Blog updates & more…

I realize I owe you all a blog post after missing last Sunday, but I don’t have anything that is quite ready to share with you yet. I have a few posts that I have been working on, but more research is needed. So instead, this will be an update, to share what I have been working on and what you can look forward to on the blog in the coming months. 

Most recently, I have been working on a piece inspired by Death’s Garden Revisited, edited by Loren Rhoads. My piece is about my own personal connection to cemeteries. After speaking with my Mother about the subject, it created more questions than answers. As we chatted we uncovered our own little family cemetery mystery, which sent me down yet another research rabbit hole. I’m sure you all will find that story very interesting. 

I have also been saving a cemetery story, especially for this month, as February is the anniversary of this local tragedy. I need a little more time to work through the research and sort through my photos from last summer’s road trip. That will be another post to look forward too.

Along with writing and creating content for the blog, I have also been taking an online course to sharpen my writing skills. The course is through Atlas Obscura and is called Historical Nonfiction: Research-based writing with Hadley Meares. This 4-week course promises to help you write historical essays using a research-based lens. I am on week 3 of the course and it has already solidified the good writing habits I already had while introducing new habits, methods, and resources to my writer’s toolbox. I look forward to sharing the article that comes from completing the course. 

Amidst all this writing I have also been updating the portfolio section of my website. I have posted many additions to my existing web portfolios and have added some new ones entirely. Sorting through, editing, and posting my archive of cemetery photos has been a great way to look back at all the cemetery adventures I have had over the years.

I have also been working on researching some new areas and cemeteries to visit. I have some great cemetery road trips already planned for this summer and can’t wait to get back on the road and photographing. I plan on visiting Owen Sound, for part two of Chasing Tom Thomson, while also stopping in at some fun interesting spots along the way. I also have another trip planned for early spring which will include my first visit to a loyalist cemetery, and seeing table stones in person. I’m pretty excited about that trip.

I have also been busy getting some submissions ready for a local photography contest, and a gallery showing. I am not quite sure how my cemetery work will be received, but I think they could be great opportunities to get my work out there, regardless of the outcome.

Hopefully, some of these upcoming posts sound interesting and will have you coming back to read more. As always, if you have any book or cemetery recommendations, or cemetery stories of your own to share, please leave me a comment or send me an email at hello@chantallarochelle.ca

Thanks for reading! 

Year in Review – 2022

2022 has been a very good year for Cemetery Photography by Chantal Larochelle!

I wanted to take this opportunity to look back at some of the highlights and achievements from this past year.

My biggest goal for 2022 was consistency. It has been an issue that I have struggled with for years. I finally found myself working and maintaining a consistent posting schedule on the blog. The top 5 most viewed posts on the blog this year were: Haunted Cemetery Road Trip – The Beck HouseA Gift Guide for TaphophilesMy Local Haunted CemeteryFinding the abandoned Happy Valley cemetery, and 25 Cemeteries in the City of Greater Sudbury. It’s an amazing feeling to share these stories with you, and grow this passion project of mine.

2022 was a year full of adventure! I visited 78 cemeteries this year and was able to break my record for the number of cemeteries visited in one day—15. A personal best! I visited my first pet cemetery and went on many fun and fascinating cemetery road trips. There are a few that stand out, like hiking through Algonquin Provincial Park and finding the first grave of Tom Thomson. That was a bucket list trip for me, and one of my biggest adventures so far. A lot of planning and research went into that trip, and the journey was incredibly worth it. Spending the night at the haunted Beck House was another highlight for me. Haunted holidays with my fiancé are always my favorite, but this year will be hard to top. This beautiful victorian style mansion is beautiful on its own, but its history makes it even more interesting. We had an amazing visit and made sure to pay our respects to the Becks, at their family mausoleum. I look forward to sharing more cemetery road trip adventures from 2022 but I am excited to see what 2023 will bring.

I am amazed at the following I have been able to foster on my social media channels. Over 2 000 followers on Instagram! Wow, what a milestone! Thank you to everyone who has liked, followed, commented, and shared my social and website posts. It means the world to me. I am so proud to be part of the online cemetery community, and love connecting with like-minded taphophiles. Because of this, I have branched out from Facebook and Instagram to Flickr and Pinterest as well. 

