Before the Weeping Angel monsters from Doctor Who existed, there was The Angel of Grief, carved by William Wetmore Story for his wife’s tomb. Some time ago, I got a small-scale replica of this statue, shown below with a 1:6 scale figure for comparison. Continue reading Angel of Grief/Weeping angel in 1:6 scale
Appearing on the Haserot family tombstone in Cleveland, Ohio, the Angel of Death Victorious is a fitting companion for the Angel of Grief. The verdigris tears of black make the figure all the more striking. Atlas Obscura has clear photos. Forgotten Ohio has creepier, more atmospheric photos.
I want one! No, seriously, I want one of these in 1:6 scale…
In times of great crisis, the angel will walk. It moves with a slow, sort of grating, slightly molten, titanic motion. It will arise and make its heavy, earthen way to the scene of the calamity. Its tread sounds like the bones of the earth resettling.
And it will stand, its torch burning with an eldritch fire, its eyes seeing everything and nothing. And it bears speechless witness, offering both illumination and darkness.
The people in its presence react variously. There’s the usual fainting, shitting of pants, screaming and fleeing, that sort of thing.
Some who see the angel feel peace, a peace as cold as iron, as heavy as the mountains, as deep as the crust of the earth. This weight, this solidity, this strength, and this groundedness unjellify their shaken limbs and steady their qualming hearts.
Now, having seen the angel, they know their own strength. The angel’s cold slow burn of indomitability becomes theirs as well. And they become the activists who are in it for the long haul. They will labor on the side of good and fairness and liberty and justice in whatever way they can for the rest of their days. They will do so persistently, unstintingly, tenaciously, for the angels of the earth are behind them.
And then there are those people who look into the angel’s eyes. We don’t really know what happens to them.
But there are always a few who are drawn inexorably to face that abyssal gazeless gaze. Whoever said that thing about being careful if you look into the abyss because then it might look into you was probably onto something… because the people who try to find the angel’s eyes end up losing themselves.
Their eyes become orbs of light, and they weep in endless illumination. We don’t know what they see [if they see anything] or why they weep because they won’t answer us. They no longer speak; they only sit in reverie.
And then, inevitably, one day, they take their torches, rise, and begin to walk.
This woman’s parents had her amputated leg buried on its own. "One foot in the grave" indeed. On one hand, I appreciate the gravity with which they treated their child’s loss of limb and resultant change in life. On the other hand, the writer notes that it really weirded her out to attend her own funeral while still alive.
I was playing around this morning with some recent digital acquisitions and came up with this picture. Caption: "I’m pretty sure I made a wrong turn somewhere because this definitely does not look like a shopping district where I can acquire some less skimpy pants."
Continue reading What would a creepy doll be afraid of?
As all two of my regular readers know, I really like cemeteries, but have trouble finding realistic representations thereof among digital models. Over at the Daz store, for example, Spooky Plots by LaurieS and Lisa’s Botanicals looks more like a digital rendering of Halloween decorations than an actual graveyard, as does Pretty3D’s Lost Cemetery. Sure, you can find some nice individual tombs, but most digital cemetery sets seem to have been created by people who have never even seen a tombstone in their lives.
Imagine, then, my ecstasy when Danie and Marforno’s Tranquility Lane appeared on sale at Renderosity for 60% off! Danie and Marforno specialize in timeworn, vaguely fantastical sets in which one can dramatically pose one’s scantily clad female models. Let’s call them the masters of the Gothic lite pinup.
Occasionally, though, Danie and marforno deviate from Ye Olde Phantaisie Weirdnesse [seriously — why does Cult Diaries have tusks everywhere?] and do something more realistic and evocative. Enter Tranquility Lane, a cemetery set obviously modeled after those in New Orleans — hell, there’s even French on the crypts and signs. Of course, I have no personal experience with crypts clustered as tightly as urban apartment buildings — we don’t stack dead people up here in New England; instead we tend to spread them out. However, even though Tranquility Lane does not reflect my personal schema of a cemetery, I can repurpose elements of the set, such as the monoliths, fences and certain mausoleums, in my ongoing quest to represent digitally the type of graveyard with which I am familiar.
