Happy Travel Tuesday everyone!! I’m wrapping up my final day here in Alabama and keeping my fingers crossed that the weather clears out in time for tonight’s flight back west. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’ve decided to make this month’s “theme” all about the supernatural and slightly creepy places – it is almost Halloween after all! (smile)
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve a recent fascination with cemeteries – especially the old ones. Here in the south there are no shortage of old – and incredibly interesting – cemeteries to explore. My initial fascination began with reading the epitaphs. I feel like they each tell a story – whether about the person who inspired the words or the people left behind to pick them out according to their own preference (smile). But as the exploration continued, I began to pay more attention to the symbology, placement of headstones, etc. and a whole new (only slightly macabre) world opened up!
Oakwood Cemetery – Montgomery, Alabama
One of the larger homes to some of Alabama’s most well-known sons and daughters is Oakwood Cemetery near downtown Montgomery. Home to the rich and not-so-rich, slaves, free blacks, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, and solders alike, the cemetery has been called a museum. In a lot of ways, it really does feel just like an open air museum. It’s a large place with surprises around every corner. Some of the epitaphs are amusing, some somber. There’s even a family dog laid to rest alongside its beloved owners!
Perhaps one of the more famous “celebrities” laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery is Hank Williams, Sr. Williams passed at the peak of his career in the back of his Cadillac on his way to perform a New Year’s show up north. The exact events surrounding his death still remain a mystery, but his contribution to country music and his haunting voice live on eternally. There have been many accounts of – and songs about – seeing Williams’ ghost at different locations from his graveside and along highways up to the Grand Ol’ Opry in Tennessee.
If you’re ever in the area, Oakwood is a great place to pass an afternoon. Yes, I know that sounds like a strange thing to say; but it’s a remarkable testament to the local history. There are several historical markers and I believe there are tours you can take as well (not officially through the cemetery though). It’s a peaceful place and has no reported unkind spirits. As for curious spirits…
Carr’s Chapel Cemetery
I only recently came across this cemetery while out riding with my dad. The associated church burned some time ago and all that remains is the cemetery itself. The sign indicates that the cemetery was established in 1879 and I saw several new graves as well so it’s clearly still in use. As with Oakwood, Carr’s Chapel is full of interesting epitaphs and symbology.
One of the things that you will inevitably notice if you spend any amount of time in cemeteries in the south is that most are contained by fencing – and often there are sites within and without this fence. Some cultures say that those buried outside the gates lie in unconsecrated ground. Here in the south, it was purely racial. In over 135 years, no one has bothered to surround those resting on the outside with their own fence. There are even some new(ish) graves in that un-fenced section. It’s a tradition that stands as an incredibly sad testament to the history of this part of the country. Most cemeteries today no longer make any distinction, but it’s almost inevitable to see the divide in older ones. May they all have peace…
Carr’s Chapel is definitely one of those cemeteries I wouldn’t want to find myself in at night. Depending on which grandparent I asked, there are any number of mysterious circumstances associated with the place – including the mysterious fire that took the church. The area certainly had a “feeling” about it. Perhaps it has something to do with the segregated tombs or perhaps there’s an unhappy spirit or two that lurk behind the trees. Either way, it’s a eerie place.