Cemetery Photography by Chantal Larochelle, Top Nine images on Instagram for 2022

This year has also been one of recognition! I am so thankful to all those who have shared my posts and photos. Not only was I featured in the March 2022 Ancestor Hunting newsletter, under Links we like. I was also asked by the Sudbury Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society to write something for their newsletter. My post Cemetery Symbolism in Sudbury District Cemeteries was published in the December issue of Ancestor Hunting. My Gift Guide for Taphophiles also garnered some attention and was shared in the Association for Gravestone Studies November e-newsletter. 

I feel that I am continuing to grow in my writing and am slowly finding my voice. I love sharing my cemetery adventures and am so happy that I have found an audience. I hope to continue my growth as a writer into the new year, by honing my skills and sharing even more stone stories and insights.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with me on this journey! Sharing my passion for cemeteries with you all has been an amazing experience. I look forward to continuing to share my photography and adventures with you and seeing what 2023 will bring.

Happy New Year Everyone! 

Christmas Grave Goods

The holidays are almost upon us! We’ve been blanketed by a lot of snow recently, here in Northern Ontario, so it definitely looks and feels like a winter wonderland. My neighborhood has been transformed into a little Christmas village with many of my neighbors decorating their front lawns with holiday blow-up characters, red and green candy canes, and twinkling lights galore. I am not one for Christmas decorations, I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in years, but I do enjoy the twinkling lights. 

I don’t have a long post for you today, as I’m thick in the middle of that holiday hustle and bustle that always seems to hit immediately before the holidays. So for my last blog post before Christmas, I thought I would share some of the Christmas-themed grave goods I have found while wandering my local cemeteries.

If you have been following me on social media at all, you most likely have seen me talk about grave goods. I often share some of the more unique things I have found on my cemetery travels.

Grave goods is a term used to describe items that have been left at a graveside by mourners. 

I always find it heartwarming when I see Christmas spirit spread to a cemetery. Although seeing candy canes and Christmas trees in July is always a surprise. 

Happy Holidays, and Thanks for reading!

Cemetery symbolism in Sudbury District Cemeteries

This post was first published in the Ontario Genealogical Society, Sudbury District Branch newsletter, Ancestor Hunting (Volume 44 Issue 4).

For me, symbolism is one of the many things that make visiting cemeteries so interesting. I have been photographing them for over 15 years, but I still continue to find unique symbols that have me reaching for my reference books. I have lived in Sudbury almost all of my life, so I have spent a fair amount of time traveling in Northern Ontario to visit cemeteries. I have yet to visit ALL the cemeteries in the Sudbury district, but as of May of this year, I can now say that I have visited all 25 in the Greater City of Sudbury. I have noticed a repetition of certain symbols and motifs and wanted to share some of my findings.

The majority of the cemeteries found here are of a religious denomination. You can often find a variety of human statues in these cemeteries, representing Saints and Angels or symbolizing grief and mourning. Another common religious symbol is the cross. There are so many varieties of crosses, each with various meanings. You could write a whole book on just cross symbolism alone! Some of the more common crosses you can find are the Agony cross, with its pointed ends that represent the agony of the crucifixion, or the Glory or Rayed cross, its rays representing the glory of God. 

I have also noticed quite a few handmade stones. I find handmade stones to be beautiful, full of love, and have a unique charm. They come in all shapes and forms. Some are hand-poured cement, with stones and tokens embedded in them. They are usually adorned with hand lettering, either hand painted or hand carved, or might have handmade plaques affixed to them.

Another common symbol you will find in the area is the lamb. This is another religious symbol, representing the “lamb of God”, as well as innocence and sacrifice. Lambs are most commonly found on the graves of small children and infants. Lambs are often depicted laying down, sometimes in front of a tree stump. The tree stump symbolizes a life cut short. 

Another common symbol found on children’s graves in the Sudbury district is the dove. Similar to the lamb, a dove represents peace, innocence, and purity. One of the variations on the dove symbol you might find is a dove that looks dead. This symbolizes a life cut short.  

