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! 

Book Review: Death’s Garden Revisited

For my first book review of 2023, I wanted to talk about Death’s Garden Revisited, edited by Loren Rhoads. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since early last year. I follow Loren on social media and was excited to hear she was editing another installment of Death’s Garden. I was an early backer for the Kickstarter campaign to bring this book to life. It was so fun to follow along on its journey. 

Here is the synopsis from Blurb.com: “Death’s Garden Revisited collects 40 powerful personal essays—accompanied by full-color photographs—to illuminate the reasons people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before. Genealogists and geocachers, travelers and tour guides, anthropologists, historians, pagan priestesses, and ghost hunters all venture into cemeteries in these essays. Along the way, they discover that cemeteries don’t only provide a rewarding end to a pilgrimage, they can be the perfect location for a first date or a wedding, the highlight of a family vacation, a cure for depression, and the best possible place to grasp history. Not to mention that cemetery-grown fruit is the sweetest.”

I received my copy, a beautiful softcover edition, in early November of last year. It’s 8 x 10 size really shows off the full-color photography that accompanies each essay. The short essay format, and writing styles create an enjoyable, and easy reading experience. If you are short on time, it’s easy to pick up and read an essay or two. I also enjoyed the range—from first-date stories to geocaching expeditions—each story shares personal insights into how easy it is to fall in love with cemeteries. Each personal story is so unique and at the same time so relatable, in my opinion. I loved these glimpses into others’ relationships with cemeteries. It made me feel less alone, and more comfortable in the fact that my own relationship with cemeteries isn’t that out of the ordinary. 

There was also one essay that I found pleasantly surprising! As a Canadian taphophile, I rarely read stories about Canadian cemeteries, as there seems to be much more literature on the historic cemeteries of Europe and the United States. So I was caught off guard when I found myself reading about a small cemetery that I had visited this past summer, in the small town of Massey, Ontario.

That particular essay did make me realize that not all the photos correspond to the essays they precede and follow. I had started reading the book with that assumption in mind, and when I read that essay, the photos that accompanied it made me question whether or not I had missed some stunning statuary when I had visited. After referring to the photo credits, it turned out that the image was indeed from a different cemetery. Just something to keep in mind as you read.

This is such an enjoyable read that runs the gamut of emotions. I think there may be a story for everyone in here. This would be a great book for someone interested in learning more about why people are so drawn to cemeteries. It’s also a great read for taphophiles, especially for those who are looking for kinship. You are not alone. There is a whole community of people who love cemeteries, each for their own unique reasons. 

Have you read Death’s Garden Revisited? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments. I am also always looking for cemetery-related book recommendations. Please feel free to also share any book suggestions in the comments. 

If you are an author and have a cemetery-related book you would like me to review, please reach out at hello@chantallarochelle.ca. I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Death’s Garden Revisited | Blurb

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! 

My Favorite Cemetery Bloggers

Since bringing my cemetery photography online, I have searched around for others who are interested in cemeteries. I was curious to see if there were others like me. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a large community of cemetery bloggers around the world.

For me, my cemetery blog is something I have wanted to do for years. Amassing a large archive of cemetery photos only to hoard them for myself seemed odd, and what about all the interesting stories that go along with finding these beautiful places? I have wanted to share them for a long time. I had tried on multiple occasions to start a regular blog to share my thoughts but I couldn’t be consistent with posting, until about last year. I had made some changes in my professional life that gave me more time for myself and my passion projects. I’m still working on making time to create blog content, but posting my photos is second nature now, and I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to my work. 

The cemetery community is vast and a great resource of information, as well as being full of really nice folks. Here is a short list of some of my favorite cemetery bloggers:

Adventures in Cemetery Hopping blog by Traci Rylands. Traci has a great blog filled with great photos and lots of information on the cemeteries she visits. My favorite thing about Traci’s blog is her running tally that lists all of the cemeteries she has visited—it’s a lot! Something to aspire to, for sure.

