Natasha and Rosalind want to wish everyone a Happy Halloween!
I promised you a second post on our adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, so here it is! This blog will concentrate on the unique statuary gracing the cemetery. However, to begin, I want to revisit two of the monuments I showed you last time out. I’ve done some additional research and discovered intriguing background on them.
First is this beauty. I wrote about it as a penitent soul being ministered by an angel. However, I found out that it has an intriguing back story. A mill girl had saved up a considerable sum over the years, planning for a special monument to be erected upon her death, which came to pass in 1886, after a long life. For various reasons, her plans weren’t implemented until some after her burial. Finally, when everything came together for the tomb stone to be created, there was $8000 available (lots of dough back then!), and those left in charge employed Daniel Chester French (creator of the Minute Man Monument) to create this work of art (Chris Camire).
This monument to the Bonney family has been the subject of all kinds of crazy stories about witches and hauntings. However, the truth is that it is just a remarkable monument to the Bonney family (“Mysterious Witch Bonney”). It was created by Frank Elwell, the director of the Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He titled the monument “New Life”(Camire), no references to witchcraft at all! The tomb honors Clara Bonney, who died relatively young in 1894, as well as other members of her family (Camire) – which kind precludes the monument housing the remains of anyone executed in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s as some like to claim. I’m just saying . . .
Maybe the most remarkable monument, definitely the most well known, is this gorgeous recumbent lion. Called the Ayer Lion it memorializes James Ayer, a business man so prominent that he has a major street named after him in the city. The face is so powerfully expressive you almost forget it’s not a human. The lion is made of the finest Italian marble and was created in Italy, by Price Joy (“The Ayer Lion,” Lowell Cemetery).
I don’t have any back stories on the following statuary, but I think their beauty speaks for itself. I did note that books and publishing seemed popular, with two monuments taking the forms of volumes. I believe this one on the right honors two publishing partners. I also found the one below that showed the “open volume” of one man’s life, resting steadfast on a rock.
And below, is a closeup of the text of his life.
There were also some funky, creative shapes. I love the intertwining of initials here with what could be some form of a Celtic cross.
I can’t even begin to tell you what this thing is supposed to be – but it does have a kind of Lovecraftian flavor, does it not? Speaking of Lovecraft, there were some people taking pictures of a wonderfully goth-coutured wedding party. The groom had perfect H.P. hair, glasses, and suit! We exchanged conspiratorial smiles as Yang and I drove by!
Of course there were also plenty of angels, women ready to guide you to the unknown, and wise matrons. Something that gave many of these statues a wonderfully eerie quality was that, as Yang noted, they hadn’t been cleaned, so they frequently were aged with wear from the elements. This woman bearing a cross is a particularly good example. Is she coming to get me or guide me? Her blurred features make her seem unnervingly not quite human and her motives ambivalent.
Others could be put in unique settings like atop a tall monument or caged within the marble barriers of something like a spire. I see the woman above as a symbol of the heaven to which we all aspire above us. Holding a victory wreath, she implies if we reach her we can achieve the victory of salvation. Perhaps she is a guide waiting in a liminal space to lead us ever upward. Still, what about the woman encased in marble. Does she need to be kept in to protect us? Don’t blink!
Uh oh! Hope that Whovian reference wasn’t too unnerving! Here’s a picture of the victory lady in closeup to comfort you.
And what better way to end an October visit to a Romantic cemetery than with an autumn moon in a pure blue October sky? Keats would surely approve.
Below are the web sites where I found the background information not evident from just looking at the monuments. Check them out for more information and photos:
Chris Camire. “What a Site! The Lowell Cemetery Celebrates Its 175th Anniversary and ‘The Serenity of Nature.'” The Lowell Sun. 16 June 2016. http://www.lowellsun.com/lifestyles/ci_30022685/what-site
“The History of the Ayer Lion” Lowell Cemetery. 2015. http://www.lowellcemetery.com/
“The Mysterious Witch Bonney.” Atlas Obscura. 2017. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mysterious-witch-bonney
About three weeks ago, my husband and I paid a visit to the Lake Winnipesaukee area. I was to be one of the reps at the Sisters In Crime booth at NELA in Burlington, Vt., so the day before we went north and visited the resting place of my favorite actor, Claude Rains. It was a beautiful weekend! The fall colors were in full flourish. On the way up, we stopped in Concord for lunch then proceeded to the small, country cemetery that Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary made their final resting place.