In my experience, books are not quite as common as some other symbols in our area, but they are still one of my favorite cemetery symbols. I’m an avid reader, so seeing a book on a gravestone always makes me smile. I have seen many variations of books in the area. Books can be decorative or symbolic. Some gravestones use a book as a device to display the name of the deceased, along with dates. An open book can sometimes represent emotions, open to the world, or symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation you might find, is a closed book, usually at the top of a truncated obelisk. A closed book symbolizes a long life, lived to the last chapter. Some books represent the Holy Bible and might be labeled as such. 

This is just a small sampling of the more common cemetery symbols you will find in our local cemeteries. I look forward to seeing what other common symbols might be found in our district cemeteries, as I continue to explore them. 

Thanks for reading!

A Gift Guide for Taphophiles

It’s almost Christmas time, and the hustle and bustle of Christmas dinners and get-togethers are right around the corner. I love finding unique and meaningful gifts for my loved ones. It’s a great feeling to see someone close to you, open up a unique gift that you know they are going to love! These types of gifts also don’t need to cost a fortune, and supporting a small business is always a bonus. I have been eyeing a few fun and interesting cemetery-related items online myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have any taphophiles in my family to buy for, but I thought maybe some of you might.

So this year, I thought I would try my hand at writing a little gift guide for those looking for some inspiration for your cemetery loving friends and family, or maybe your own Christmas wish list.

Below is my round-up of some unique, beautiful and practical cemetery-related items that I think any taphophile would love!

Cemetery Photography by Chantal Larochelle is not affiliated with these brands and artists. I do not receive any proceeds from sales. Just sharing products I love!

A Tomb With a View – The Stories & Glories of Graveyards | Indigo Books

If your taphophile friends and family like to read, you can’t go wrong with a cemetery book. I’ve heard excellent things about Peter Ross’ new book, and hope to pick myself up a copy if I don’t get one for Christmas. “A book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.” – Indigo.ca

Cooking with the Dead: A zine of Tombstone Recipes | Etsy

A unique full-color illustrated zine by Reading Reliquary. This 20-page booklet features recipes found on tombstones from “Alaska to Israel”. There are a bunch of other spooky-cute items available in their Etsy shop, such as stickers, bookmarks, and another zine about the language of floral symbolism on tombstones. Unfortunately, some items don’t ship to Canada.

Custom Graveyard Garden Stakes | Etsy

Cursed by Design offers a set of 6, 3D printed garden stakes. You can customize them with any of the 40 available herb names, or you can personalize them with your own names. They would be perfect for a taphophiles herb garden!

Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries | Blurb 

This new book of essays, edited by Loren Rhoads, illuminates the reason why people visit cemeteries. This collection features 40 personal essays, written by cemetery tourists, genealogists, geocachers, anthropologists, and more. A great addition to any taphophiles library.

Deaths Head Enamel Pin | Etsy

This gorgeous 1.5” soft enamel Deaths Head pin, by Verona Black, would look striking on a jacket, camera bag, or anywhere really. It also has some interesting symbolism behind it. A Deaths Head or Skull effigy is a form of Momento Mori, a reminder of your mortality.

Gravestone Casting Wall Art | The Gravestone Girls

Their online store is filled with beautiful castings of old New England gravestones. Their pieces range from small magnets to large castings. They all feature unique gravestone symbolism. The Gravestone Girls, who are fellow taphophiles, have over 30 years of experience working in old cemeteries. So you can be certain that these beautiful gravestone castings have been made with every precaution taken to not harm the gravestones. 

Gravestone Symbols T-Shirt | The Order of the Good Death Store

This unisex t-shirt features some beautiful gravestone symbolism, illustrated by Meagan Meli. The symbols are also accompanied by their meanings. Perfect for those who would rather be visiting a cemetery. I know I would personally try to find all the symbols on it if I ever wore this while visiting a historic cemetery.

Gravestone Types Classic T-Shirt | Red Bubble

I feel like t-shirts are always a safe bet, especially if they have some cool graphics. This t-shirt by Shaded Grove Art on Red Bubble features a bold, but simple design that lists different types of gravestones. It’s a little bit classic, and a little bit nerdy, a great combination.

