just got away from me. I’m hoping to get those specific posts polished and ready for next Halloween season.

If you have any blog topics you would like to see me cover, please send me a note or post in the comments. I am always looking to hear feedback from my readers.

Thanks for joining me on my cemetery adventures!

The Road So Far…

Update!

Back in June, I wrote a post about how many cemeteries I have visited so far. You can read it here.

My tally at that time was 85.

After that post I had a goal to reach – hit 100!

Now this year has not been the best for travel. My cemetery road trips with my friends have had to wait for the current pandemic to end. Luckily, my Mother is very easy going! We have been spending time outside together, going for hikes locally. She doesn’t mind if we tack on a cemetery visit here or there. 

That being said, I was able to go on some small road trip adventures with her. We visited Manitoulin Island and walked the Bridal Veil Falls trail. We also stopped at a couple cemeteries on our way there, as well as a couple on the island. We also visited Elliot Lake. We walked the Horne Lake trail and visited the Fire Tower lookout, as well as visited a few cemeteries. Look forward to future blog posts about those visits!

Coldsprings Cemetery, Manitoulin Island ON ©2021

So, what’s my tally now?

  • Ontario – 93
  • Quebec – 6 
  • Saskatchewan – 2
  • United States:
    • New York City – 2

A total of 103 cemeteries. I feel like that’s a milestone! 

My record for cemetery visits in one day still remains at 13. Maybe next year that will change.

Time to plan some more cemetery road trips for next year! 

Do you have a running tally of visited cemeteries? Tell me about it in the comments!

Haunted Sudbury

Spooky season is upon us! 

Let’s be honest, visiting cemeteries can sometimes be a little bit spooky, and for the most part hauntingly beautiful. The weather is cooler, and the leaves have turned from green to red, gold, orange and brown. I love visiting cemeteries in the fall. I always look forward to doing to some leaf peeping! As you may have guessed, fall is my favorite season. 

Halloween is only a few days away, so I wanted to talk about a project I worked on that might help you get into the season.

In 2017 I worked with local author, Sarah May, on bringing her book Haunted Sudbury: 101 true accounts of the paranormal to life. This book features 101 stories of local supernatural occurrences, as told to Sarah. It’s filled with wonderfully spooky true stories of weird experiences and ghost sightings as well as true crime accounts that left their imprint on our small town. 

Here is the book synopsis:

Haunted Sudbury is a collection of true eye-witness accounts of the paranormal. Experience a different side to the city you don’t hear about everyday

  • ‘Lady in White’ haunts a downtown restaurant after a ghastly murder
  • A ‘Starship’ is spotted in the air above Vale’s tailings dam
  • Mysterious man walks out of a snow bank and bids a final farewell
  • Deceased loved one communicates to his girlfriend through a stereo
  • Local high school teacher saved by a ghostly warning
  • Wife envisions her late husband catch a limo lift to the next world

Violent death. Lost loves. Haunted places. Haunted Sudbury has it all. Pick up a copy and prepare for a spine-tingling good read.”

Below is the image used on the book cover, with a little ghost manipulation added to it. This image comes from Eyre cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Sudbury.

Eyre Cemetery, Sudbury ON ©2008

I loved working on this book, designing the layout and cover, and creating the illustrations. I was extremely excited when Sarah asked me if I wanted to include some of my cemetery photography. Nine of my photos can be found at the back of the book, in black and white. It was really exciting to see my photos in print. And still is! 

The book launch for Haunted Sudbury took place at a local restaurant, the site of a murder that is described in the book, and is also reported to be haunted. The night of the launch was also held on the anniversary of the murder. Medium Jay Lane was also in attendance, and gave readings and spoke about the restaurant and what she felt. It was a very interesting experience and a great turnout!

Haunted Sudbury is not available in print at the moment, but Sarah May has another book in the works, that should be coming out soon.

Here are some links from the book launch:

Have you read Haunted Sudbury? Do you believe in ghosts? Share your thoughts in the comments!

My Cemetery Bucket List

I just finished reading 199 Cemeteries to see before you die by Loren Rhoads. it’s a great read, showcasing beautiful and unique cemeteries all over the world. It has me thinking a lot about travel lately. Unfortunately, travel isn’t really in my future at the moment. We are currently in Step 3 of the Ontario reopening plan due to COVID-19. Restrictions have lifted a little and life is getting a little bit back to normal. But, I am not quite ready to do any major traveling just yet. This past year and a half have been hard, and my mind has wandered a lot – daydreaming of visiting far-off places and new cemeteries. 