You can see Red Hill in the background, much more of a mountain that a hill than some of the “mountains” that Yang and I have hiked. One of my knees was acting up from climbing one of those smaller mountains – that was still big enough to give me trouble – so we didn’t go up that day. I highly recommend the hike, though. It’s invigorating and beautiful. Anyway, that gave me more time for contemplation.
The stones for Claude Rains and Rosemary are beautiful shiny black Gothic arches. The script on them is also reminiscent of Gothic. I love the sentiment of faith and endurance on both. On Claude’s is: “All Things Once/Are Things Forever,/ Soul Once Living/Lives forever.” Rosemary’s says: “When I Am Gone My Dearest,/ Sing No Sad Songs For Me,” a variation on a poem of Christina Rossetti (one of my favorite poets). I wonder whether they picked their epitaphs or if a loving family member selected them.
It’s nice to see that we aren’t the only admirers of Mr. Rains. Yang and I left the pumpkins in honor of the autumn season of harvest. Someone else had also expressed his/her regard by carefully placing beautiful sunflower stalks, before the stones. In the center, you can also see some artificial flowers that have been set there in respect quite some time ago – we’ve seen them there over the years. Perhaps someone else in our group payed respectful visits?
This cemetery is beautiful. I’m glad Claude and Rosemary picked it. I have to share some lovely shots we got of the gorgeous New Hampshire foliage show.
I especially like the second one, because of the handsome guy in the shot: aka my husband who is always game for adventures in the wilds of the Northeast!
Finally, here are shots of the majestic farmhouse that Mr. Rains called his last home. I wonder what the inside is like? Isn’t the tree next to the house gorgeous?! We took three shots, but one came out too fuzzy. Not supernatural interference, just our not being able to get the best lighting since we wanted to be unobtrusive. Let no one calls those who honor Claude Rains stalkers! I think this one might be the best shot, the crispest, anyway. Below are some interesting links that tell you more about the cemetery and the farm house. Just remember: respect the privacy of others. But I don’t have to tell that to anyone in our illustrious group!
So long for now and happy belated Claude Rains’s birthday to all!
O.T.I.S. – a nice description of the graveyard and the house
The weekend before Halloween, Yang and paid a visit to the Lowell Cemetery. It isn’t the oldest burial ground in the city, but it’s probably the most Gothic, designed in the Romantic style, after Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA. The fall colors were uneven in Lowell, as in most of central Mass. However, we were able to get some lovely background shots, as you can see here. Yang took this photo of the gate and a beautiful sugar maple next to it, from the inside of the cemetery.
The combination of fall colors and crypts and monuments made some wonderfully seasonable shots, especially since the cemetery has some unique and beautifully crafted monuments. I love the highlight the orange-flame gives to this crypt.
I was especially taken by this pillar topped with a kind of medieval church spire. The burnt oranges and reds of the scenery create beautiful surroundings in the amber autumn sunset. I was so impressed with the top of this monument, that I had to get a close up of it. Definitely reminiscent of something out of the High Middle Ages.
Of course there were also some shots of the trees that were absolutely enthralling, too!
I was particularly taken with this relief carving of an angel ministering to penitent soul, on a stone nestled by a green pine against a background of soft orange and golden foliage.
The relief carvings were some of the most striking and beautiful monuments that we viewed in the Lowell Cemetery. One of the first ones that I noticed was of this angel presiding over the tomb with a cross. Like many of the statues and monuments, it revealed its antiquity by the way mold, lichen, and moss had blurred its features. I love the way the sinking sun lends an gleam of divinity over the guardian angel.
The Parker crypt is guarded by two figures carved on either side of the entrance. I’m not sure who or what the two figures represent beyond sorrow at death. Since we have a major thoroughfare in Lowell called Parker Street, and this tomb is on the elaborates side, the family must have been quite a powerful one in Lowell. No one named Ben, May, or Peter was listed on the site.
This stone combines media, stone and bronze. Does the figure represent Death or Fate, quieting our questions and fears about what comes next with a finger to the lips. I’m not sure if the form is male or female. It’s more solemn than reassuring – a sober warning to the living that no secrets, hopes, or words escape from those who’ve passed beyond this vale of tears – or vale of soul-making if you’re into Keats. Or maybe even this is a warning to give up asking questions when you enter into a realm beyond thought and languages as we know them. Perhaps a close up will help us better read the warning of this eerie being, shroud ethereally encircling it.
Arguably my favorite monument is the verdigris-bronze piece on the front of this stone monument arching up from the hillside. Who is buried here? What is the person’s past? Beliefs? to inspire such a powerful and eerie figure. She seems like a sybil spreading her capes in warning – or is she an embodiment of Death come to sweep down on us and enfold us in her flowing, boundless cape? I really need to do some research on the history of these wonderful works. Are there any sculptures by famous or venerated artists in this cemetery? At any rate, she definitely deserves a close up.