A Grave Interest by Joy Neighbours. A self-proclaimed tombstone tourist, Joy’s blog is full of cemeteries and history, with a little spooky thrown in. On her blog, you can find in-depth histories of cemeteries as well as hauntings. One of my favorite posts she wrote is about spirit photography.

Cemetery Travel – Your take-along guide to graves & graveyards around the world by Loren Rhoads. Loren is the author of 199 Cemeteries to see before you die and Wish you were here. On her blog, she keeps us up-to-date on projects she is working on and offers insightful cemetery book reviews. She also has a series called Cemetery of the week, in which she highlights cemeteries from around the world.

Goth Gardening – Using gardening as a metaphor for living by Sharon Pajka. Sharon is a professor of English at Gallaudet University and the author of Women Writers Buried in Virginia. On her blogshe keeps us up-to-date about her current projects and her many cemetery adventures.  

Shadows fly away by Carole Tyrrell. A self-proclaimed graveyard girl, Carole shares cemetery symbols of the month. She explores in-depth the history of their meanings, accompanied by gorgeous photos. 

Spade & the Grave – Death and burial through an archaeological lens by Robyn S. Lacy. Robyn is an archaeologist, death scholar, archaeological illustrator, burial ground conservator, and heritage consultant. One of my favorite things on her blog is the Curious Canadian Cemeteries series. In it, she showcases unique historic graveyards and cemeteries across Canada. 

The Cemetery Traveler by Ed Snyder. Ed is a photographer, specializing in cemetery statuary. On his blog, you can find beautiful cemetery photography, updates on what he has been up to, and entertaining stories about his cemetery adventures. 

Witchcrafted Life by Autumn Zenith. Where witchcraft meets papercraft. Along side her beautiful handcrafted cards, Autumn also posts a cemetery journeys series. Her posts are incredibly well-researched, accented with beautiful photos. 

Last year I was featured in the article: 13 Awesome Cemetery Focused Blogs Every Taphophile Should Be Following by Autumn Zenith, over at witchcraftedlife.com. It was an honor to be featured! It also gave me the idea to share my favorite bloggers.

Do you have a cemetery blog that should be added to this list? Tell me about it in the comments. 

Thanks for reading! 

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 Mayflower, 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 such as Toronto’s first Mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie and Dr. Roy Dafoe, of the Dionne Quintuplets 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 graves here may be the 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.

Thanks for reading!

The road so far…

I recently started reading the book 199 cemeteries to see before you die by Loren Rhoads.

It’s a beautiful book, that can be used as a travelogue, that lists must-see cemeteries all over the world. It highlights the history that makes each of them unique. The descriptions are accompanied by beautiful photos as well. I get wanderlust just looking at them! 

It got me thinking about what my tally actually is for visited cemeteries. When I was younger, in the early days of my cemetery traveling, I did not document my cemetery photos that well, and have actually lost a large amount of those photos. They would have been taken with film cameras and an old digital point-and-shoot camera. I may still have the negatives somewhere. 

I remember getting lost in the large cemetery in Guelph, Ontario, but don’t have the photos to prove it. I also remember chatting with the caretaker at the old cemetery in Amos, Quebec, and how excited he was to show me some of the more interesting stones there. I don’t have the photos from that trip either. That is one I really regret, as my Mother is from Amos. In that cemetery, it was amusing to see her turn around in circles, amazed at all the family that was buried there. I really wish to go back to visit there again someday. 

So based on my folders of properly labeled and dated photos, here is the breakdown of how many cemeteries I have visited, so far:

  • Sudbury – 19
  • Ontario – 56
  • Other Provinces:
    • Quebec – 6 
    • Saskatchewan – 2
  • United States:
    • New York City – 2
  • Total – 85 cemeteries

My record for the number of cemeteries visited in one day is 13. Maybe one day that record will be broken, but it has been standing since 2019.

Thanks to 199 cemeteries to see before you die, I have added a large number of cemeteries to my bucket list. Due to the pandemic though, those won’t be added to my tally anytime soon. For now, I will focus on continuing to visit cemeteries close to me. Maybe by the end of the summer, I will have hit 100?

Do you have a running tally of visited cemeteries? What is your number? 

Thanks for reading!