I Brake For Cemeteries Bumper Sticker | TalkDeath

Does your vehicle brake for cemeteries? This is a fun novelty accessory, but I can see how this would come in handy on cemetery road trips. Other drivers should be warned! 

Natural Spectrolite Tombstone | Etsy

These beautiful miniature tombstones from WHCrystal are made from spectrolite minerals that flash beautifully in the sunlight. These would be a very unique addition to someone’s rock and mineral collection, or as a stand-alone piece. I just love the look of these little gravestones.

One-year membership to AGS | Association for Gravestone Studies

A one-year membership to AGS is a gift that keeps on giving! Members receive some great benefits throughout the year, like The AGS Quarterly, filled with cemetery and gravestone-related articles. They also receive the monthly e-newsletter that features special announcements, news articles, and event information. Membership also includes the next published issue of Markers, their annual journal full of definitive cemetery and gravestone articles. You also get member pricing for the AGS Annual Conference, that’s also known as Cemetery Camp.

Pocket Cemetery – Cemetery illustrations | Etsy

Landis Blair is an amazing illustrator and is offering pre-orders of this beautiful Pocket Cemetery booklet. “A convenient reminder of your pending mortality.” This 24-page booklet contains 21 black & white illustrations of a variety of cemeteries and is estimated to ship by the end of November. They also offer prints and stickers in their Etsy shop.

Tombstone Zip Hoodie | Find a Grave

Did you know that Find a Grave has an online store? My favorite item in their shop is this grey zip-up hoodie, perfect to keep you warm while you wander cemeteries and fulfill photo requests. 

There you have it, 13 gift ideas for the taphophiles in your life.

Thanks for reading! 

Celebrating the last weekend of October

October is coming to an end. This post-pandemic Halloween season has felt a bit more normal because of all the fun spooky activities happening. It’s been a whirlwind of a month for me, between pumpkin patch activities, a haunted holiday, watching way too many horror films, and visiting cemeteries. I even put up my own little front lawn cemetery for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. 

This year, I was able to visit some cemeteries a little farther away from me, in Cobalt, Haileybury, Huntsville, and Penetanguishene. I am looking forward to sharing more about those visits in upcoming posts. You can read about my visit to the Beck House and the Presbyterian Cemetery here.

I also had a chance to participate in this year’s Cemetery Scavenger hunt, put on by TalkDeath. I wrote a bit about TalkDeath and their annual event last week. You can read it here, in case you missed it. This cemetery scavenger hunt takes place globally, so you can participate from anywhere. All you have to do is visit a local cemetery. In some areas, you can participate with TalkDeath members in person. This year there were members at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, and General Protestant Cemetery in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

My mother and I joined in from Park Lawn Cemetery in Sudbury, Ontario. It was so much fun! Although we were the only ones in the cemetery searching for clues, it was still a nice way to spend some time on a Sunday afternoon. Park Lawn Cemetery is not the oldest cemetery in the city, as it was established in 1924. But it is a large one, which I thought would be an advantage to searching for clues. I may have been half right. We started strong, finding a few clues pretty quickly, but we started getting stumped. We fanned out and as I searched I fell into my normal cemetery photography mode, which is a little bit slower-paced. I did eventually manage to find 12 of the 20 clues, but it was way too late to place in the top 5. I think the fastest time may have been 12 minutes!

I was no where close to that time, but that’s ok! It was a great opportunity to get outside, enjoy one of the last beautiful weekends of October, visit a cemetery and spend some time with my mother. We spent about an hour in the cemetery. After I submitted my photos, we wandered around a little bit, enjoying the weather and looking at the beautiful stones. We also found some interesting epitaphs that I think will require some research, later on, to learn their story.

I think this years Scavenger Hunt was a success! I can’t wait to participate again next year! It was a really fun way to close the cemetery season for me. 

If you are not aware, November usually brings with it some pretty cold weather here in Northern Ontario, and that means lots of snow. I’m not fond of winter, so I tend to stay indoors during the colder months. That means my cemetery visits are pretty much done for this year.