I have lots more photos to share, however, I don’t want you to succumb to cemetery overload. This is enough delicious melancholy for now. But don’t you think this place is so perfect a setting for parts of a Gothic novel? I already have some ideas “haunting” my brain. Anyway, I promise you another blog with more pictures soon.
Last weekend, Yang and I paid a twilight visit to the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. It’s a beautiful cemetery on the bay, encircled and populated by graceful old trees. The graveyard is designed in the Romantic style initiated by the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and emulated by others, such as Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, the Lowell Cemetery (guess where), and Sleepy Hollow in Concord – Tarrytown, too!
This style is characterized by sloping greens; stately, shady trees; ponds; and monuments created to reflect both the sadness of loss and the serenity of eternal peace. Keats and Shelley would just die, so to speak, for a sojourn here.
This cemetery is surrounded on the street side by a stone wall of large rocks. So, it captures the New England tradition of dry stone walls, but adds solemn majesty by using boulders as its dry stones. I love this configuration near the entrance. We came here close to dusk because Rosie and ‘Tasha kept us out later than usual walking in the yard. So, we had to hurry a bit and were unable to stroll and take photographs at our leisure.
The posture and positioning of many of these statues seem to tell a moral about death. Perhaps women were usually chosen to immortalize in keeping with Poe’s dictum that the saddest thing in the world is the death of a beautiful woman. Each of these beautiful figures seems to convey a message back to the living. This woman looks down on our world, bearing a veiled gift. The broken column signifies a life cut off. I’m not sure where I learned about the column, but I do remember it was a legitimate source.
Here, a woman peers off into the beyond, urging us to look upward and outward, past this vale of tears – or is that veil of tears? Either makes sense in this context. She also holds an anchor on her far side. Does it symbolize that she is anchored to us, though she is looking to attain something beyond the earthly realm – or is she from a seafaring family?
I’m particularly interested in this figure, looking down at us from the heights of a pillar, perhaps symbolizing she is no longer anchored to this earth but soars above us toward the empyrean. Still, her gaze of concern is fixed on us suffering mortals below.
I found this stylized monument of an angel particularly intriguing. Yang thought it had an Egyptian look, but I find it much more art deco. It seems to flow down into the ground – or does it shoot upward?I didn’t have a chance to check the date on it to see if it fit into the deco period. I’m so impressed by its soft but still clean lines.
The weathering of this limestone angel blurs and softens it’s features so that it seems ethereal – and more than a little eerie. What do you think? What does she perceive hovering above even her? Don’t blink!
The cemetery has other lovely qualities. There is a pond surrounded by hedges, but I didn’t get any pictures this time. We had to rush. However, I did get a shot of this gazebo. What a wonderful place to sit and read. Yang graded papers here, while I attended a Renaissance Conference in town one time.
I have to add that there are some impressive selections of Celtic crosses. Some in family groupings.
I especially loved the balustrades or curved stone work surrounding or leading up to family burial plots. The first of these pictures shows a lovely plaza surrounded by a bowed stone rail. I remember when there were actually a barrier of tall yews forming a second circle inside the balustrade. You couldn’t see within the green cavern it created. One of the grounds-people told me they had to cut down the yews because weird stuff went on in there at times. This was some time ago that I heard this tale. I hadn’t heard any tales about these gently curving steps and barrier, leading to this prominent family’s plot. I do love the graceful shape.
Of course, here are the pictures that all you faithful Lovecraftians are waiting for: Mr. Lovecraft’s family plot and monuments. We actually had some shots of me next to the monuments, but I looked awful enough to give a Shuggoth the willies. So, vanity prevailed and I ditched them. You may notice that there were deposits of presents by Mr. H.P.’s grave. If you look carefully on the gravestone, you can see that his birthday had been just a few days before.
There are lots of beautiful scenes that I hadn’t time to photograph that twilight, but seeing that I couldn’t fit in all the wonderful images that I took this trip, I don’t feel too bad now about not getting them. There should be another trip, maybe when the fall colors are aflame. Won’t that be a treat to see? So, with this proud, victorious angel, I will bid you adieu and slip away into the gloaming – whatever the heck a gloaming is!
