Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cemetery Safety Bells & Cemetery Mementos

During the cholera epidemic in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people feared being buried when they weren't completely dead. Many reported digging up graves of loved ones to find signs they fought inside the coffin to get out. As this would nearly be an impossibility with the weight of the earth on the coffin and lack of oxygen, the rumors did start hysteria. Patents were put out for these bells that would allow the newly awakened buried person to pull a string, ring a bell above ground that the groundskeeper could hear. Imagine how freaking chilling that would be to actually hear one go off? I had an idea for a zombie story about that but never got around to it.

The first recorded safety coffin was constructed on the orders of Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick before his death in 1792. He had a window installed to allow light in, an air tube to provide a supply of fresh air, and instead of having the lid nailed down he had a lock fitted. In a special pocket of his shroud he had two keys, one for the coffin lid and a second for the tomb door.

Glendale, CA: GLENDALE - For sale: 123-year-old, padlocked cemetery with overgrown weeds and the remains of 40,000. Fire Department says it's a hazard, city says it's a public nuisance. Fixer-upper. Owner must sell. $1 million, or best offer. Any takers? State officials are forcing the sale of embattled Grand View Memorial Park after finding that late owner Marsha Howard resold grave plots, improperly disposed of the cremated remains of thousands of people and left the once-sparkling mausoleum and its surrounding property in shambles. David Baum, attorney for principal owner Moshe Goldsman, said his client has sent out fliers and hired a real estate attorney to sell the cemetery. But so far, nothing.

Want something super creepy? How about gruesome embalming and mortuary pics?

Want to buy a piece of a cemetery? How about popular architectural salvage stores like Relics in Phoenix where they often times get headstones from cemeteries.

How about a vintage wheelchair like the one in "The Changeling"?

Hair wreaths
from the 1800s were popular mementos. Hair from the deceased was woven and put into a picture frame.

From headstones to rusted gates, old stone statues and mortuary tools, from coffins you can make into coffin tables to old gurneys that can be turned into buffet tables, there are a lot of inspiring and creepy cemetery-related items one can collect. Oh, and if you're into magic spells, don't forget your coffin nails and graveyard dirt!


  1. Darn scary man ! How on earth can a living person get buried without confirming his/her death ?I'm happy I living in 2011 era!
    Ok here's a fun test !
    Scary Woman
    Do you scare off men?

  2. I think the ringing bell would make a great spooky element in a graveyard story.

  3. I love the history about the cemetery bells. I learned about it about 10 years ago when we lived in Jax. It went into a lot of my earliest fiction. LOVED all the links and other stuff you shared here. WICKED FUN!

  4. Yeah. I always envisioned an old drunken cemetery keeper, a foggy night, one bell tinkles, another bell tinkles, again and again. He freaks out and rushes into town and the men at the pub help to dig up the graves and are promptly attacked by zombies of a bunch of miners from a cave-in that they just buried.

  5. Most of the mementos are just plain creepy but I like to have a vintage wheelchair. The thought of being buried alive....*shivers* for this claustrophobic.

  6. I always dreamed of having a fake cemetery that is very real looking in my yard and have a couple of those bells and some super ominous angel statues all covered in moss and lichens, wrought iron fencing... Every Halloween, I'd put in a couple fog machines and go nuts with a theme party. You know I'd have to have some open coffin graves with the food and drink spread and maybe some zombie waiters...

  7. i'd add truffles as main course..

  8. A book I read named 'Spook' had a chapter devoted to this. Real different back then.

  9. I believe the phrase "dead ringer" has its origin in this practice. If you read "Vampires, Burial, and Death" you'll find that a surprising number of modern-day burial practices had their origins in Vampire folklore. Even the placing of headstones was originally designed to keep the corpse from rising from the grave!

  10. BG;
    Wicked cool! I am amazed after studying cemeteries so long, the interesting things done, like the headstone and footstone, facing east, and here in the west we have baby graves with iron cribs around them and people leave birthday cake and toys for the children.

  11. I actually remember reading an article from 20 years ago about a mexican scientists that invented a coffin with emergency oxygen system. Apparently that was a problem back in the day.

  12. CB;
    Reminds me when I worked in an ER. They put the sheet over a dead man and walked away after quitting over a half an hour of CPR. The nurse went into the curtained area to roll the machines away and make room for the family to come in and see him and the man started moving. She screamed soooo loud! Hahaha. It was pretty funny. The man had a good sense of humor. He was a minister. When they put him in the ICU, he had a party and invited the nurses and docs to celebrate his not-demise. Of course, nowadays with prepping a body, they would be dead.

  13. Damn! Where can an unemployed Embalmer get some cash to purchase some of these wonderful things??? Tee Hee! I see it's about time I photographed some of my collection and shared with you!

    The embalming pics are interesting. I've embalmed over 150 people in a seven month period when I was working. I loved it and miss it very much!

    So...anyone in SC looking for an apprentice???? I'm here and experienced!