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.
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.
TalkDeath is a hub for a changing death-conscious public. They aim to bridge the gap between death professionals and the general public and help people make informed end-of-life decisions. This is the third annual Halloween Cemetery Scavenger Hunt. It seems to be getting bigger and better every year!
This years event starts Sunday afternoon, at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST, and you can join in from anywhere in the world.
To participate, all you have to do is visit your favorite local cemetery, the more historic the better, and follow along on TalkDeaths Instagram account for the clues! It promises to be a fun day of cemetery wandering as you explore the gravestones to match the clues, like symbols, names, and dates.
When you find your matching monuments, DM TalkDeath your findings. The first 3 people to DM their complete findings will win some beautiful prizes, like a 3D-printed skull planter, beautiful artwork, memorial pins, and more.
Full event details, as well as rules and clues, will be rolled out on TalkDeaths’ social channels as we get closer to the event date. So check back often to stay up-to-date.
I missed out on this fun event last year, so I wanted to help spread the word about it this year. As long as the weather holds out, I will be participating from Park Lawn Cemetery to try and find all the clues. It’s a fairly large cemetery, and I haven’t visited it since 2011, so I thought now would be a good opportunity. I am planning on making an afternoon of it as my mother will be joining me as well. A scavenger hunt is a great opportunity to get some friends together for a fun outing and do something a little different for Halloween.
Have you done a cemetery scavenger hunt before? Will you be participating this year? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments!
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?
A couple of weekends ago I was able to cross something off my cemetery bucket list—visiting all 25 cemeteries in the care of the City of Greater Sudbury. For today’s blog post, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of these cemeteries.
The City of Greater Sudbury is centrally located in Northeastern Ontario. It sits on the Canadian Shield in the Great Lakes Basin and is composed of a combination of urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness environments. Greater Sudbury is 3,627 square kilometers in area, making it the largest municipality in Ontario, geographically.1 Making up this municipality are many small communities that over time, have been amalgamated into the City of Greater Sudbury. Almost all of these little communities have their own cemeteries, that now fall under the care of the city.2
Each of these cemeteries has their own charm and has been very interesting to visit. Some are newer cemeteries with very modern stones, that are still very active, like Valley East and Park Lawn cemeteries. Some of them have tombstones marking persons who are still living. Those always make me think—do the owners visit their gravestones? Other cemeteries are pioneer cemeteries, like Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. Those types of cemeteries hold a lot of history. I wrote about my visit to the Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, you can read it here.
Two of the oldest of these cemeteries, I believe, are the Eyre and Anglican cemeteries. They are directly beside each other, and there is no distinct line to separate the two. The earliest grave is from 1890.3 Both of these cemeteries can tell you a lot about our city. You can find the namesakes for the Gatchell and Lockerby areas of town, as well as the grave of Frederick J. Eyre, who discovered one of the first mines for the Canadian Copper Company.3 Sudbury, at its roots is a mining and railroad town.
Some of these cemeteries were a challenge to find and can be hard to access. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery would be more easily accessible with a four-wheeler. Make sure you have plenty of water with you for that adventure in the woods. The Coniston Cemetery is a little bit more accessible now, as a cemetery trail has been created, linking it to the Jean Tellier hiking trail. The first time I visited that one, we searched for a while before deciding to ask for directions from some locals at a convenience store. They were more than happy to help and even drew me a map. They also shared some stories from their childhood, of how they would play in the cemetery and nearby woods. Coniston Cemetery is particularly interesting because there are no more headstones. There may have originally been wooden markers or fieldstones there that have since deteriorated or have been moved. It was an active cemetery from 1914 to 1926, when the parish that was taking care of the cemetery announced they could no longer do so.4In 1997 a memorial plaque was installed honoring the deceased known to have been buried there. Another hard-to-find cemetery is the Wahnapitae Public Cemetery. This one is located on a hillside with seemingly hidden access. I tried to find it again recently, but with no luck.
There are a few cemeteries on this list that I have visited many times, either due to their size or proximity to me. Lasalle Cemetery for instance is one of the largest cemeteries in the area. So large in fact that every time I have visited I have focused on a different section to photograph. Another large one, that just so happens to be down the street from me, is Civic Cemetery. This is an active cemetery, and I think has changed the most over time. It has a large columbarium, as well as some lovely winding paths. It’s a lovely rural cemetery. I have many friends of the family that are buried here.
I have enjoyed seeking out all these cemeteries. I feel like I can now say that I have truly explored my city. All these cemeteries hold small threads, connections, that all lead to the creation and growth of my hometown. I have learned a lot about the history of Sudbury, like the stories of some of its founders, the history behind street names, and much more. I would love to spend more time in some of them, to fully explore the grounds, look for specific graves and to see what else I can learn.
Thanks for joining me, as I look back on this bucket list milestone. Do you have a bucket list? What’s on your list? I would love to read about it in the comments.
I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.
Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.
Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.
In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.
Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister
I wrote this post around this same time, in 2020, but it never made it to the blog. At that time, the pandemic would have been in full force, just at the beginning of our quarantine. This would also have been one of the first cemetery trips of that year, after a long winter. I think I was just beginning to seriously focus on my website and blog, and I’ll be honest – it was off to a slow start with sporadic posting. That’s probably why this was never posted. I figured since this was written around the same time, only a couple of years ago, it is worth posting now.
Last weekend, I ventured outside to explore a couple of my local cemeteries. It has been a long winter of being cooped up inside, dreaming about summer cemetery road trips. We had our first sunny weekend, so I took advantage. I figured it is also a safe place to practice physical distancing during these weird times.
The first stop I made was at the Civic Memorial Cemetery, also known as Sudbury Municipal Cemetery. This cemetery is right down the street from me, and the one I have spent the most time in. As a kid, I would spend a lot of time walking around this cemetery looking for ghosts. It’s a newer cemetery, with modern stones and newly built mausoleums. The entrance to this cemetery was recently renovated when they widened Second Avenue. They installed a shiny new archway, similar to the archway at Lasalle Cemetery. They also cleaned up the winding path that leads into the cemetery. I have close family and friends in this cemetery, so I paid them a visit. I also stopped to take some photos of one of the more interesting monuments in this cemetery. The resting place of, I think, the founder of Ellero Monuments, a local headstone maker. The monument is a very detailed sculpture of a man sitting on a rock-cut with tools in his hands, working on breaking the stone. It’s very large and encased in a plexiglass box. To really see the detail, you need to almost press your face against the plexiglass. Over the years the box has become clouded, giving it a spooky silhouette.
The second cemetery I visited was the Lasalle Cemetery. One of the larger cemeteries in my city. I try to visit different parts of the grounds every time I visit since it is so large. This time, I focused on the stones closest to the street. There are many smaller statues among the stones there. Unfortunately, this cemetery has the most toppled stones, either because of vandalism or ground shift. There is a mix of modern and old stones here, and many feature cameos; ceramic photographs of the deceased.
My last stop of the day was Eyre Cemetery, the oldest and my favorite of my local cemeteries. It’s a smaller one, filled with only older stones. At this point, the weather had changed on me and was drizzling a little bit, but I did not let that stop me. I wandered the entire left side of the grounds, in search of a few Find a Grave requests. I came up empty-handed though. Some of the stones are so worn that they are not legible. I hope that I did not pass them by because of this. I will need to go back and make some inquiries with cemetery staff, to make sure they are not forgotten. The rain started to pour down more heavily so I decided to pack it in at that point.
Overall it was a lovely outing. I got some exercise and fresh air, as well as some new photos. Surprisingly, I did see a lot of people out and about. The groundskeepers were busy maintaining the grounds at each cemetery I visited, and there were visitors at each cemetery as well. I guess in these quarantine times, cemeteries, which are usually quiet and mournful, are being used more as a green space. I saw an elderly couple strolling arm in arm and people walking their dogs. It was different for me, as I tend to be the only living person when I visit.
Looking back, it seems as though many people were discovering cemeteries. I hope those who may have thought it taboo to visit cemeteries, found that they are beautiful green spaces and outdoor art galleries. I think a lot of people were forced to look into their own backyards during quarantine, to find outlets while things like travel were not possible. I know I was very grateful that one of my favorite pass times was still available to me. I was even able to share my love of cemeteries with my mother! Even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in my area, I think I will be staying close to home again this summer.
Did you spend a lot of time in cemeteries during the height of the pandemic? Did you discover any new cemeteries? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I love exploring cemeteries and looking at the different symbols used on tombstones. If you spend a lot of time in cemeteries, especially in Northern Ontario, you will start to notice the repetition of certain symbols and motifs. One of the most common symbols I find, is the lamb.
Lambs represent innocence and sacrifice, as they were often used in sacrificial ceremonies in ancient times1. Most often you will find lambs on the gravestones of infants and children, as Jesus is often depicted as a Shepherd, and also known as the “lamb of God”. Some variations can be found with lamb symbolism. A robed figure with a standing lamb beside it most often represents John the Baptist, who had called Jesus the “lamb of God”1. A lamb with a cross is known to represent the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei2, symbolizing the suffering of Christ as he sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind. Several other symbols may be found with a lamb to symbolize the lamb of God – such as a banner, halo, shepherds crook, and alpha and/or omega symbols2. A single seated lamb symbolizes an innocent soul. A seated lamb can sometimes be found sitting in front of a tree stump, this often symbolizes a life cut short.
Finding lambs is often sad, but they are a beautiful symbol. I have photographed many over the years and wanted to share some of them with you today.
If you spend a lot of time in cemeteries, especially in Northern Ontario, you will start to notice the repetition of certain symbols and motifs. In Ontario and Quebec, something I have come across frequently is handmade stones.
These stones have been lovingly hand-poured in cement, adorned with crucifixes, stones, and other baubles, and usually have hand lettering. They are beautiful representations of love for those who have passed. There could be many reasons why a handmade stone was created, and each one is unique and beautiful with its own charm.
I love finding handmade stones and have photographed many over the years. I wanted to share some of them with you.
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 May. 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.
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.