Category Archives: cemeteries

Morning in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

So when we last left off (and apologies for the lack of postings, it seems that now that I’m basically making my living as a blogger, that the blog where I got my blogging start as fallen to the wayside, hélas!), I had just arrived in Paris and spent a rather jet lagged day journeying around the city. Well, I got a whole night of sleep and felt millions of times better, but still woke up obscenely early. Since the apartment we were staying in was only a five minute walk from Pére Lachaise Cemetery, one of my favorite places to explore in Paris, I decided to go for a morning walk.

I’d never been in the old cemetery quite so early, just after its gates opened, and found that it was mostly full of old French men reading newspapers and eating croissants on benches, not really paying much mind to my ambling walk through the tombs. As the morning burned on there were more and more tourists, but for much of the walk I had the place to myself. Here are some of my favorite photos from the excursion:

This is a memorial for two balloonists who perished while trying to fly up too high. I wrote about their whole story here for Atlas Obscura.

The insides of the narrow mausoleums could be a bit unsettling.

Was this one the most unsettling?

Yes, it was.

Here is the grave of Felix Faure, once the president of France. I believe that’s the French flag draping over his body.

Some rather beautiful cats call the cemetery home.

This is the entrance to the “Aux Morts” (“To the Dead”) ossuary, which acts as the cemetery’s catacombs.

A shrouded angel (even the wings are covered, I think) grasping some cattails. Death keeping a hold on life? I read that the cattails are also a symbol of salvation.

This is the two-story 19th century columbarium. I heard that Maria Callas is interred here, but in the hundreds of plaques I did not see her.

I think this ill-looking face is supposed to be one of mourning, but it reminds me of Jacob Marley, a character who absolutely terrified me as a child with all the chains and  face wrappings.

I don’t think there is much kneeling going on in these mausoleums anymore. I read that there are only 30 year leases that have to be renewed on gravesites (if not renewed, you go to that ossuary), but many of these seem to have been long forgotten by families.

A bat!

This was something I had not seen before: a gravesite shaped like a military tent!

Graffiti at Jim Morrison’s well-traveled tomb. This is as close as you can get due to barricades. Although there was no guard there to stop you from jumping over…

This bas relief certainly caught my eye! It turned out to be on the tomb of Robertson, a famed innovator of phantasmagoria. I also wrote about this tomb for Atlas Obscura, so check it out and read about the conjuring of fake 18th century phantoms!

Robertson was also a balloonist.

After spending the morning wandering, I headed to a cafe for some much needed coffee. I love many things about Paris, but the constant proximity of cafes with strong coffee is definitely a highlight. That and the dense cemeteries for exploring, of course!

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Moonlight and Mausoleums at Woodlawn Cemetery

So are you getting into the Halloween spirit? If you know me, or even glance at this blog once in a while, you know that I appreciate the creepy aspects of our cities pretty much year round, but October is always a good excuse for some extra dark exploring. I just gave a tour at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx last weekend for Atlas Obscura‘s Obscura Society, but recently I went on one of Woodlawn’s own tours that was part of Open House New York. (The same weekend of access to places usually off limits that brought me to the TWA Flight Center.)

The title of the tour was “Moonlight and Mausoleums” and it took place just after the sun went down. We went inside several of the more stunning mausoleums (or mausolea? hmmm), only lit by our flashlights. Or flashlight apps for those of us who forgot and had to use our iPhones. It was an incredible experience just to walk around the grounds at night; it sort of felt like we were on a really weird camping trip. Alas, no spending the night. Actually, I’m okay with that. As much as I enjoy the history of cemeteries, it’s best to leaving the sleeping there to those in eternal rest.

Photography was tricky, but here are some that turned out:

The Belmont Mausoleum (in the above three pictures) was created as a duplicate of the St. Hubert Chapel in Amboise, France, which is supposedly where Leonardo DaVinci is buried, and holds the tombs of Alva and Oliver Belmont (of the Belmont Stakes).

This is the relatively recent mausoleum of Cecila Cruz, the Queen of Salsa, who passed away in 2003.

The Everard mausoleum holds the namesake of the notorious Everard Baths.

The tour ended at the gorgeous Harbeck Mausoleum, one of the most ornate mausoleums in the cemetery. It even includes a pipe organ and electricity (although it was never hooked up, as the family apparently didn’t realize that the cemetery wouldn’t have any electric wires going amongst the graves for them to connect to. Solar power someday?)

Enjoy your Halloween weekend!

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Explore NYC Cemeteries With Me

Want to experience the exploration of this blog in person? I’m leading a series of walks in NYC cemeteries this fall with Atlas Obscura. Last Sunday we visited Green-Wood in Brooklyn, and tomorrow is Woodlawn. There are upcoming explorations in the East Village and Bayside as well. See the full schedule here.

Tickets are still available to join me tomorrow for an obscure art/history walk through Woodlawn Cemetery. The place has 1,300 mausoleums, but we will scout out a few that are especially interesting, like the Untermyer Memorial designed by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1925, the Belmont Mausoleum that replicates the St. Hubert Chapel in Amboise, France where DaVinci is interred (supposedly), and another that mimics Trajan’s Kiosk, a temple to Isis, in Egypt. Should be fun! Get a preview with this previous adventure recapped on my blog.

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