In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cemetery Etiquette for Ghost Hunters

copyright Fiona Broome,

Enthusiastic ghost hunters sometimes forget that--for many people--cemeteries are solemn places with clear rules of etiquette.

Here are a few suggestions for your visits to cemeteries:

Not everyone believes in ghosts. In any cemetery, you may find genealogists, historians, and descendants of the deceased. You may also find people who love to photograph (or transcribe) headstone engravings. Others may be doing gravestone rubbings, though this has become a less popular hobby due to decaying stones.

Babbling happily about ghosts may distract or offend these people, who expect respectful silence in a cemetery.

If someone is visiting the grave of a recently deceased family member, your comments may upset them. They often prefer to think that everyone who has crossed over, is in a happier place... not lingering around a cemetery.

It's best to speak in subdued tones, and not approach strangers unless they initiate conversation.

Joking is generally inappropriate. I'm not saying you have to be dour, but some jokes are in very poor taste. Sure, people get nervous and manage to say the worst possible things, sometimes. Try to avoid offensive patter.

As a guideline, here are a few "jokes" that could irritate the dead, and probably annoy the living as well:

"Oops, didn't mean to shout loud enough to wake the dead. Ha-ha-ha."

"Gee, he must have been a cheapskate, not giving his wife her own headstone."

"So, when do the ghouls show up, huh? Ha-ha-ha."

"Let's leave soon, I'm feeling dead tired."

"Can't you take a joke? I mean, hey, you're looking pretty grave. Ha-ha-ha."

You get the idea. If someone starts joking, stop them immediately or leave the cemetery. We've seen jokers suddenly twist an ankle, or encounter other odd problems; we're still not sure if the ghosts were "getting even."

Obey the laws. If the cemetery says, "Closed dusk to dawn," get permission to visit it after hours. If you inadvertently stay past dusk, remember that you are breaking the law; leave cheerfully and quickly when you realize your mistake. Likewise, if the gate is locked, it just might be a hint that you're not allowed into a private cemetery. Stay out!

Protect what's in the cemetery. Do not lean on fragile headstones, much less sit on them. Don't use shaving cream to reveal inscriptions; many of them contain perfumes or other ingredients which contribute to decay. Acid rain has already done enough damage! A halogen flashlight at a sharp angle will reveal nearly as much--and sometimes more--than shaving cream would.

Respect the deceased. They may consider their cemetery "home," and you are visiting--or perhaps trespassing--on their property. It's okay to ignore belligerent, territorial ghosts, but be as understanding as you can.

Step carefully on graves. Leave no litter. Speak in soft tones; joking or loud voices can annoy and/or frighten some spirits and reduce your chances of getting a great photo.

Some people recommend waiting at least a half an hour before taking photos, and then quietly asking permission of the deceased, in a respectful manner. Fiona doesn't do this, but many ghost hunters do. Use your best judgement.

It is generally inappropriate to take your pet into the cemetery. If you must, be certain your pet is on a sturdy leash (particularly if he is frightened by spectral appearances), and that you clean up after your pet. If your pet disturbs others, including the spirits, take the animal back to the car (or return him to your home or a kennel, if it's a hot day). Use common sense.

Move or remove nothing. Leave plants, markers, badges, ribbons, and so on, exactly where you found them. Do not pick anything, even autumn leaves from the trees. However, if you find empty beer cans or fast-food wrappers, you can help the cemetery caretaker by putting them in the trash.

Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the cemetery. Step outside the cemetery if any of these pastimes are necessary.

1 comment:

Fiona Broome said...

Thanks for reposting the article from my website

Can you add a copyright notice? (Something like "copyright Fiona Broome,")

Then, your readers will understand that this work is protected, and that the link in your copy indicates its source, not just another resource for ghost-related information.

For more information about reprinting my website content, see the Hollow Hill FAQs.