I’ve always loved visiting cemeteries; they are such a vital part of my growing up years. What draws me are the stories you glean from reading the headstones as you stroll through. I remember one in particular in Cades Cove (in the heart of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee) where about seven tiny graves were lined up one after the other, the mother finally at peace at the end. Oh the heartbreak she must have suffered in her short life in a difficult place at a particularly difficult time (a flu epidemic in the late 1800s).
One headstone I saw in Simla, a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, had been completely covered over with asphalt and developed into a parking lot for government hostel guests. It’s still standing at the base of a large, fat treetrunk with low hanging limbs, and proclaims through the ages: “Here lies Cooma, beloved companion to Lady SoAndSo.” Who was Cooma, I wonder? Friends tell me they believe Cooma was very likely a dog, but I’m not sure. I’ve imagined a whole story centered around Cooma and I like my version better.
At any rate, cemeteries often offer some levity from the overtones of tragedy (I think it would be tragic lying there, instead of where the viewer stands, don’t you?), comedic relief if you will. Here are excellent examples of headstone humor. I collected these from the internet. I would love to acknowledge the work put into cumulating them but cannot remember exactly where they came from. Again, if you have others you’d like to share, I would love having them in a comment.
For not rising.
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:
Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:
Here lays Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.
A lawyer’s epithet in England:
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont (I think I met this man when I was living in Connecticut; he ran the roadside produce stand):
I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the cowboy days of the 1880’s. He’s buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.
In a Georgia cemetery:
“I told you I was sick!”
John Penny’s epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:
Reader if cash thou art
In want of any
Dig 4 feet deep
And thou wilt find a Penny.
On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia (Ladies who wear dress shoes, I’ll bet you can identify with Margaret. You now have my permission to throw them away so as to avoid this fate!):
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June
– Jonathan Fiddle –
Went out of tune.
Anna Hopewell’s grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont has an epitaph that
sounds like something from a Three Stooges movie:
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
More fun with names with Owen Moore in Battersea, London, England:
Than he could pay.
Someone in Winslow, Maine didn’t like Mr. Wood:
In Memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life
Nov. 2, 1837
Aged 45 yrs.
Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in wood
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
On a grave from the 1880’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there’s only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
The grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania is almost a consumer tip:
Who was fatally burned
March 21, 1870
by the explosion of a lamp
filled with “R.E. Danforth’s
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid”
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York (Oops! ):
From a cemetery in England (I also saw it in a cemetery in Augusta, Georgia on a visit several years ago):
Born 1903 – Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if
the car was on the way down.
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so shall you be,
Remember this and follow me.
– To which someone replied by writing on the tombstome:
To follow you I’ll not consent,
Until I know which way you went.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:
Here lies Ezekial Aikle
The Good Die Young.
In a London, England cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767
A widow wrote this epitaph in a Vermont cemetery:
Sacred to the memory of
my husband John Barnes
who died January 3, 1803
His comely young widow, aged 23, has
many qualifications of a good wife, and
yearns to be comforted.
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to go.
Then there’s Winston Churchill (1874-1965) . . who declares in his epithet:
I am ready to meet my Maker,
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter!
One of my favorite at the local cemetery: I told you I was sick.
While working at a local cemetery we helped in the internment of a local woman who had play cards every Thursday with 3 other woman for over 30 years. On the anniversary of her death the 3 woman set up a card table along side her burial space, and proceeded to play cards – including their traditional pitcher of martinis. Every once in awhile giving her a sip of one of her favorite beverages. The husbands collected the 3 woman at the appointed time. Everyone decided it was one of the best card games they had had over the years.
The “I told you I was Sick” headstone is in Key West Cemetary. Just saw it in person last week. Have a picture too.
There’s a similar headstone at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY.
Another one at Calico, CA Cemetery.
I don’t normally comment on blogs, however I have to say that I rather enjoyed yours as it was illuminating. I�ve bookmarked your blog and hope to explorer it further when I have a little more time. Keep up the good work. Well back to my dreaming of Panama or back to the books – I wonder which one is going to win out. 🙂
i liked those epitaph they were funny.
There is another “I told you I was sick!” in the Forest Cemetery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, too! It is where my Memaw, Frances K. Bond is buried. They even mentioned it in a newspaper column and have her as part of a “historical tour” there.
By the way, the town is pronounced ‘core-duh-lane.’
that was nice
Here lies Ripley… Believe it or not
That’s good!!! lol!!
made me laugh in my grief…:)
“died once, buried twice”
A woman (Marjorie McCall) is buried in 1705 while wearing a valuable ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber (or a corrupt sexton) disinters the body with the intent of stealing the ring. The robber is unable to slide the ring off the woman’s finger, so he prepares to cut off the finger with a knife. However, upon the initial incision, the woman wakes, surprising the grave robber. The woman had not been dead at all, but was the victim of premature burial.
Marjorie McCall reputedly lived with her family in or around what would be known as Church Place Lurgan today. She was married to a man called John, who was a local doctor Marjorie climbed from the grave and walked to the family home where her husband then had a heart attack and died. Marjorie then died a few weeks later. Her gravestone reads “died once, buried twice” In 2012 when a time capsule buried in 1762 by a local parish priest was unearthed from beneath the local parish, where they found documents relating to the case.
Awesome tidbits! Thanks.
If everyone can be busy being a reader or an author of man’s celebration in life and in death, there’ll be no war and petrol will be cheaper! Have a great day!
Looking to find the cemetery in Stowe, Vermont where the gravestone says “I was somebody. Who, is no business of yours.”
Sorry, I have no idea. Best bet is web browsing. I’ve found that useful.
I have always loved reading headstones since I was a child. Unfortuneately where I live, Fresno, CA, the cemeteries aren’t that old. Still interesting to read though. Like, you said, stories to be learned from them. And they can be invaluable when doing genealogy. Thank you for posting this, I enjoyed it very much!
It is said that the comedian W.C. Fields had inscribed on his tombstone ” I would rather be in Philadelphia “
I’m now sure I’ll have a headstone, since my family plans on cremation rather than burial. But I do hope my family invests in a nice urn with this inscription: “to be reconstituted” and with a nod to my southern upbringing and beverage favorite, “preferably with sweet iced tea.” 😉
Here lies Black Bart,
embarrased to death
when he trusted a *art.
Boot hill flatulence humor?
That’s some great tombstone humor you have here. We recently wrote a similar post on our website livgently.com. Please check it out: http://livgently.com/10-most-hilarious-tombstone-epitaphs-ever
Lovely collection of humor. It truly is a blessing to laugh on occasion some days. A greater blessing I suspect to give the opportunity ! Thank you. I enjoyed reading these immensely.
I am doing research on grave markers. Please tell me in which Albany NY cemetery Harry Edsel Smith is buried. Thank you.
Wish I could tell you, but my information came from other sources years ago. Good luck on your research; I’m sure it’s enjoyable.
My Headstone will say, Here Lies Pete, Tucked in Nice And Neat!
I put these out next to each other for Halloween
‘Here lies Preston D. Lakes,
Stepped on the gas instead of the brakes’
‘Here lies Mary Aster,
should’ve walked a little faster’