Every October, I like to have some bedtime reading that suits the season. I just finished two new books: Midnight Fires and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The first is a mystery by Nancy Means Wright that features Mary Wollstonecraft as its intrepid detective. Wollstonecraft is a great choice for the role, as anyone who has read her Vindications would agree that she has all the nerve, smarts, and wit to boldly ask the questions and dig the dirt necessary for an investigator. Her being cast in this role makes perfect sense. The novel is set during Wollstonecraft’s tenure as governess to the aristocratic Kingsborough family in Ireland and does a neat job of characterizing “the troubles.” We also get good views of the workings of the Kingsborough family, as well as how contemporary views of women have stunted and warped them – right in line with MW’s own writings. The descriptions of the landscapes are a pleasure to read as well. Not least of all, the mystery has some neat twists and turns.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a pleasantly amusing visit with the supernatural – a low key, smile-inducing progress of Lucy/Lucia Muir’s liberation from oppressive Edwardian propriety to become a mischievous, independent woman – with a little help from a frank and fiery sea captain’s ghost – though she was already well on her way to freedom before they met at Gull Cottage. There are some significant changes from book to film, but both work equally well. I do think that Gene Tierney gives Lucia Muir a bit more power than the character in the book.
There are four books that I usually return to once I finish any new prizes for the month: The Uninvited (Dorothy Mcardle), The Sign of the Ram (Margaret Ferguson), The Undying Monster (Jessie Douglas Kerriush), and Redeeming Time (me, unpublished – yet!). What I admire in the first three (and try to emulate in the fourth), is the depth of characterization, the creation of a powerful mystical/eerie atmosphere, the vividness of the landscapes, and the intelligence of the storylines. What makes them such a pleasure to read is their authors’ deftness with language: there’s enough detail to savor and shape your imagination but no excess or filler. Right now, I’m working on The Uninvited. I review it and The Sign of the Ram on this web site, under Golden Age Mysteries. The Undying Monster is part of the psychic detective genre, with a woman psychic brought in to help a scientist uncover the nature of the beast that has ravaged an ancient British family for centuries and now threatens to destroy his two close friends. The novel deftly captures the post WWI fascination with psychic phenomenon and leads characters and readers into the dark depths of ancient ruins, crypts, and family history to reach a final, mystical resolution – and it’s a fun ride!
What’s Redeeming Time about? Think H. P. Lovecraft meets film noir meets Indiana Jones meets Val Lewton.
Image of Gene Tierney from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir copyright 1946, 20th-Century Fox (http://classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com/2010/08/just-thought.html)
So, last week, I showed you what the outside of the Yang House of Horrors looked like. Here, I will give you some images of the interior decorations. How about a look at the evil bride who faced you as you ascended the stairs in the gloom of the evening?
This creature looks especially scary, when you bathe her in a black light!
Of course, when you look down the corridor, you want to be greeted and guided by Halloween denizens.
Then, you defiintely need a comforting night light when you hit the bathroom on an eerie night like this.
Watch out for otherworldly visitors peering in the window, maybe trying to lure you off to perdition. All I said to my friend Judy was, “Oh, Look. There’s someone in the window behind you.” And this lost soul prompted a shriek from my pal. Judy still comes to my house, but she’s a little leery about glancing out the windows now.
The fireplace also has its share of holiday decor, including our home grown pumpkins! These bad boys/girls started growing as early as April and developed into lovely, strong pumpkins. We haven’t grown anything this big since we lived in Connecticut!
Now, my problem is going to be trying to measure up to these decorations and those of years past. Ah well, who will I creep out this year? The trick is to place your creatures in shadows so that imagination does a large part of the work – especially when you hear sounds or glimpse preternatural beings in places where you wouldn’t expect them. Unfortunately, those kind of shadows don’t lend themselves to clear photographs, so they are hard to capture and present to you in pictures.
So, I’ll close with this goblin wishing you a fare thee well from atop his pumpkin throne! Enjoy your holiday, and be careful whom you invite to cross your threshold!
I just got all the tombstones and a few haunting creatures up in my front yard. I still have to add several more supernatural visitors, but the eerie atmosphere is starting to coalesce. Just to give you an idea of what things will look like, I’ll share with you some images from last year’s outside decorations.
Here’s a vertical shot of the graveyard in the front lawn. Yang joined in the fun by getting the iron fencing and putting it up for me. Mr. Bones there seems to be chuckling over something the ghoul in black just told him. Did they see into the future for this year’s election?
I think this chap is recovering from one of the Halloween parties that I have every year. Either that or he’s someone I caught plagiarizing. See any red marks on him?
