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Traveling? Don’t Miss The Cemeteries

Traveling? Don’t Miss The Cemeteries

I don’t know why more people don’t visit cemeteries when they travel.

I never miss a chance to wander among the dead. It's the best way to absorb history while getting some fresh air.

My favorites?

Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, which I discovered when visiting my son at school many years ago. It’s a sprawling park so picturesque that it’s a popular spot for wedding pix. It’s also home to at least three famous residents: President Millard Fillmore, William Haviland Carrier, inventor of the air conditioner and Alfred P. Southwick, who invented the electric chair.

Somewhere there's a snapshot of me posing by Southwick’s headstone. It was taken after I covered the lengthy murder trial of Joseph Roger O’Dell - The Prince of Darkness - and was feeling kindly toward Old Sparky. After all, that was the method of execution selected by O'Dell who was the poster boy for the death penalty.

The Confederate Soldiers’ Cemetery at Ole Miss, a compact graveyard in a grove of trees behind the old basketball arena, is a quietly moving place. The remains of about 430 soldiers from the Battle of Shiloh reside there. All unmarked. A tour guide told me that Union soldiers are buried there too. It's a sobering place. So many young men. Gone.

On Sunday I added a new cemetery to my list of top burial grounds: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, the oldest cemetery in the city. It’s maintained by the archdiocese of New Orleans and the only way in is on a 20-buck tour.

We hesitated at first - my college buddies and I - then decided to go for it. Glad we did. Fascinating, mostly due to our tour guide, Danielle, a quirky local with an encyclopedic knowledge of the above-ground tombs and who’s in them.

The most famous is that of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. People still scrawl Xs on her tomb, although the practice is strictly forbidden. Apparently some of the tour guides are not as vigilant as Danielle. 

One of the newest tombs belongs to Nicholas Cage, who’s erected a snowy pyramid in the heart of the cemetery. Female fans kiss his future home and leave lipstick marks. A practice that Danielle says is approved of by the actor. Why am I not surprised?

My photos aren’t great. Some of it is the flat light. Some is due to my lack of talent. But you get the idea.

(Click on photo to view the next image in the slideshow.) 

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