Cemeteries are a staple of most every horror film produced in
the last ninety years. As a result, they are often viewed with dread, apprehension, and even fear. The cemetery is, however, more than a memorial garden, the final resting place for loved ones and family, or a movie set. They are also fascinating time capsules, snapshots of history.
Consider Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman, Arizona. Original the cemetery was located between First Street and Grandview, now site of the high school football field, but with growth of the community it was relocated to property along Stockton Hill Road, a portion of which had served as the first airfield in the 1920’s. The relocated portion of the cemetery is a treasure trove of Arizona history and mysteries that provides ample opportunity for reflection. Imagine a life that spanned one astounding century, 1828 to 1928!
The allure of the cemetery as a tangible link to history transcends barriers of language and of culture. As an example, in 2016, in his continuing study of the long empty mining town of Goldroad, Arizona, Dries Bessels, a founding member of the Dutch Route 66 Association, secured permission from the mining company that now owns the town site to photograph and document the forgotten cemetery.
As more families turn toward cremation, a service provided by Desert Lawn Funeral Home, some historic cemeteries have begun providing unique services. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard (Route 66) in Los Angeles, California. As the final resting place to legendary film stars and producers, movie studio founders, rock stars, and other celebrities including Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and even Toto from the Wizard of Oz, the cemetery has become a destination for legions of international fans. Founded in 1899, the cemetery listed on the National register of Historic Places, is one of the oldest in Los Angeles. The history doesn’t stop there, Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original Hollywood Cemetery, where the studio is still in operation today.
Commencing in 2002, on select summer weekends and holidays screenings of classic films are held on the Douglas Fairbanks Lawn with the films are projected onto the white marble west wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum. The events are now heralded as “most magical nightlife entertainment experiences in greater Los Angeles.”
At the risk of appearing somewhat morbid, I always encourage a stop at historic cemeteries when providing travel planning assistance. In addition to adding depth and context, they also provide an opportunity for relaxing meditation. If those cemeteries are in towns long forgotten, a visit can be even more poignant and memorable.