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Moment in Oddity - Lost Lake Hole (Suggested by: Jeannie Nolan)
Williamette National Forest has a very bizarre phenomenon that occurs there that has been called the Lost Lake Hole. This is a hole in the forest that fills up with water from streams that drain into it during the winter. The weird phenomenon happens in the spring when the hole suddenly drains all of its water. It's like the floor of the lake drops out and all the water just disappears. Pictures taken while this happens show what looks like a big hole surrounded by waterfalls as the water just flows down and away. And nobody knows where it goes. Scientists have blamed the region's volcanic landscape, that is porous, for absorbing the water. That hardly seems like it could absorb that much water, but others believe that there is also some kind of lava tube under the hole and that is where much of the water drains. This fills up the underground water supply, which eventually feeds into the springs and the process starts again. We still wonder why the water doesn't just drain all the time. That seems to be the greater mystery and this lost lake, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Rita Moreno Wins First Oscar For Hispanic Woman
In the month of April, on the 9th, in 1962, Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno becomes the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar. Moreno was born in Puerto Rico in 1931 and her family eventually migrated to New York. She got her first acting gig on Broadway when she was only 13 years old. She later got a supporting role in the movie "The King and I," which she cherished because she felt as though this was outside of all the stereotypical roles she had been placed in before, particularly in Westerns. She would land the role of a lifetime in 1961's film remake of the musical "West Side Story." She would play Anita, a Puerto Rican immigrant who is good friend's with Maria who is the sister of her boyfriend. Other actors in the film like Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer didn't sing their own songs, but Moreno did and she gives a very memorable performance as she sings the song "America." West Side Story won ten Oscars including Best Picture and, of course, Moreno's Best Supporting Actress. As part of her acceptance speech she said, "I can't believe it. Good Lord! I leave you with that." She later went on to win a Tony Award in 1975 and during the 1970s, she appeared on The Electric Show. And for those of you my age, we remember "Hey you guys!" very fondly. She won an Emmy for her work on the Muppet Show. She is one of the few actors to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.
Haunted Cemeteries 18
Glass Coffin story from The Jersey Journal, March 29, 1883.
Why would a spirit hang around their grave? We recall that we had a listener named Maya write us a few months back and she had wondered if cemeteries were haunted because spirits were guarding their bodies, particularly from grave robbers. And we had wondered if maybe some spirits were hanging around because that is where their family would come to visit them. We may never know why a cemetery is haunted, but there are plenty to investigate to try to find out why. On this episode we have The Lost Cemetery of Infants from Texas, Citizens Cemetery in Arizona, 100 Steps Cemetery and Stepp Cemetery in Indiana and Erie Street Cemetery in Ohio. We also will be discussing cremation and a haunted crematory! Join us for Haunted Cemeteries 18!
The Lost Cemetery of Infants (Suggested by: Scott Booker)
The Lost Cemetery of Infants is found in Doug Russell Park, located at 801 West Mitchell Street in Arlington, Texas. Most cemeteries have a nursery area that has been reserved for the burial of children and babies, but this entire cemetery is dedicated to them. Reverend James Tony Upchurch created the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls in 1894 as an attempt to help pregnant girls transition back into regular society. The Reverend was forward thinking at the time because most places, especially churches, would turn these young women away. The girls would be taught a viable trade like sewing, typing, printing, doing laundry, and they only had to follow a couple of rules. They had to attend church and they had certain chores they were assigned. They also had to raise their babies for a year and then give them up for adoption. The Institute grew over the years, covering 40 acres and eventually transitioned into an orphanage. It was after the Reverend passed in 1950 that things started to go downhill. By the 1960s, all the buildings on the property had been torn down and the land sold off. But one thing remained, a plot of land where babies that had been stillborn or died from sickness had been buried. Most markers are flat to the ground and contain only a first name or a number after infant if they had been too young to have been named. We're not sure why this simple little lost cemetery is haunted, but people claim to be touched as though someone is stroking their hair and shadow figures are seen sometimes darting between the trees and disembodied voices of children are heard.