That doesn’t mean that you will stop seeing content from me! 

In the colder months, I focus on editing the monstrous number of photos taken over the summer. I’ll be doing portfolio updates in the coming months, adding to what’s currently on the website. I’ll also be doing more work uploading memorials to Find a Grave, helping clean up their cemetery map information for Ontario, and transcribing photos. I’ll also be sharing more cemetery road trip stories from over the summer, and cemetery book reviews. I’ll also be taking some time to bake and share some more tombstone recipes. I don’t think I have made one since the spring!

That being said, I hope that you have had a wonderful October, were able to enjoy some fun activities throughout the month, and got to visit a cemetery or two! I would love to hear about your October adventures in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

My Local Haunted Cemetery

It’s October, so I wanted to continue my theme of spooky blog posts. Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about haunted cemeteries, and in particular my local haunted cemetery.

Just like Elm Street, every town has one, right?

We often see supposedly haunted cemeteries in TV and movies, and there are MANY stories from all over the world about them. Some of the most haunted cemeteries that come to mind are Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans and Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Chicago.

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, Louisiana is very well known, not only for its above-ground crypts but also as the final resting place of a famous Voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. Her ghost has been seen wandering the rows of crypts at night. I’m sure you’ve also heard of the ritual that visitors often perform at her grave, in which they draw an X on her crypt, and turn around three times in hopes of having their wish granted. People also leave small offerings at her graveside.  

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in Chicago is also an allegedly haunted location. “In the 1920s and ’30s, the cemetery’s pond was reportedly a dumping ground for bodies murdered by Chicago’s organized crime families. Now the area is reportedly haunted by numerous ghosts, including a lady in white holding an infant, a black dog, and strangely, a phantom farmhouse.”1 You may have seen the reportedly authentic photo from 1991, of a ghostly woman sitting on a gravestone. This amazing infrared photo, if it is indeed authentic, was taken by Judy Huff, a member of the Ghost Research Society.2 The photo was taken during an investigation at Bachelor’s Grove, and there was reportedly no one in the area when the photo was taken. 

Looking a little closer to home, one of my local cemeteries is said to be haunted. I have visited the Lasalle Cemetery many times, during the day and in the evening. I have never had any experiences myself, but I do recall hearing many stories about it while I was growing up.

I remember being at a sleepover when I was in high school. There was a group of us, staying up late and watching movies. The conversation turned to scary stories and my friend’s older sister stepped in to tell us a story that had happened to her while visiting Lasalle Cemetery at midnight with some friends. Thinking back, this was a long time ago so the details are a little fuzzy. I do remember she had said she was there with a couple of her friends. They had driven into the cemetery through the entrance that takes you directly to a large cross with three statues.

They got out of the car to look around, all the while making jokes and laughing. She was uncomfortable and creeped out a little by the statues and the large cross that loomed before them. She said something about looking at the statues and getting an eerie feeling. Her friends continued to make jokes and her uneasiness grew. She suddenly felt the need to get away from there, and when she happened to look up at the cross and statues, the statues had all changed! While before they had pious faces, with their eye looking upward to Jesus on the cross, they now were looking directly at her with grimacing faces. She screamed and got back into the car, screaming at her friends that it was time to leave. 

Needless to say, the story freaked us out! But did it happen? Or was this a tall tale told by an older sister trying to scare her younger sister and her friends? 

In 2018 I came across an interesting article promoting a local Haunted Walk for October. The article talked about local haunted locations around town, Lasalle Cemetery was one of them. My interest peaked. The article doesn’t have a lot to say about the haunting in the cemetery, aside from reported “ghost duels”, which sound incredible.3 The article did suggest that there were more stories to be found on Reddit.

In the Sudbury Ghosts thread on Reddit, many people have chimed in with personal ghost stories, like hearing strange sounds coming from the cemetery, or seeing running figures that seem to disappear into thin air. Someone in that thread also mentioned the “Grave Guardian” and asked if it’s just an urban legend.4 That’s the second time I’ve heard that name.