Oh yeah — and I got this for $10.40, 60% off its usual $26.00 price! Whoo hoo!
I had a few inquiries on MWD about the cemetery set for the latest episode of Zombieville, so below I’ve collected some notes and photos that I created during its creation.
The family plot of some ancestors of mine, located on the outskirts of Plattsburgh, New York, has received thorough treatment on findagrave.com, thanks to one Chris West. There’s a shot of the roadside historical marker sign, as well as the 20th-century commemorative plaque in the cemetery itself. There’s also a front view of the whole thing, complete with raised plot, surrounding stone wall topped with fence and steps into the burial ground.
I’m most excited to see records of all 13 burials in the cemetery, with accompanying photos of headstones. Naturally, I sought and found my favorite: the stone of John Addoms Hagar [1822-1833]. The record does not have a transcription of the epitaph, but I can clearly read the best part from the photo:
In Death he exclaimed
I see the Angles.
I really need to get back there for more photos…
Last year I acquired a small replica of William Wetmore Story’s Angel of Grief that he originally carved for his wife’s tomb. Made by Design Toscano, your friendly neighborhood purveyors of all things mediocre, tawdry and expensive, she looked like this initially:
Ooooh, I think that the graveyard in Zombieville could use some plaster pedestals to suggest mausoleums! Here is a nice plain pillar, needing only some weathering, for $29.99. This Ionic one, at $14.99, is a bit cheaper, though. And here’s a Roman one for the same price. But maybe this column wall mirror would work [$19.99] too.
I’m a big fan of this curved Roman capital bench too…perfect for contemplating my grieving angel statue…
Perhaps I could get away not with some columns, but with some silly cherub statue from this category, as long as it looks suitably depressed.
Even though she’s yellow and averagely sculpted, I really like her. So does Isabel. Now I just need to remove that embossed doggerel on the front and repaint her a marble or granite color, including some bird shit stains.
Here is the dead version of Isabel showing off the hollow plastic gravestones I got at the end of last week. As you can see, the fronts are, like most Halloween decorations, bullshit in terms of cemetery iconography, but the backs are fine!
I’m on a quest to find 1:6 tombstones. I need to make a 1:6 cemetery set for Ellery to hang out in and write in her diary in.
I could design some in PhotoShop Elements and print them out on a color printer, but I don’t want to make them because I am lazy. I typed in “miniature cemetery” and “miniature tombstones” and “miniature headstones,” etc., into search engines, but all I came up with were 1:12 miniatures. Too small! I eventually had the genius idea of trying Halloween decorations [“halloween miniature cemetery”]. But, at 9.75″ tall, the tombstones were more like 1:3 scale than 1:6 scale.
Rats! Thinking about what objects might be the appropriate size, I came up with magnets and salt and pepper shakers. A search of “tombstone” on Etsy revealed many salt and pepper shakers of the appropriate size. I decided against these because they all had silly poems about “Here lies Pepper/Salt” on them that would not have contributed to the realism.
Finally I discovered these tombstone magnets by Dellamorte Co., “curators of the reliquary macabre.” Each of the 3 magnets are around 3″ high, their silhouettes and symbols drawn directly from those I have seen on 17th and 18th century graves in places around Massachusetts. While they don’t have epitaphs, the magnets do have Latin admonitions common to tombstones of that era, all about the shortness of life and inevitability of death. While there are fewer of these ornate graves in Vermont [where Me and My Muses is set] than in, say, Massachusetts, these magnets look suitably sepulchral and about the right size [maybe a little small?], so I got them.
Further bulletins as events warrant!
EDIT: Well, shit. “Tabletop tombstone” in the search engine gets me all kinds of appropriately sized resin or plastic tombstones. I was just using imprecise keywords!!
I took about 40 shots this afternoon, but these three of Sardonix peeking out devilishly from the corner of a stone entranced me the most.Continue reading Sardonix in Old Burying Ground, Harvard Square, Cambridge
In the Farber Gravestone Collection, the American Antiquarian Society collects over 13,000 images of pre-1800 gravestones, many in Massachusetts. Daniel and Jessie Farber were photographers active in the early 20th century. The collection also incorporates the work of other gravestone photographers. It’s very Massachusetts-based. More later after I poke.