Citizens Cemetery in Flagstaff (Suggested and researched by: Susan Johnson of Freaky Flagstaff Foottours, she joined us on Ep. 275)
Greenwood Cemetery sat at the foot of Mars Hill and it was decided to move the bodies to a new cemetery, Flagstaff’s Citizen Cemetery, which was established in 1891. Unfortunately, only forty of the sixty-four bodies made the trip, so there are probably still the remains of twenty-four people under Thorpe Park, which took the place of Greenwood Cemetery. The story goes that Greenwood Cemetery was the final stop for many of the outlaws and gunslingers of the late 1800s and the town’s hanging tree was conveniently located nearby. Percival Lowell was the town’s father and one has to wonder whether his decision to build his Observatory atop of Mars Hill had anything to do with the town father’s decision to move the cemetery some two miles south east to its current location. The cemetery covers 40 acres and has one-lane roads and rolling hills dotted with trees, giving it a beautiful and peaceful feel, even though Northern Arizona University’s north campus is literally across the street. When one enters the wrought iron gates it is like being transported into a quieter world far apart from the hustle and bustle of present-day Flagstaff. Burials are still conducted there today and the cemetery is open to the public during daylight hours.
A visitor familiar with Northern Arizona history would recognize a number of the names of old Pioneer families that are interred here. Platt Cline, long-time editor of the town paper, and his wife are buried in the southernmost section of the cemetery, close to the Sechrists (town doctor in the early-mid 1900s) and the Pollocks (extremely wealthy businessman involved in banking, cattle and real estate.) Interestingly, most of the headstones in the cemetery face east, as was customary in the nineteenth and twentieth century. There were a few exceptions, Platt Cline being one of them. He said he wanted his stone to face north toward the majestic San Francisco Peaks, who’s beauty bought him west and kept him in Flagstaff his adult life. Other names that would be familiar to locals are the Midgleys, Switzers, Hochderffers, Doneys, Pulliams, Mannings and Whipples.
There are several gravesites in Citizens that are truly historic, some to the area and one in particular to the world at large. On June 30,1956 the worst disaster in aviation history to that date occurred. 128 souls were lost when a TWA Super Constellation and a United DC-7 collided over the Grand Canyon, most likely due to the pilots of both planes wanting to give their passengers a thrilling peek at the great gorge north of Flagstaff. Commercial air travel was relatively new in the 50s and the air liners competed vigorously to show the public the pleasures and safety of flying. Both flights had departed Los Angeles International Airport that Saturday morning with TWA Flight 2 heading for Kansas City Downtown Airport, 31 minutes behind schedule and 70 souls aboard. United Flight 718 departed three minutes later, heading for Chicago’s Midway Airport carrying 58. Both planes headed east at designated altitudes and flight routes, but this was in the years before air traffic control was in place. To put the procedure very simply: When commercial airlines departed most major airports they were in controlled air space and in communication with the tower directing all local air traffic. However, very shortly they would leave that space and when that occurred a United pilot would be calling United’s control tower (located perhaps 1000 miles away) or ground operator and that person there would call TWA’s ground operator or tower and relay the message/request—which then was relayed back to the United operator and to the pilot who initiated it. So you already have this major delay in communication and then throw in limited use of radar. On top of that, the main rule in the air was “seen and be seen” rules rather than “see and avoid.”
The two flights collided over the Grand Canyon at approximately 10:30 am with the United’s DC-10 left wing clipping the stabilizer of the TWA plane, shearing it off along with part of the rear fuselage and sending it straight down into the canyon at more than 450 mph. United flight 718 was mortally wounded from the collision as well, with a mangled left wing and engine, and dropped into the canyon in a deadly left spiral, landing miles apart from the TWA plane. Sadly, there were few identifiable remains. Retrieving what was left was difficult and treacherous work and the Swiss Air Rescue were called in to help. On July 9, 1956 a mass funeral was held for the victims of TWA Flight 2 at the Canyon; 66 of the 70 passengers remains from that flight were flown to Flagstaff and buried in a mass grave in Citizen’s Cemetery. An interesting aside to this story is that the investigation into the collision of these two planes over the Grand Canyon is credited with the creation of the FAA and with millions of dollars being invested into updating the airlines industry.
There have been no hauntings at the mass grave in the cemetery, but there have been hauntings reported in the Canyon near the crash sites by Park Rangers. One such report from Ranger KJ Glover when she camped between Chuar and Temple Buttes one night she heard the low murmuring of voices outside her tent. When she looked outside she saw a line of people—more than 12—in dresses and suits walking up the trail and talking amongst themselves as though nothing was amiss. Glover also reported they were followed by several Native Americans, speaking in a language she could not understand. When she got out of her tent to investigate there was no one there! (Haunted Hikes by Andrea Lankford) “A Journey Into the Haunted” also tells of sightings between the two crash sites, with people dressed in “city attire” being seen as well as people wandering about confused and crying. Again, when checked further, no living beings are detected.