Years ago, It came up during a conversation with a co-worker. He mentioned this Grave Guardian, but I don’t recall any of the specifics. It’s interesting to note that after some online research, I have yet to find any stories or experiences about this supposed spirit. Apparently, there is a “legendary” story revolving around the Grave Guardian, but I haven’t found it.

One of the best references I have found so far is from an article by Week in Weird, about a ghostly video that was taken at Lasalle Cemetery. That article, written in 2016 states that Lasalle Cemetery is known for being “incredibly paranormally-active” with a “legendary” story. Unfortunately, these stories must have been kept in private circles as there is not much to be found online, aside from reports of disembodied voices and a theory that the Grave Guardian is connected to the largest gravestone in the cemetery.5 Even the video that the article references has since been taken down. The video supposedly shows a fully-formed apparition manifesting behind the videographer. The consensus seems to be that this video was legitimate, and not a hoax. I reached out to the video creator but didn’t get a response. 

In my research, I found another video about Lasalle Cemetery, that had also been taken down. This video was created by Golden Ghost, a local paranormal investigation team. I reached out to them to find out why the video had been taken down, and if they had any stories they could share. I heard back from Austyn, the Team Leader and CEO of Golden Ghost. He had some interesting stories to share with me. He has also heard the stories about the Grave Guardian but has yet to make contact. The closest his team has gotten is hearing mentions of the Guardian through the spirit box they use during investigations. He went on to tell me about some interesting experiences he has had with his team, and what he would call an evil entity. This entity seems to be attached to a certain section of the cemetery. That was why the video was taken down; to keep the location secret in hopes of protecting others from encountering this malicious spirit.  

Could that area of the cemetery be the one with the largest gravestone? Could this evil entity and the Grave Guardian be the same spirit? This is just speculation of course, as the stories of the Guardian have been fairly neutral. If you can call them stories. There are no real stories to be found about this supposed Grave Guardian. This leads me to think that it’s just that, a tidbit of a story that people share when conversation turns to ghosts and the supernatural. People have heard of it, but no one has any personal stories to share, except for the name, which gets shared again and again. It is a good name for a ghost, after all.

Isn’t that how urban legends start? What do you think?

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery | Graveyards.com
  2. Girl on the gravestone | Ghost Research Society
  3. Ten haunted habitations and spooky sites in Greater Sudbury | Sudbury.com
  4. Sudbury Ghosts r/Sudbury | Reddit
  5. Ghostly Video: Apparition Manifests Behind Videographer Inside one of Ontario’s Most Haunted Cemeteries | Week in Weird

Cemetery Tours in Ontario

It’s my favorite time of year again, October! I love crisp sweater weather and crunchy leaves on the ground. Dead leaves are one of my absolute favorite smells. It’s also the best time for leaf peeping, and of course, visiting cemeteries. 

This is also the time that you will see Cemetery Tours being advertised. The gorgeous fall colors are a lovely contrast to the beautiful grey tombstones. Cemetery Tours are a great opportunity to photograph a new cemetery, learn about local history and take a nice cemetery stroll. You may even hear a ghost story or two.

Cemetery Tours are usually put on by local Museums or Historical Groups. The tour guide will lead you through the cemetery, explaining the history of the place as well as highlighting the stories of historical figures buried within it. Sometimes they will also talk about famous and infamous graves. Some tours have guides that dress up and use a lantern to light the way, while other tours have actors dressed in period clothing that will tell the life stories from the deceased’s graveside. Some tours are self-guided. On this type of tour, you will be provided with a map with points of interest marked on it. You can do these tours at your own pace. 

I love cemetery tours! You can learn a lot about the history of your local cemeteries, and notable graves and may even learn some obscure trivia along the way. It’s also lots of fun to meet people with similar interests on these tours. 

So for today’s blog post, I wanted to share some Cemetery Tours that are happening this fall in Ontario.

Fergus: Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge (Poorhouse) Cemetery Tour

October 21, 22, 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

$15 +HST a ticket

It’s that time of the year where everyone loves hearing scary stories, but real history holds some of the scariest and unnerving stories. Join us as we take a trip through the real history of the House of Industry and Refuge and explore some of the more unsettling stories of inmates and staff that called this place home.