Reading 199 Cemeteries to see before you die has been helping curb that wanderlust. A little bit. It’s been a nice escape, but my bucket list of cemeteries to visit just seems to be getting longer and longer!

Here are my current top 5 cemeteries I want to see before I die:

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Located in Sleepy Hollow, New York. This cemetery is 85 acres, and is most notably the resting place of Washington Irving, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This cemetery might be best known for its fictional dead people – as the namesakes for characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow come from this burial ground. Supposedly even the grave of the Headless horseman can be found here. This cemetery also offers walking tours; The Original Knickerbocker: Washington Irving & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Classic Evening Lantern Tour. You can also pick up a free legal-sized map at the Cemetery office, or purchase a full color 17 x 20 map for self-guided tours.

Website link: Sleepy hollow Cemetery

The Old Burying Point Cemetery

Located in Salem, Massachusetts. It is also known as the Charter Street cemetery. It’s the oldest cemetery in Salem, and holds some connections to the witchcraft trials that took place there in 1692-1693. It has many beautiful slate and sandstone grave markers. I would love to see the detailed deaths heads in person. Some of the more notable people buried here are; Salem witch trial judge John Hathorne, and a passenger on the Mayfower, Capt. Richard More. There is also a memorial to the men and women who were killed during the witch trials. 

Website link: Salem.org

Fairview Lawn Cemetery

Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This cemetery holds the graves of over 121 victims of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, that happened on April 15, 1912. They are memorialized with granite markers, laid out in the subtle outline of a ship’s hull. There is also a mass grave for the victims of the Halifax explosion that happened in 1917 and war graves of commonwealth personnel from World War I and World War II.

Website link: Atlasobscurea.com

Toronto Necropolis

Necropolis means “city of the dead” in Greek. This historic cemetery in Toronto Ontario, opened in 1850 and is the final resting place of many notable Canadians; Toronto’s first Mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie and Dr. Roy Dafoe, of the Dionne Quintuplet fame. It is also the final resting place of George A. Romero, director of the horror movie classic Night of the Living dead. This large cemetery also contains a cremation chapel. The chapel was erected in 1872, with the crematorium added later, in 1933. 

Website link: Mount Pleasant Group

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1

Located in New Orleans, this cemetery opened in 1789, it’s the oldest and most famous in New Orleans. Most of the graves are above-ground vaults, following Spanish custom due to the area having a high water table. The most notable laid to rest here are Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau, and notorious slave owner Delphine LaLaurie. You can also find the future final resting place of Nicholas Cage here.

Website link: The French Quarter.com

Do you have a cemetery bucket list? Tell me about it in the comments!

World Photography Day

Today is World Photography Day! This annual day of recognition celebrates the art, science, and history of photography.

“A photograph has the ability to capture a place; an experience; an idea; a moment in time. For this reason, it’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Photographs can convey a feeling faster than, and sometimes even more effectively than words can. A photograph can make the viewer see the world the way the photographer sees it.” – www.worldphotographyday.com

I absolutely love photography. It’s been a hobby of mine for quite a while. To me, taking a photo is capturing a moment from my point of view. I have dabbled in many different forms of photography; wedding, portrait, food, landscape, etc. My niche is cemetery photography. I have always been drawn to cemeteries. I love being able to show others how I see them. I love using my lens to showcase minute details, rolling hills dotted with stones, curious creatures who call cemetery’s home and so much more.

So how can you celebrate world photography day?

  • Learn a little something about the history of photography
  • Discover some new photographers on Instagram
  • Share your photos
  • Visit www.worldphotographyday.com

But most importantly – Get out there and shoot!

Discovering a new cemetery

There is a bit of a thrill in discovering a new cemetery.

While doing some photo editing of some photos I took on my vacation, I discovered a cemetery in Sturgeon Falls that I did not know existed. I noticed in my photo files that I had the name of the Sturgeon Falls cemetery entered incorrectly. While looking into the appropriate cemetery name, I discovered there is another hidden cemetery in Sturgeon Falls – Union Cemetery.

This is super exciting to me because I had thought that I had photographed all of the cemeteries close to me. And this gives me an excuse to go on yet another mini road trip!

By using Google maps and Google Street view I was able to locate the entrance and get a glimpse of what the cemetery actually looks like. The cemetery grounds looks quite large! The entrance also looks like it’s a little bit tucked away, so it will be very interesting to find this location in person and photograph it.

(Images from Google Maps)

Discovering a new cemetery can be just as exciting as actually visiting it. I can’t wait till the next time I am in Sturgeon Falls!

Visiting the Dionne quintuplets

On my vacation, my Mother and I took a road trip to North Bay, Callander, and Corbeil Ontario to explore and experience the story of Canadian folk figures, the Dionne quintuplets.

