Categories
Photography

Stories in Stone: Mark Howard

English-born Mark Howard (1817–1887) was president of the National Fire Insurance Company and helped organize the Republican Party in Connecticut. His family and he are interred in the Howard Pyramid Mausoleum in Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. The Egyptian-revival mausoleum is 20 feet tall and made from pink granite.

Photo by Michael Kleen
Categories
Historic America

Stories in Stone: Writers and Poets

Whether it’s “Author’s Ridge” in Concord or the small church cemetery where a mysterious visitor leaves flowers for Poe on the anniversary of his death, the graves of literary heroes have long been popular destinations.

For aspiring authors, poets, and fans of literature, the grave sites of America’s famous writers have become pilgrimage sites. Devoted fans leave behind flowers, pens, pencils, and even their own writing as tokens of affection. As a writer myself, I find stops at the graves of famous writers an obligatory inclusion on my travels. Here are just some of them. Have you ever visited a famous author’s grave? Leave a comment with your story!

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was a leader of the transcendentalist movement and champion of individualism (most well-articulated in his essay “Self-Reliance“). He was a prolific author and lecturer. It’s difficult to think of a writer who had greater impact on American intellectual life. He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts on Author’s Ridge.

Categories
Mysterious America

Archer Avenue’s Lesser-Known Haunts

While hoping to catch a glimpse of Resurrection Mary or some of the area’s other famous haunts, visitors to this southwest suburban Chicago road often overlook these lesser-known but no less spooky destinations.

Archer Avenue—the name sends shivers down the spines of locals well-versed in Chicago lore. Archer Avenue begins in Chicago and travels steadily west until merging with Route 171 in suburban Summit. There the road turns sharply southwest at an obtuse angle, then runs parallel with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. It passes through Justice and Willow Springs before ultimately entering scenic Lemont.

It is near these three villages—Justice, Willow Springs, and Lemont—where the road has gained an unusual reputation. Starting with Resurrection Cemetery and ending at St. James-Sag Church, this section of Archer Avenue forms the northern border of a triangle of forest preserves, lakes, trails, and burial grounds encompassing most of the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s Palos Division.

At the hinterlands of civilization, this area has a well-deserved reputation built upon generations of strange encounters and creative storytelling. It is home to no less than ten mystery sites involving everything from hauntings, to unsolved murders, to healing springs, to the site of America’s second nuclear reactor. These locations dot the area on either side of Archer Avenue, with the majority falling inside the boundaries of the triangle.

The roads there are long and dark, the lakes and parks remote, and the landmarks emerge from the shadows to capture the imagination of visitors.

Categories
Photography

Stories in Stone: Preston King

Relief bust of U.S. Senator Preston King (1806-1865) in Ogdensburg/Riverside Cemetery on State Route 812 in Ogdensburg, New York. Morbidly obese his whole life, Preston King began his political career as a Democrat, served in Congress for two terms as a Free Soiler, then joined the Republican Party and was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1857. He was a staunch ally of President Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson appointed him Collector of the Port of New York, where he committed suicide by jumping in New York Harbor.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Jack Johnson

Headstone for heavyweight champion Jack Johnson (1878-1946) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. Johnson was born and raised in Galveston, Texas and became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion from 1908 to 1915. In June 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, a charge that many saw as racially motivated. President Donald Trump officially pardoned him in 2018. He died in a car crash in North Carolina in 1946 and is buried next to his first wife, Etta Duryea Johnson.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Cornelius Tyler Longstreet

Pyramid for the Longstreet family in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Cornelius Tyler Longstreet (1814-1881) was a clothing manufacturer, banker, and one of Syracuse’s earliest and most wealthy residents. He built a Tudor-style mansion, later called “Longstreet’s Folly,” on the outskirts of Syracuse but later traded it with Alonzo Yates’ home so his family could live closer to the city. Several generations of Longstreets are interred in this large stone pyramid. Apparently it once contained elegant furnishings, sculptures, and even a Persian rug, but has been sealed to prevent vandalism.

Categories
Mysterious America

The St. Omer “Witch’s Grave”

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

St. Omer Cemetery and the defunct village of the same name probably would have been forgotten a century ago had it not been for one unusual family monument and a misprinted date. As is often the case in Coles County, these peculiar circumstances gave birth to an obscure but enduring legend. According to local lore, Caroline Barnes, one of four people buried under the massive stone, was put to death for practicing witchcraft. It is said no pictures can be taken of her monument, and that it glows on moonless nights.

The Barnes family monument is difficult to describe. Some say it looks like a crystal ball mounted on a pyre. Conventionally, orbs in cemetery art represent faith, and logs, or tree trunks, are fairly common imagery representing growth and enduring life. This particular gravestone is rare, but similar monuments can be found in several central Illinois cemeteries, including Union Cemetery in northeastern Coles County.

Why do some people believe a witch is buried here? The only evidence for the legend seems to be the gravestone’s dramatic design, the way local citizens grow nervous whenever the story is mentioned, and most strikingly, Caroline’s impossible date of death chiseled in the granite: February 31. The monument also faces north-south, while most headstones are oriented east-west.