I felt very unfestive this year at Halloween.
In years past, we’ve celebrated pumpkin decorating parties,
had enormous Halloween fetes,
and thrown big celebrations at school.
The Novio usually has a training course during this week, so I was excited to finally show him why my love of cemeteries and ghost stories is normal.
This was as festive as we got:
During my sophomore year of college, Lisa, Beth and I were studying for our Age of the Dinosaurs (if you don’t believe this is actually a class at the University of Iowa, you can find the course description here) on a blustery Halloween Eve night. Bored of cladograms and sauropods, we hatched a plan to visit the Iowa-famous Black Angel, a reputedly haunted statue in the Oakland Cemetery of Iowa City. equipped with flashlights and warm clothing, we took a water bottle full of liquid courage (Hawkeye Vodka, clearly) and set off.
Legend has it that the monstrously large statue was erected by a woman who had once lived in Iowa City to preside over the remains of her dead son and husband, but over a few years’ time, the statue turned black and the wing bent inward. Locals claim the statue has always been connected to the paranormal, and like Scout Finch and the Radley house, we dared one another to touch it to test its claim that virgins were safe. In the windy, damp night, the statue seemed twice as large and even more sinister. In the daylight, however, the whole place just seemed idyllic.
Cemeteries have always fascinated me, whether or not it’s the Halloween season. During my travels, I make it a point to see the way people are laid to rest, how their living relatives honor them. Maybe it’s just because of the Spanish celebration of Día de Todos los Santos, a more pious version of Day of the Dead, which was celebrated just yesterday.
Reputedly, 30% of flowers are sold in the days leading up to the one reserved for families to honor their deceased by offering flower ofrendas and cleaning up the gravesite. I was dying (whoa, wrote that without thinking and am going to leave it) to go and see if the Manchego All Saint’s Day from the movie Volver was spot-on.
In the end, that stupid DELE exam won out, so I’ll just leave you with some shots from hauntingly gorgeous cemeteries from around Europe.
Prayer candles in Bukovina, Romania
A forlorn cemetery in Maramures, Romania
The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta, right on the border. I love the jovial depictions of life and death of over 800 people.
In Spain, the 75% who choose not to be cremated are usually given lockers at the local cemetery. This one is in Olvera, Cadiz
The creepy, even in broad daylight, cemetery in Comillas, Santander, is reputed to be haunted.
Like Iowa City, Comillas has its own Angel. Summer 2010.
Along the road to redemption in Cashel, Ireland.
A peaceful Christmas morning with unbelievable light in Limerick, Ireland. I may or may not have looked for Frank McCourt’s dead brothers.
Do you like cemeteries? Seville’s San Fernando Cemetery is home to celebrated bullfighters and flamenco dancers, and it’s a peaceful garden. Free to enter, though photos are not allowed.