Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grave Humor

Just because I spend too much time wandering around cemeteries doesn't mean I've lost my sense of humor.  To the contrary, I think one needs a sense of humor in order to pursue this hobby; if you let the locations and inscriptions get under your skin too much, you're apt to go looking for a mausoleum with an empty niche to crawl into.

With that said, one of my main objectives is to seek out the obscure and bizarre:  the eighteenth-century sandstones with winged skulls and death's heads, inscriptions that outline how the deceased ceased, and most of all, strange names.

I began exploring cemeteries almost as soon as I got my first SLR camera, back in 1982.  There was one a few miles from my house, the resting place of a branch of my family, with lots of interesting markers, especially this one, which caught my eye, and never let go:

St. Mary Star of the Sea, Cedarhurst, NY

More recently I was walking through one of three cemeteries in Bethpage, New York, near the famous 'Bethpage Black' golf course.  It was there that I came upon this, which is destined to become the image I will always visualize when I hear the word 'birthstone':

That same day, in one of the adjacent cemeteries, I found this, which aptly fits the definition of 'what lies beneath':

Powell Cemetery, Bethpage New York

For the final entry today, there's this stone from the Cedar Grove cemetery in Patchogue, NY, taken in July of 1991:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists the first known usage of the term 'birdbrain' in 1933; sadly they do not provide the example.  A search through my OED reveals no listing for the word.  Given that he lived for seventeen years after its coining, I hope old Bird was able to take a joke.


Sondra said...

HOW COOL is that?? LoL I sometimes see weird names as well, and strange spellings and mis-spellings on headstones, that one always gets to me...laying under a mis-spelled stone must be horrid!!

Annie Jeffries said...

Amazing. I can't believe you found these. Well, of course, I CAN. I just find them, especially Dumb and Bird Braine, unbelievable. Weirdly weird.

hamilton said...

Being named 'Bird' is odd enough!

Patsy said...

My great great grandfather was a Bird Berry.

Melbourne Australia Photos said...

LOL! That is certainly black humour!
Great finds!

s.c said...

Real great finds, how is it possible.But as always the reality is stranger than the fantasy. Thanks for showing them.

SeaThreePeeO said...

Ha ha! Those are just excellent. I do often wonder what these people thought of their names when they were alive.

Herding Cats

biebkriebels said...

Ha,ha, yes this is humor, I like the coffin, very a obvious and the Bird is also funny, maybe related to Lady Bird?

Julie said...

I grinned all the way through, and laughed uproariously when I go to poor old Bird.

I had no idea that expression was only coined in 1933. So when Bird was christened it was not some evil joke played out by his parents!

I guess there was Lady Bird Johnson, too. She had a real name, though, I think. Just googled ... Claudia Alta.

I have a couple of strange names but not laugh out loud funny like these.

Terrific post, Neil.

Gene said...

Too funny. I've seen a "Brain" family marker, but nothing like "Bird Braine".

tapirgal said...

Hysterical! THANK YOU. Great commentary.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

You've had quite the eye for unusual cemetery names. And now you've found the perfect meme to show them off.

Unknown said...

What an amazing and unusual collection! Fantastic series.