We also were visited by a few witches, ghouls, and demons, flying joyously on the fall winds. Some of them are looking right at you, and they seem awfully glad to see you – for what reason, I’m not sure. it’s probably not good for you!
Back to those pesky skeletons again! They’re worse than ants in the summer – and just as hungry. Heh, heh, heh!
And lest I forget, Here are some shots of our homemade dancing ghosts! These guys (or gals) usually go up closer to Halloween because if there’s too much rain and wind the ground gets too soft to support them and they become staggering, collapsing ghosts. As Quentin and Beth say, there’s nothing worse than when your ectoplasm starts to sag!
So, I’ll just close with this nice horizontal shot of the whole front yard, to let you drink in the entire spooky panorama. Try not to be too scared as you drive up the street. This year, I have even some new tomb stones! It may not be Mt. Auburn or Hope Cemetery, but it’s home sweet creepy home to me!
This year, like many others, we went to Beacon Hill in Boston for Halloween. I don’t know how many years the residents have been celebrating with elaborate, creative, undeniably SCARY decorations, but we have been enjoying their eerie creative edeavors for close to ten years. This year was, Wait For IT! – SPOOKTACULAR! Forgive my channeling Shawn and Gus from Psych.
The picture above doesn’t give you an idea of how packed the streets are with people of all ages, most in some form of costume. You wouldn’t believe all the Imperial Troopers, Princess Leias, Spocks, robots, zombies, witches, vampires, Stay Puff Marshmallow Men, etc. we saw. The picture below gives you a better idea.
That’s me in the gold coat and a sparkly green witch-hat fascinator. The little kid in the tiger costume was too quick – I couldn’t take a snatch at her candy bag – Heh, heh, heh!
You never knew what you’d see peering out a window
or climbing out grates:
All that tramping around worlds of terror requires a moment to relax my tootsies. I hope that hand coming out the window isn’t going to push me off the steps! Or worse, grab something out of my wallet.
The prime display was in a courtyard between two buildings. You need to stand in line to get in and look around. This family has projections on the walls, fake fog, human-sized creepy mannequins, and folks dressed in scary rat costumes (including one “caught” in a giant rat trap!) Natasha and Rosalind would have been terrified! These folks even give candy to adults! Unfortunately, this was the last year they will be doing the super display. Will someone else be able to “resurrect” such creative horror?
People giving out candy also get into the “spirit,” with elaborate costumes. You see witches, mad scientists, zombies. One year, a woman was Cruella Deville.I love this woman’s Snow Queen or Fairy Queen ensemble – complete with a matching (real live!) poodle on her lap! She was kind enough to let us take her picture – and her dog agreed, too.
At the end of this journey into terror, we bopped down the street to our favorite restaurant Caffe Bella Vita. It was fun seeing all the folks, young and old, pass by the window, some greeting Yang and I with mock threats of horror, while we returned the favor by responding with playful terror. As usual, Yang finished off my sandwich – my chai was all mine, though! How do you like my little green fascinator? Can you see Yang reflected in the mirror, taking the picture?
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the creature created by Frankenstein demands that humanity take their fair share of responsibility for their abusive treatment making him as much a monster on the inside as he appears on the outside: “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humanity sinned against me? . . . .I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.” How different things would have turned out for him (and most of Switzerland!) if, after his “father” Victor spurned him, the creature had been taken in paw by my cats Natasha and Rosalind. They have nothing but tenderness, friendliness, and courtesy for the “monsters” – although mice are another matter. Look at this adorable face!
Here is Natasha proudly keeping company with her new monstrous acquaintance. No contumely or spurning can be seen on her furry countenance.
Of course ‘Tasha is always solicitous of her companion’s well-being. A well-timed nuzzle is just the thing to make a creature forget all about those nasty villagers and their pitchforks or flaming torches!
Most important of all, Natasha Rose knows that it’s important to listen and learn from others. You can expand your horizons, and you build others’ confidence by validating that they have something valuable to teach you! Here, she attentively follows the observations of a friendly Halloween death’s head.
And of course, sometimes it’s nice just to have a relaxing sit down with a screaming good guest in the parlor.
Or perhaps Natasha is giving him therapy. “Tell me how you feel about people chasing you with flaming torches and pitch forks.” Dr. Bob Hartley would be proud.
Not to be outdone by her big sister, Rosalind (aka Rosie Roosevelt Yang) makes the Scream feel at home with a lively game of hide and seek. Play therapy?
So, whatever kind of human or inhuman you are, try not to be too quick to call those you don’t understand monsters. Instead,– follow the leads of Rosalind and Natasha – except when it comes to mice.