Thursday, May 16, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: "Be The Death of Me" Investigation: The Cemetery Explorer

Our collaborator, Alex Rosenthal, recently interviewed Allison C. Meier, a young writer with a penchant for for exploring cemeteries and researching their occupants. She leads tours of New York City cemeteries through Atlas Obscura. Learn more about Allison HERE, and check out Atlas Obscura HERE!

Allison C. Meier

Check out a few excerpts from Alex's interview with Allison below:

I try to get lost, basically, when I'm exploring a cemetery. I don't know, you could have sort of a checklist of famous people when you're going through a cemetery, which I think is totally fine, but I think like getting lost and experiencing the place is what I usually try to do. Like some, you know, you come across like, for example, a tombstone in Green-Wood just says like "Grandmother" on it, it's like half shifted in the ground, and you're like "Who was Grandmother? Why didn't she have her whole name on it?" And you do a little bit of research, you find out it was the woman who had the affair with the reverend, the Quaker church of Brooklyn preacher, but then you realize, oh, she was like totally ignored in her death.

Allison leading a tour through Woodlawn Cemetery, viewed from a mausoleum.
(photograph by Ronny Preciado
You can't really build on top of–aren't supposed to build on top of a cemetery. So sometimes they actually just move the gravestones as if that's like totally fine. Like at Green-Wood, there's a Dutch cemetery that used to be somewhere else in Brooklyn, and in theory they should have dug up all of those people and put them with their right headstones again, but as you can imagine, like digging up 200-year-old graves and trying, there's a lot of skeletons under the ground. Like during construction under the city it's not unusual to find skeletons. I know there's a potters field behind the New Museum, and when they were doing construction there they found some skeletons. And like Washington Square Park,  Madison Square Park, and Bryant Park all used to be Potter's fields.

One of Allison's tours in the catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery.
If you want to be buried in New York city, you need a lot of money, or a family member who already has a plot, or you just get lucky with immediate internment, otherwise you're probably going to be buried in New Jersey. The reason we have the big cemeteries in the outer boroughs is because the ones in Manhattan filled up. I don't know if someone is going to like build a cemetery island or like underground burials or, yeah, everyone could go to space. It would be very expensive. I'm sure they would love it. The moon would be a perfect graveyard.

Thanks to Allison and Alex for sharing! Don't miss BE THE DEATH OF ME June 28th and 29th at the Irondale (details to follow soon)!

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