Just in time for Halloween, New Scientist’s October 13, 2007 issue has an article about what various types of death [hanging, drowning, bleeding to death] feel like, as reported by those who have survived massive injuries. I was particularly interested in the effects of exsanguination which, it turns out, are just an extreme version of what happens after donating blood.
Morbid Anatomy is a compendium of posts about medical and death-related art, such as post-mortem photos, anatomical waxes and ecorches [engravings of partly flayed people showing musculature]. Off I go to waste my lunch hour. Janet would definitely have some of this stuff in her lab alongside the Kraftwerk posters.
EDIT: The links from Morbid Anatomy are most instructive and detailed. For example, The Fantastic in Art and Fiction is a bank of thematically grouped images [Madness & Possession, Angels & Demons, the Grotesque] from across the centuries, supplemented with lists of scholarly studies, literary works, plastic arts and movies that pertain to the theme. There are many wonderfully freaky out-of-copyright images here that would be great for indie authors illustrating their own book covers.
Pushin’ Daisies is a mortuary store with funeral, death, vampire, skull, etc. sort of novelties. Hooray for hearse earrings, Dios de los Muertos shot glasses, tombstone-shaped soaps and little chocolate coffins with little chocolate skeletons inside. Clearly meant for the casual cemetery nerd (viz., no serious books about cemetery iconography in “The Grim Reader” section), this is nevertheless amusing. Now, in case you want to make your own coffin, which can serve as a “beautiful blanket chest or coffee table” before holding you, you know where to buy the book.
P.S. I ordered We So Seldom Look On Love from half.com. The shipping was more than the price of the book. Half.com: where cheap-ass bibliophiles shop.
P.P.S. Because I’m in a morbid mood, today’s word is “trocar.” A trocar is a big sharp hollow needle that an embalmer sticks into a corpse’s abdomen after the blood has been replaced with embalming fluid. At first the trocar is attached to a suction pump via hose to slurp out organs and body tissue. When that’s done, the trocar is hooked up to a bottle of cavity fluid and waved around in the abdomen to fill the space where the organs were. The incision site is plugged up with a plastic plug called a trocar button. There. You should now be both nauseated and edified. I know I sure am.
Confidential to the people who are encouraging me to get Elfdoll Tiny Adel: You’re not helping my resolve! :p
In other news, I get pickier and pickier over my photos. Yesterday I happened to be waiting for the bus in Medford Square, right next to ye olde cemeterie of Medford, also known as Medford Burying Ground. Since the sun was setting, I hopped across the road to capture the bright light and long shadows. Continue reading Medford Burying Ground: not half bad with color either
Sorry… You aren’t going to see it. Ever since I’ve been amassing a portfolio for my gallery show, I’ve been feeling awfully proprietary of my cemetery photos. I really doubt people would plagiarize them, but you never can be sure…which is why I keep the best ones on my hard drive.
Anyway, I took advantage of an incredibly sunny day yesterday to shoot some photos in King’s Chapel around noon. Though younger than the Granary across the way, King’s Chapel seems much less tended. Perhaps that’s because it’s on a downhill slope that makes the lowest part of the cemetery just a big leach field. Perhaps it’s because more of the stones were made of sandstone, which erodes easily. I think fewer people go to King’s Chapel, even though it, like the Granary, is on the heavily trafficked Freedom Trail, so people spend less time keeping it up.
They do have the best stone, though, right by the entrance. It’s an intricate carving in which a skeleton holds a spear and a candle snuffer, ready to extinguish the candle of life, which is sitting upon a globe. Behind the skeleton stands Father Time, an old bearded man, with his scythe. Unfortunately, you’re not going to see that either, at least not until I figure out how to manipulate the image so you can see all the detail in the carving. I promise I’ll show it to you, though. It’s impressive!
What you are going to see is a macro of a much longer epitaph on a woman’s grave, entitled Somebody Loved Her. I don’t think I need to explain the title. Continue reading The most beautiful skull in King’s Chapel
In honor of the resurrection of spring and Jesus, here’s my favorite photo from Friday’s Granary shoot. Continue reading Happy (re)birthday!
