Day 11 of the 31 Days of Myths, Magic, Mayhem, and more…
I will be your host for the evening, and tonight, I want to talk about tombstones. We have already explored some of the best graveyards in the world- but now let’s walk into the cemetery, find the most unique monuments, and discover why we bury our loved ones the way we do.
Quick history into tombstones
Tombstones, or markers for burial sites, have been found dating all the back as far as 3,000 B.C. BUT, it didn’t gain popularity until the mid-1600s, and only then for the middle and upper class. When secular religion became more popular- headstones became all the rage.
It is important to note that there is a difference between gravestones and headstones. Gravestones mark the grave’s spot, while headstones are meant to honor the individual buried. Often, a headstone is nowhere near the body, or the body was disposed of, such as cremation, or was never found.
Another interesting fact is that vertical gravestones are not recommended to be erected until at least six months (some places say 1 year) after the burial to allow the site to settle and harden. Place a gravestone too quickly, and it will sink or fall over.
Why are graves 6 feet deep? Good question- most aren’t. The saying ‘6 feet under’ dates back to the London Plague of 1665 when the mayor ordered that all graves be at least “6 foot deep” to stop the spread of disease. BUT, it is not law. Most graves in the U.S. are only 4 feet deep, but some states only require 18 inches.
William Shakespeare was famous. Like famous, famous. One of his biggest fears was his grave would be disturbed, so he wrote his own curse to ensure eternal peace.
“Good friend for Jesus sake forbear, / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blessed be the man that spares these stones. And cursed be he that moves my bones.”
John Paul Jones was the father of the American Navy, best known for shouting, “I have not yet begun to fight! But did you know that the location of his body was unknown for over a century?
After the Revolutionary War, he joined the Russian Imperial Navy and retired in Paris, France. He died alone at age 45 and was initially buried in the St. Louis Cemetery, owned by the French royal family. 4 years later, the revolutionary government sold the property- and the cemetery was forgotten.
In 1905, General Horace Porter, the America Ambassador to France, took it upon himself to find the grave and bring John Paul Jones back home. Interestingly, his corpse was perfectly preserved. He had been wrapped in a winding cloth, placed in straw and alcohol, and buried in a sealed lead casket.
Jones was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Chapel on Jan. 26, 1913. The 21-ton sarcophagus is surrounded by columns of black and white Royal Pyrenees marble, supported by bronze dolphins, and embellished with cast garlands of bronze sea plants.
Visitors will find a tiny grave marker bearing the name Tom Thumb in the village of Tattershall, Lincolnshire countryside.
Legend says that Tom Thumb was just over 18 inches tall and lived to the ripe old age of 101, dying in 1620.
Hard to say is this true because myth and reality has become legend. Tom Thumb was an important character in English folklore for hundreds of years, making his first appearance in the 1500s.
The character of Tom Thumb was first introduced in 1621 and is depicted as a canny, cunning boy who uses his size to trick foolish people. In these stories, it was common for Tom to be swallowed by humans and animals, including a cow, salmon, beggar, giant, and even the King of England. But he always manages to escape in some very crude and disgusting ways.
When Ellen Ford’s daughter, Florence, passed away at 10 from yellow fever, she asked that the grave be built with a small window and stairs leading down to the casket.
Florence had been afraid of thunderstorms, and her mother wanted to ensure she could comfort her even in death. So, she had the grave built with metal trap doors above the stairs so she could visit.
Today, the grave remains virtually unchanged, although a concrete wall was added to block the view of the casket through the window to ward off any vandals.
This is the grave of Fernand Abelot, and this has to be one of the creepiest gravestones I’ve ever seen.
Located in Père Lachaise Cemetery, this marker is a reflection of his dying wish… to stare at his wife’s face for eternity.
The epitaph reads: “They marveled at the beauty of the journey that brought them to the end of life.”
I can’t help but wonder- what did he do with the rest of the body?
So, there you go, just a few of the more amazing gravestones that I have found in my research. I would show you some more- but I have a gravestone to plan. The bar has been set high!
I joyfully await the exit- and I hope to never return.Frida Kahlo
If tales of legend, myth and fantasy topped with a nice cup of coffee interest you, I suggest taking a look at my book The Writer and the Librarian. It’s a historical fantasy about a middle-aged woman faced with a decision: accept what is written in books or find out for herself the truth behind the stories. Now available on
And on any of your favorite Indie Book Store website!