The Museum which is housed in the Old Poorhouse building still looks after the graves and these tours are an opportunity to tell the stories of those that lived, died, and still remain on the site.

Enjoy a lantern lit tour of the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge (or Poorhouse) Cemetery. Between 1877-1947 the building was the Wellington County Poorhouse and over 600 people died on site during those years. Those that had no family or friends to claim their body were buried here, and 271 burials took place over those years.

Please be aware there are no accessibility routes for this tour. This tour is designed for a 14+ audience.

Tours begin at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm on the front steps of the Wellington County Museum. 

Grimsby: Queen’s Lawn Cemetery Tour

Tour Queen’s Lawn Cemetery by lantern light and hear true eerie stories of past Grimsby residents.
3 tour dates available:

  • Wednesday, October 5 at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 12 at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 19 at 7 p.m.

Pre-registration is required and limited space is available. Groups are kept small to ensure a quality tour. Tours are approximately 1 to 1.5 hours and are recommended for ages 12+.

Tours will be held rain or shine. The tour will be canceled in the case of extreme weather and refunds will be sent if the museum does have to cancel.

Please contact the Grimsby Museum for any questions you may have at museum-public@grimsby.ca or 905-945-5292. *This event is subject to a minimum registration.

Hamilton: Stories in the Stones

The Stories in the Stones Tours tell fascinating stories through free guided walking tours at Hamilton Cemetery each Saturday between May to November.

Local historian and storyteller Robin McKee guides you through historic Hamilton Cemetery with various themed tours he has created. Themed tours will include early settlers such as Robert Land and George Hamilton, victims of the Desjardins Railway Disaster.

Tours start at 11 a.m. at the Cemetery Gatehouse (777 York Blvd.) across from Dundurn Castle and run for approximately 1.5 hours. Tours take place rain or shine and tours and dates are subject to change.

They also offer a History Unearthed historical walking tour.

Kenora: Lake of the Woods Cemetery Walking Tour

$11.62 per person

Come and explore the dark side of Kenora’s past in the largest graveyard in Northern Ontario— the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

The tour looks at Kenora’s history through the lens of true crime tales, and murder mysteries, the Ontario-Manitoba border war, sickness and disease, and one of the most famous (and grisliest) bank robberies in Canadian history. These true stories of real people combine to give a history of Kenora like you’ve never heard before.

We’ll explore these topics and more on this guided tour in Kenora’s silent city of the dead.

London: Mount Pleasant Cemetery Tour

Takes place on Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9.

1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. start times. $15 / person

Join us at the historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery for a tour diving into the history of the cemetery’s architecture and the unique ecosystem that make the grounds beautiful and serene. Learn details about the culture of death during the Victorian era, and the art and architecture carved into the monuments and gravestones at the Mount Pleasant site.

Niagara Falls: Drummond Hill Cemetery Tours

October 15, 16, 22, 23 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m.

These tours offer a unique opportunity to discover Niagara Falls through a visit to one of the most historic cemeteries in Canada. Led by a costumed guide, the human drama unfolds as guests wander the grounds and happen upon theatrical performances that provide a glimpse into the lives of some of the people from our City’s history.

Ticket price $12 per person or $10 per museum member. Tickets must be purchased in advance; rain or shine and they are non-refundable. 

Post tour refreshments and open house are offered at Battle Ground Hotel Museum just across the street.

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Niagara’s Dark History Tour

This tour features only dark history and strange stories of Canada’s Prettiest Town, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Featuring the true villain of the 1813 burning, a disgruntled British politician. With a disappearance that almost ended Freemasonry, the lover’s public execution and standing up to slavery with violence. This tour includes a leisurely walk through Ontario’s oldest cemetery, stories of Niagara’s daredevils and a hidden historic fort.

Owen Sound: Self-guided Cemetery tours

Greenwood Cemetery, “The People’s Cemetery,” is home to many of Owen Sound’s luminaries, from political leaders, ship captains, and Victoria Cross winners to remarkable women, African Americans, athletes, pioneers, and religious, business, and medical leaders. It was established in 1858.

