Taphopile: One who loves tombstones.
I’ve seen a great many of the cemeteries in Arizona. I love cemeteries and think of them as peaceful parks. Having lost a great deal of my family members, I find it comforting to know that others suffer losses and come and visit and “update” their family members regularly. My family members are back east, but in Arizona I enjoy visiting the local cemeteries. I love photographing them, painting them, and also being inspired in my horror novel writing by the stillness and the epitaphs left behind. There’s something contemplative about being near the cycle of life and feeling at peace with it.
NOTE: I don’t have any cemeteries on my top fav’s list that don’t allow headstones. The more modern cemeteries that like to make mowing easier for them by limiting headstones to plaques in the grass and don’t allow people to leave offerings, I won’t even visit. They feel very sterile and are not beautiful. I can’t imagine having to visit a relative here and leave nothing and have no statues or headstones. What are these cemetery owner’s thinking?
Here’s my top fav’s in The Valley depending on what type of need you have (top 2 choices per type):
“I’m looking for a cemetery that’s park-like, green, and has lots of people visiting and is shady.” (A tall order for Phoenix) There are two cemeteries in The Valley that come to mind the most in this category: Greenwood Memory Lawn just west of 23rd Avenue and north of Van Buren. This cemetery was a few cemeteries combined and it is very lush, green, shady, with huge statues, tons of intriguing headstones, and it’s sort of an all-day event because there’s so much to see and so much ambiance. Bring a packed lunch. No kidding. This one is the “Forest Lawn” of Phoenix. Bring lots of film too and sketch books, oh and comfortable shoes! The other one that comes to mind is the City of Mesa Cemetery at 1212 N. Center Street between Brown and McKellips Roads. This one has an enormous amount of Cypress trees (you can see their pointed tops before you even get nearby). It’s very green and shaded with interesting headstones and statuary. Joggers and local folks exercise here because it’s so pleasing. It makes for fantastic photo-ops and a great walking workout.
“I’m looking for something eerie and perhaps even active with phenomenon.” Immediately, I have to list Double Buttes (west of I-10, south of Broadway). This cemetery is just downright unsettling and has lots of legends of a woman in white, a man attending a grave who disappears, and lots of photographic oddities. The place feels weird, is uber creepy, and has many very old graves and important graves as well, many of the founders of The East Valley. St. Francis is my other great choice, located at Oak and 48th St (need to take Thomas to get to it because 44th St doesn’t have an exit for Oak). A shadowperson has been seen by several witnesses around the large stained glass at the outdoor crematory and a man speaking in Latin was heard. This is a giant Catholic cemetery, extremely creepy, unsettling, filled with wild cats, and more bodies per foot than any other cemetery in The Valley. You'll probably get the most eerie photos here for your collection. If you stick around the outdoor crematory (the long concrete hall with the huge stained glass window) you’ll be in weird-ness central for any action.
“I’m looking for something small and intimate in an urban setting.”
Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Phoenix is a remarkable one at 15th Ave. and Jefferseon. It’s in a nasty part of town, but has its own lot and is fenced off for safety. The founders of the city are buried here and the famous Lost Dutchman Miner (the very farthest possible right corner from the entrance in the back lot of graves). It has an amazing view of the city while showing off very old headstones. Camelback Cemetery at McDonald and between Scottsdale Rd. and Invergordon (directly across from Kiva Elementary School - must park in school lot) is an amazing neighborhood cemetery. It sits right smack dab across from an elementary school and surrounded by neighboring homes (with tall bushes – guess they don’t like looking at a cemetery). It’s easy to access and very small, perhaps 2 acres. There’s a crazy mix of ethnicities and religions here, which is intriguing. You can wander around a long time looking at strange offerings, weird headstones, and puzzling constructions. There’s a section of plain white crosses for Hispanic workers who died of the 1918 influenza. Cars make EVP impossible, but the place has a very strange unsettling feel, so it’s worth the charming walk around the dirt lot.
There are lots of other cemeteries to choose from in The Valley, but if you just viited these eight, you’d have satisfied any needs.