“On May 28, 1934, five identical girls were born to Oliva and Elzire Dionne, a Franco-Ontario family in the tiny community of Corbeil, Ontario. Their births were a miracle of its time during the difficult Depression, the only quintuplets to survive more than a few days. Midwives Douilda (Donalda) Legros and Mary-Jeanne Lebel delivered the first 3 of the quintuplets, and Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe assisted with the final 2 births. The five girls – Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie – became a “good news” story in this challenging time, drawing worldwide attention to the area, and attracting 3 million people to “Quintland” to see and hear the girls at play. Hollywood told their story in 3 movies, while endorsements for commercial products became commonplace.” – Dionne Quints Heritage Board website

The Dionne Quint House Museum

In North Bay, we visited the Quint house museum. This was the actual family home where the quintuplets were born. It houses a lot of original artifacts; such as the bed where they were born, cribs, children’s beds, children’s clothing, and their baby carriages. It also contains a lot of original photos of when the children were born, while they were growing up at Quintland, and also a lot of the advertising that was created using their image. Everything from baby food to GM motors was advertised using the Dionne quintuplets. Dr. Dafoe profited from the twin’s fame. At the Quint house museum, we were given a tour of the house and memorabilia by an actual relative of the quintuplets, their nephew. His mother was one of the siblings of the quintuplets, making Elzire Dionne was his grandmother. He spoke about the quintuplets and what happened to them as a tragedy and preferred to not mention the doctor, as he sees him as a villain in their story.

The Dionne quintuplets: (From left to right) Yvonne, Marie, Emilie, Cécile and Annette.

The Dionne quintuplets were separated from their family and exploited by the “good” Doctor. As well as extensive advertising using the girl’s image, Quintland was built. A large building complex where people from all over the world came to see the twin girls. The courtyard of Quintland was encircled by two-way mirrors, where visitors could pay a fee to watch the girls as they played. After about 9 years, the girls left Quintland and returned to live with their parents. They had other siblings, as the Dionne’s had had 14 children in total. The quints were essentially strangers to their own family, after having been separated from them for so long. It must have been just as strange for their siblings, hearing about their famous sisters, but not knowing them at all. I can only imagine the strain that would put on the family.

After visiting the Quint house museum we traveled a little bit down the road to Callander to visit the Callander Bay Heritage Museum and Alex Dufresne Gallery. This museum is housed in what was once the office of Dr. Alan Roy Dafoe. A turnstile that was used to admit and count attendees to Quintland sits outside. The Quint house museum also has one of these turnstiles. The house is very rustic and feels like a home office. It would be really interesting if they had a floor plan of what the office looked like when it was in use. This museum also contains a lot of memorabilia of the quintuplets. Some of the more interesting items include lead sculptures of the quintuplet’s faces that were mounted on a clock tower. The sculptures are quite terrifying. There are other exhibits at this museum as well, such as a 1920s barbershop, some military items, as well as logging and mining history.

A lead sculpture of one of the Dionne quintuplets, that was once part of a large clock tower.

Visiting the Quint House museum first made walking around Dr. Dafoe’s office a little awkward. Knowing the pain and strife he had put the family through, made the experience a tad unpleasant. The Callander Bay Heritage Museum also holds an art gallery. We took a little detour from the quintuplet exploration and looked at the beautiful artwork they had on display. We also visited the gift shop and purchased a few things; in particular a recent book on the history of the quintuplets called The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sara Miller.

After grabbing some lunch at a delicious little chip stand in Callander, we made our way to Corbeil to visit the Sacred Heart cemetery. As we traveled down a little dirt road and came to the entrance of what looked like the driveway to a farm, I started to realize something.

I had been to this cemetery before!

The cemetery is on farm land. Next to the chicken coops and tractors is a fenced-in cemetery with a bright orange diamond sign that says “cemetery entrance”. As we drove up, a man was outside working on his tractor. I rolled down my window and asked if it would be OK if we visited the cemetery. He smiled and nodded, saying that it was fine, so we proceeded to go in. It’s a medium-sized cemetery with a mix of older and newer stones. It Motherlooks like it is still an active cemetery as well. The Dionne’s have a small family plot. Oliva and Elzire, the Father and Mother of the quintuplets are buried there. Along with 4 of their children, one of which is one of the quintuplets Emilie. findagrave.com lists 2 of the quintuplets being buried here, but I was only able to find the headstone of Emilie.

