I spend more time than I probably should wondering when the luxury condo trend will finally come for the dead. Real estate is expensive, and there's lots of valuable land in urban areas that could be used for yet-another fancy steel-and-glass skyscraper used to hide foreign money—if it wasn't for the cemeteries that currently take up all that space. I even have a half-finished short story in a notebook somewhere riffing on the classic Stephen King scenario of towns built on Native American burial grounds, except it's just luxury condos built up on the corpses of, well, everyone.
But I was thinking too far ahead. Because I didn't stop to think about what happens to those graveyards now, as flooding and earthquakes and more extreme weather disturb the soil under which our loved ones have been laid to their eternal rests. As a recent article in Scientific American gruesomely details, coffins are already body-surfing through the streets of Louisiana during storms:
The caskets and their surface vaults are sealed airtight, so pressure builds inside them when a hurricane or flash flood covers them in water. Moisture weakens the vault seal, and eventually the water begins to bubble with dead air—the tell-tale sign a casket is ready to pop out of its grave, Hunter said.
“You hear the bubbles, you see the bubbles, and you know that seal is weakening because of that immense amount of pressure. And then the lid comes off,” he said.
The visual of bubbling coffins popping out of the ground is scary enough. Read the rest
I stumbled across Jody DeLucco's Pinterest board of graveyard and cemetery art. It's filled with surprising, funny, sad, and just plain weird gravestones and cemetery markers.
Read the rest
Matthew Ritter's interest in epitaphs began in junior high, when a history book displayed the haunting message on the grave of an ancient Roman: "What I am you soon shall be." He started writing epitaphs of his own in the margins of his notebooks, summing up the imaginary lives of imaginary people in a few concise lines.
14 Hours Productions recently released Welcome to Boon Hill, a "graveyard simulator" where Ritter finally got a chance to put those skills to work. The game is exactly what it sounds like, and little else; your character arrives at a 16-bit graveyard called Boon Hill and wanders around at their leisure, reading the messages carved into over two thousand graves. There are no surprises, no jump scares, nothing to collect or achieve, except perhaps insight into your own mortality.
The game is also partly inspired by Spoon River Anthology, a poetry collection that tells the story of a fictional small town through the verses on the epitaphs of its inhabitants. While Welcome to Boon Hill isn't quite so cohesive, the graves you read feel a little bit like creative prompts that can start to form a larger picture in your mind. Sometimes their message is concise: how someone died and when, a life in two bullet points. Other times they suggest a much richer story, or offer some sort of takeaway: a moral or a cautionary tale to guide the living away from their mistakes.
And then, of course, there are the graves memorializing people who aren't much older than you—maybe they're even younger. Read the rest