Jennifer ran on ahead of me today and got lost in the Granary Burying Ground. When I found her, she dragged me on her own little tour. Continue reading Jennifer finds mermaids, bare boobs and mandalas in the Granary.
Cemeteries have a certain quiet power to them that I enjoy, especially the old ones like First Parish Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, where the earliest stones date from the 1680s. It looks like a lawn full of old grey rocks or a garden growing stone. It’s a perfect place to wander and muse in.
Bending a little closer to look at the tombstones, though, I’ll find messages from the past. Memento mori. Be mindful of death. Memento te esse mortalem. Remember that you are mortal.
Then it strikes me that I’m walking on history. The city I live in was built upon the bones of people who died generations ago. All that’s left of them now are the stories on their stones and the ground they have fertilized. Hundreds of years separate them and me, but I’m really not so far of them. Here there’s just six feet of earth between them and me.
I stand in the present, but, in the cemetery, I’m so close to the past. I can see its quiet shift and rot and spring in the sink of the muddy ground and the surge of the buds of the trees. I can read it in the faded Latin of the epitaphs. I can even touch it in the rough, rounded, worn edges of the tombstones. I feel more a part of history, more a part of time, here in the cemetery.
This is why I find cemeteries so beautiful: the close, poignant juxtaposition of life and death. First Parish may look like just a place full of old carvings, but it’s holy ground. Photos in regular light don’t bring out the striking power of the place. But draining the photos of color or inverting them does evoke a haunting starkness. And then you realize that the cemetery is indeed another world, at once foreign and familiar. Continue reading Inverted light in First Parish Cemetery
Granary Burial Ground: Find stone with mermen and frogs. Take good pictures.
King’s Chapel Cemetery: Take good photos of the Death / Father Time stones with globe and candle.
Mount Auburn Cemetery: Go with Steph!
The only one in Somerville: Show people peeking through the bars [even if we can’t get in].
Forest Hills: Probably with Jennifer, since the high surveillance gets suspicious about people carrying around big dolls and cameras.
That one in Arlington on Broadway: Walk there some sunny weekend.
Ones in Salem: Find stones associated with witchcraft trials.
Mountain View: Find dolphins, elephants and other unusual animals. Do an “animal tour?”
Essex Common: Hands, wrought-iron fences. Continue reading Cemeteries + dolls
Once upon a time, I fell in love with Boston’s Chinatown. Devoted to its yummy, cheap restaurants and fascinating import shops, I decided to learn more about one of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods. I began to search the library and the Web for information on the history of Chinese immigrants in Boston and unearthed a much cooler story than I ever could have hoped. Continue reading Jennifer in Central Burying Ground and the grave of an (un)real character
Ever since I read Doing Cemetery Research, I’ve been digging a little more into the subject of graves. On a whim, I decided to look up information about three of my favorite cemeteries: Essex Common Burial Ground and Mountain View Cemetery, both in Essex, VT, and Addoms Hagar Burial Ground, in Plattsburgh, NY. Surprisingly enough, all three of them have been transcribed, the Essex ones by James Cutler, a local genealogist, the Plattsburgh one by the Church of Latter-Day Saints [huh?!]. Continue reading My favorite cemeteries have been transcribed.
I’ve been reading many books about death and cemeteries. The best that I have come across is Your Guide to Cemetery Research. Continue reading The manual for cemetery / geneaology geeks.
I checked out a bunch of books about death and cemeteries last night and read through one of them, Cemetery Stories, by Katherine Ramsland, quickly. Riding the mainstreaming of Goth lite, Ramsland skims over the death trade [coroners, embalmers, morticians, gravediggers, etc.], ghost stories and sick stuff people do with dead bodies. Rant below about the supposed connections between people who take pictures of gravestones and people who screw corpses. Continue reading Salacious tales of graveyards
Brandeis visited the First Parish Cemetery in Cambridge today. Founded in 1636, the First Parish Church has an adjoining cemetery that’s crammed with the coolest variety of sarcophagi and headstone iconography in the metro area. Today she and I are just focusing on a part of it: the different types of sarcophagus. Continue reading Brandeis visits sarcophagi in First Parish Cemetery.