The grave of Emilie Dionne, one of the Dionne quintuplets. Sacred Heart Cemetery, Corbeil ON ©2021

I have photographed this cemetery before. In 2019 some friends and I did a road trip to North Bay and the area, where we visited the local cemeteries. I’ve even taken pictures of Emilie’s stone. At the time, I recognized the name Dionne, which is why I took the photo. But I never made the connection between the two.

Sacred Heart Cemetery, Corbeil ON ©2019

This time I had a postcard with me from the Callander Bay Heritage Museum that showed the quintuplets with Dr. Dafoe. I took photos of the postcard with Emilie’s stone, with no issue. I attempted to take a photo with the postcard on the tombstone for Oliva and Elzire Dionne. The wind was not cooperating and blew the postcard away. After several attempts of trying to get a shot with the postcard, I put it away. Maybe it was the wind, whipping up at an in-opportune moment, or maybe it was the spirit of Oliva and Elzire, refusing to take a photo with an image of the man who took their children away.

Sacred Heart Cemetery, Corbeil ON ©2021

There are only two of the quintuplets still living, Annette and Cécile. Emilie and (supposedly) Yvonne are the only quintuplets buried in Corbeil, their home town. The rest of the quintuplets are buried in Montreal. I was curious where Dr. Dafoe was laid to rest – he is buried in Toronto.

This was a very educational trip. It was interesting to dive a little deeper into the true story of the Dionne quintuplets. Being able to speak to a blood relative and learn how the family was affected by what happened was truly heart wrenching and eye opening. The Dionne quintuplets still draw a crowd, but now for a different reason. In the 1930s it was seen as a miracle and amazing, and no one batted an eye at the fact that these children were taken away from their parents. Today, people are still interested in the Dionne quintuplets, but the narrative is much different.

If you are interested in learning more about the story of the Dionne quintuplets, you can visit these links below:

Dionne Quints Heritage Board

Callander Bay Heritage Museum & Alex Dufresne Gallery

The Dionne quintuplets: The exploitation of five girls raised in a ‘baby zoo’ – Washington post

On vacation

I just wanted to post a little note that I’ll be taking a short break from posting on my social channels. I’ll be stepping away from my devices for some much needed rest and relaxation.

I do have some fun summer adventures planned and it of course includes some cemetery visits. Be prepared for a photo dump when I return in two weeks!

Cemetery etiquette

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” – Chief Seattle.

This sentiment embodies my mindset when visiting cemeteries. They are beautiful places to visit. But you must always be mindful that cemeteries are resting places for lost loved ones, and deserve respect. I always keep that in mind when visiting cemeteries. I would never want to intrude on someone’s grieving, interrupt a funeral service or meddle with someone’s memorial items. Because of this, I tend to follow my own set of etiquette rules when visiting a cemetery.

When encountering people I always try to keep my distance – It doesn’t mean that you should turn around and leave if you see mourners. But realize that your presence there might not be understood or wanted. For these reasons, and out of respect of the mourners, I will spend my time in other areas of the cemetery to not bother them. This does not mean you should always stay away from people though. In my travels, I have found the groundskeepers to be very friendly, and will sometimes point out interesting stones. They are very proud of their work maintaining the grounds and some of them love to chat.

Always leave with what you brought in – It’s completely fine to bring food with you for a snack in the graveyard, or to walk your dog. As I’ve said before, cemeteries are a beautiful place for a walk. Just make sure you pick up after yourself and your furry friend! Some cemeteries do have trash bins that are accessible, but when visiting older hidden away locations, there may not be any. I always carry a plastic bag in my camera bag just in case.

Do nothing that would harm or destroy a tombstone or memorial – I would never displace or move around memorial objects or grave goods. I always leave things as they are for my photos. I find that the found objects are more meaningful that way.

Be respectful – I sometimes clear away debris from stones; leaves and dirt that obscure the inscription. I also sometimes pick up over-turned items if they have fallen. If items are far away from a tombstone, I find it better to leave them where they are, just in case you accidentally place them on the wrong grave. I think that cleaning tombstones (with water and chemicals) should be left to professionals. There are resources out there to help you get started in the right way if that is something you are interested in getting into, and ALWAYS get permission before you start.

A note about gravestone rubbings and castings – These seem like a fun idea to get a nice souvenir but some of the methods used for rubbings and castings can be very damaging to stones. If the stone is too fragile it can break. Castings are also dangerous to stones as it can remove pieces of the stone while also leaving stains and residue that is hard to remove. I’m sure there are resources out there on how to do this kind of thing safely, but I would be very cautious and make sure your technique is perfected before trying it in the wild. And again, ALWAYS get permission before you start.

Do you have any questions about cemetery etiquette? Or do you have any unwritten rules that you follow when visiting a cemetery? Please share in the comments!