Today, readers, I discuss a topic very close to my heart: cemetery visits. I started visiting cemeteries with my grandmother and mother as soon as I could walk and, to me, they've always been a pleasant place for a visit. They're quiet, calm, and full of rich history. I'm not alone in my love of these places. Many Goths are partial to cemeteries (particularly cemetery picnics) and it's one of our great cliches. However, I'm saddened by the amount of disrespectful behavior I've seen from my fellow spooks in regards to cemetery visits. So, I've decided that I want to compile my short guide to proper cemetery behavior.
Why am I asking you to alter your behavior on cemetery visits? Let's face it: not everyone shares our morbid interest in cemeteries. In general, most people come to cemeteries to mourn their loved ones. It is imperative that you be respectful of these people while you are in the cemetery. No, it doesn't matter what your ideas about death and mourning are. The last thing you want to do when someone is saddened by a passing is upset them further with insensitivity. So, without further ado, I present to you my brief guide of cemetery etiquette:
- Do not damage any of the headstones - This, really, should go without saying. Purposeful damage of a headstone is utterly rude and disrespectful. While it might seem insignificant, headstones can cost hundreds to thousands and thousands of dollars. Accidents happen, everyone knows this. If you somehow cause to any monuments of headstones, report it to the cemetery staff and be prepared to pay for damages. It's the right thing to do.
- Do not take anything from the cemetery - Flowers, mementos from gravestones, etc. are all off-limits. Even if you intend to remove the item and then replace it after snapping some photos, it's incredibly rude and you shouldn't do it. It should also go without saying that grave robbing is a disgusting practice. Please do not remove human remains from the graveyard, they do not belong to you. But none of my readers would do that, of course.
- Do not stand, sit, lie, have sex, or otherwise support yourself on the headstones - Headstones, as previously stated, as extremely expensive. Some of them might also be old and historic and easily breakable, so do not drape yourself over the headstones. Not only that, but that marker does not belong to you. I'm not one for complaining about people "disrespecting the dead," but if you are on the headstones you are disrespecting the family who the deceased has left behind. This is especially important if you are taking pictures. Also, watch your step when you are walking; you never know if a flat headstone is under your feet. The exception to this rule is bench monuments, but use your best judgement about if the stone will support you or if it is simply too old.
- Avoid contact with funeral goers or mourners - Ideally, you should quietly and inconspicuously move away from any mourners or funeral processions if you see them. However, if you have your little black heart set on where you are, keep your voices down and avoid staring at the procession. And, no, shouting "hey, can I have that hearse when you're done?" isn't cute. Be respectful of people in their time of weakness.
- Respect the fences and gates - If part of a grave site is closed off via a fence, please do not try to climb onto the fence or into the fenced-off area. It is fenced off for a reason and, really, you can probably get your photos from outside of it.
- Do not bury anything without permission - A cemetery, along with being a place for mourners, is a business. The cemetery plots have to be bought by those who want to use them (for themselves or their family.) Burying anything there without permission is akin to stealing real estate. If you must bury your deceased pets, go to your own yard or find a pet cemetery.
- Obey the wishes of cemetery staff and cemetery rules - The easiest way to find out about cemetery rules is to check the website for the cemetery (this may be the website of a church, if the cemetery is associated with it.) They should have hours for the cemetery, a list of banned practices (such as grave rubbings, attending the cemetery when there is a funeral planned, and taking pictures) and contacts should you have any other inquiries. Likewise, if a cemetery worker asks you to leave, you would be wise to do so or you run the risk of being called a trespasser and having the police called.
Picture taken in Mount Auburn Cemetery, MA
I hope that this guide was helpful to all of you who are unsure of the proper behavior during a visit to a cemetery. I also hope that I did not come across as talking down to you. Recent events on other websites about the glorification of grave robbing in particular have make it a necessity for me to outline what is an is not acceptable behavior for visiting the cemetery. So, readers, what do you think? Did I leave out any rules that you try to abide by? Or do you take issue with mine?y