The four self-guided walking tours available are Tour 1, 2, and 3 in Greenwood Cemetery and The People’s Cemetery tour. 

Ottawa: The Beechwood Stroll

The Beechwood Cemetery Stroll is a guided historical tour through Beechwood, the National Cemetery of Canada. 

Tours are given on the last Sunday of each month, rain or shine, and begin at 1 p.m. Tours start from the Beechwood National Memorial Centre, located just off the Beechwood Avenue entrance.

The Beechwood Cemetery Stroll is led by trained volunteers and focuses on local history and notable features and sections within this National Historic Site. The tour is free of charge, and is family friendly. The route for the Stroll is a gentle 1.5 hour walk and is wheelchair accessible.

Penetanguishene: Meet the Spirits of St. James on the Lines

Tour St. James on the Lines Cemetery by lantern encountering many spirits of Penetanguishene’s past. Discover the significant history of the church. Light refreshments to be served after your tour.

Tickets are $10 per person for this one-night-only event, happening October 14. There are two start times to choose from; 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. At the time of this writing, the 8 p.m. tour is sold out, but there are a few tickets left for the 7 p.m. tour.

Toronto: Toronto Cemetery Tours

Re-living history through guided tours of Toronto’s beautiful, historic cemeteries. Cemetery tours are announced regularly on their Facebook page. 


This is just a small selection of the cemetery tours being offered this year in Ontario. Some events will be announced closer to their event date and may be a one-night-only affair. I would recommend searching often for cemeteries near you so you don’t miss out on a fun opportunity. The other option is to do your own self-guided tour, by doing the research beforehand on historical, infamous, and famous graves. 

Have you been on a cemetery walking tour? What was your experience? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 

Cemetery or Graveyard?

What do you think of when you hear the word cemetery? Is it different than what you picture when you hear the word graveyard? Today these words are used interchangeably to describe a place where we bury our dead, but a cemetery and graveyard are not really the same thing. 

When you hear the word graveyard, you might picture traditionally shaped gravestones, overgrown with ivy, that are just barely visible through a mist. That’s what I picture anyway. I can thank TV and movies for that imagery. 

The term graveyard was first recorded in 1765-75 and is quite literally, a yard filled with graves, attached to a small rural church.1 As defined, graveyards are small and located directly next to a church, usually with not a lot of property room to expand. You might also hear them called churchyards, burial grounds, or burying grounds. Usually, only those members or parishioners of that specific church are allowed burial in its churchyard. Very rarely were exceptions made.

I have visited a few graveyards over the years. In my experience, they are generally well-kept and maintained. I have yet to find one like the movie version I described above. The ones I have visited were bright, usually sitting next to a little white chapel with stained glass. I have rarely been able to visit inside the churches at these graveyards, but there is the odd time that you will find the door unlocked.

A cemetery is defined as an area set apart specifically for graves, that is not adjacent to a church. It is interesting to note that the term cemetery was first recorded in 1375-1425, and is Greek for “a sleeping place”.2 This is a reference you might come across often in a cemetery. I have come across many epitaphs that read along the lines of “He is not dead, but sleepeth”. Both religious and non-religious people are buried in cemeteries. Cemeteries are often quite large, and can sometimes contain sections for different religions and denominations. There are such things as public or community cemeteries, and also religious-specific cemeteries, not connected to any particular church. These are often found on the outskirts of cities and towns, but more and more are now within city limits due to urban sprawl. 

At this point, I have visited more cemeteries than graveyards as they are much more common in my area. They are often so large that I will visit them multiple times to photograph them a section at a time, like Lasalle Cemetery. The largest cemetery I have ever visited is Greenwood Cemetery in Sault Ste Marie. That cemetery is so large it crosses two streets! I only had a chance to visit a small portion of it, but I hope to go back in a year or two. 

The terms cemetery and graveyard will continue to be used interchangeably, and you will always be understood regardless of which term you use. But now you can be a little bit more specific when talking about a cemetery or graveyard, or you can pull out this little tidbit of information if the need ever arises.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Graveyard | Dictionary.com
  2. Cemetery | Dictionary.com