Another gravesite of interest is that of Thelma Marie Walkup and her four children: Daniel, age 10; Rose, age 8: John age 5; and baby Elizabeth, just 19 months. What first catches one’s attention is that the date of death for all five of the Walkups buried here is the same-- July 22, 1937. Reminds us of the burial for the Moore Family in Villisca. Here is the story behind the Walkup murders. It was just another lovely summers day that Thursday when JD Walkup, chairman of the Coconino County Supervisors and man about town, kissed his wife and children goodbye and headed to Phoenix for another of his many meetings. JD also either offered or was recruited to take several of the college women who were headed to Phoenix for a regional softball tournament with him. This would not have been unreasonable as there was no Interstate 17 in 1937 and the trip to the state capital would have been a good 5-6 hours, one-way.
The Walkup children were seen playing outside until late afternoon in their yard. Marie Walkup had called the family physician the day before, complaining of a chronic stomach ailment and expressing worry that the children may have contracted it this time. Dr. Fronske later said Marie sounded anxious and over-wrought; he tried to reassure her during the call. Later Thursday night, at approximately 10:20, Marie again called the doctor’s house. This time Fronske was not at home but he’d left his son Robert in charge of taking any messages from his patients or other callers. Robert grabbed a pencil and wrote down Marie Walkup’s missive to his father: Tell him to come by early tomorrow morning—and be sure to tell him not tonight but tomorrow. The night of the 22nd was a full moon and was the perfect evening for four young people to take a midnight hike through the forests around the golf club/country club just north of town. Ed Conrad, 29 and the oldest of the group, had trespassed through the stark yet majestic area many times before and had never seen anyone else about.
Years later a groundskeeper was hired to live on site but in 1937 it was an ideal place to roam through, flask in hand, especially under a full moon. As the group rounded the 4th hole they stopped; silhouetted in the moonlight they could see the outline of a car parked on the access road that separated the golf course from Colton’s Ranch. The night was still and silent and Ed realized there was no motor running. The group slowly approached the vehicle and saw that the driver’s side door was open but no one was in the car. One of the young women went around the back of the car to take a peek but let out a shriek when she saw a foot lying by the tire. Ed quickly joined her and discovered the body of a woman, dressed in a flimsy robe and nightgown, lying dead with a hole torn through her chest. An old army rifle was lying next to her lifeless body and her right foot was shoeless.
The group ran back to their own car and headed into town to notify the officials. Ed Conrad dropped his fellow trespassers off before alerting the sheriff, then he returned with two deputies to the scene of the tragedy. Both of the Deputies, Deputies Francis and Willis, recognized the Walkup car as they approached it in the darkness; after all, Flagstaff only had a population of 5000 in 1937 and JD Walkup was well-known in town. As they got out to investigate they found the woman just as Conrad had reported. There was no doubt in either Deputies’ mind, that woman was Marie Walkup. Willis stayed with Conrad at the scene while Francis headed back into town—a coroner’s jury would have to be convened as soon as possible. After he arrived at the office Deputy Francis notified the county coroner as well as the county health official, then called for reinforcements to man the office.
The three men, Francis, Coroner Miller and Dr. Schermann, met at the Sheriff’s office and prepared to drive the 4 miles north to the Country Club—but first they had a stop to make. Francis knew JD Walkup was scheduled to be in Phoenix that weekend—he had even given a ride to some of the women ball players. If Marie was lying dead outside the family car up at the golf course who was with the four Walkup children? The Walkup house was only blocks away from the Sheriff’s office so the caravan made a stop outside the spacious house sitting on a corner lot on Leroux St. The house was quiet when the three approached it around 1 am and they walked through the gate and up the three steps to the front door. Tacked to door was a folded piece of paper, addressed to Dr. Fronske. Inside an empty milk bottle just outside the front door was another piece of paper. The men unfurled the stationary and read the words: No milk today. One of the three decided to call Dr. Fronske at that point while the other two tried the front door—it was unlocked so they stepped inside the residence.
The house was neat and tidy inside and very, very quiet. The two went to the back of the downstairs to a downstairs bedroom and opened the door. Inside the room was a toddler’s crib and a regular sized bed. Going to the crib first they discovered little Elizabeth. She was neat and clean and had bed covers pulled up to her chin. However, as the men bent closer, they saw she was not breathing nor even stirring. Pulling back her little covers they discovered ugly welts around her neck—Elizabeth, also known as Phoebe to her family, was dead. All the Walkup children were discovered deceased and it was later reported they had been killed by their mother, who stabbed them with an ice pick before strangling them. Several notes were left by Marie, including one addressed to her mother and sister, detailing how she wished the burial services to be conducted. All five of the Walkups are buried in a double plot in Citizens Cemetery, with the children side by side in one plot, directly east of their mother in the adjoining one.
There are several unexplained sightings connected to the Walkup Murders. Many people have seen the spirit of a small girl, kicking a ball about in the front yard of the old Walkup house. A resident of the home, who’s own daughter spent her early years in the house, said she would ask her dad about “those kids” who she’d find standing around her bed, looking down at her, some mornings. Another haunting that Susan thinks may be related to the Walkup murders is the sighting of a woman on the side of a road wearing evening attire and looking for a ride. Much like Resurrection Mary, the young woman appears in distress and is often cold, leaving the motorist to offer her a coat or blanket. At some point in the ride, as the driver is taking her to a destination, he looks over and find the young woman has vanished. Later, the coat or blanket is found draped over the gates of Citizens Cemetery. Some reports of where the woman is first seen and picked up from are actually very close to the old Walkup house.
Several years ago Susan spoke to the groundskeeper about the cemetery and asked if he’d heard of any hauntings. He laughed a bit and said he always found it a peaceful place, even when he had to work late and was at the office well past nightfall. While the gates close at dusk, many times over the decades students have either accepted a dare or taken an adventure and trespassed through the grounds at night. There have been reports of blinking lights that disappear when approached, music that turns on and off and other unearthly noises that generally scare them to death. Susan said, "I was sitting by the Walkup grave in 2018 as part of a fundraiser for the Pioneer Historical Society, as there are no known living relatives of the family buried there. While sitting for several hours, awaiting any visitors, I noticed that all my senses (especially smell) became highly acute at times—almost like waves of energy that came through. It was quite odd—I may have had the experience before but it’s not a usual one. I never thought I’d say this but I was quite happy to call it a day when the fund-raising tour was over!"
100 Steps or Cloverland Cemetery (Suggested by: James Allen)
What seems like a beautiful cemetery with an unusually long stairway, becomes quite creepy once you hear the following account shared on November 20, 1892, in The Indianapolis Journal: "The citizens of Posey Township, of this county, are greatly stirred up over a ghastly discovery made at the Carpenter Cemetery, one-half mile south of Cloverdale, yesterday afternoon. About two years ago George West, a wealthy farmer of that place, buried his daughter, Miss Emma. She died of an ordinary disease and nothing to cause any fear of her grave being molested was apprehended. Recently Mr. West bought a lot in the cemetery and yesterday engaged assistance to help him remove his daughter’s remains to the new grounds. When the coffin was reached all present were startled to find it upside-down in the hole and the corpse missing."
The Cloverland Cemetery or what is also known as the 100 Steps Cemetery is located about halfway between Brazil and Terre Haute on US 40, about a half mile south of Cloverland. The cemetery faces west on a hill overlooking North County Road 675 West and was established in the mid 1860s. The 100 Steps Cemetery acquired its nickname because there is a large staircase that visitors need to climb to get to the top of the cemetery. The original stairway became half-buried and started to crumble, so a new one was built to replace it. There is a legend connected to this stairway, of course. It is said that if someone counts the stairs as they climb them on a moonless night at midnight, they will count 100 steps going up, but a different number when coming back down. Another legend connected to the stairway claims that once a person climbs the stairs, if they turn around and look down, they will see the ghost of the first caretaker of the cemetery and he will reveal a sinister vision of how the person will die. To find out if the vision is true, the person needs to count the stairs going down and if the count is the same as going up, then the vision is not true. A mismatched count means the vision will come true. Anybody trying to get down the stairs by not actually walking on them, will feel a force push them back onto the stairs and a red hand-print will develop on their body. There is also a tale about a resurrectionist or body snatcher in 1892, doing his work in this cemetery.
Stepp Cemetery (Also suggested by: James Allen)
Stepp Cemetery is a very small graveyard located in Martinsville, Indiana. There are only 25 graves here, the oldest belonging to Isaac Heartstock who was a veteran of the War of 1812 and he died in 1851. Ten graves of the Hacker Family are here. Sir Malcolm Dunbar Hacker and his wife Ann had eight children, four of them dying before reaching the age of twelve. There is also the headstone for Baby Lester here who died shortly after being born. In the 1950s, this small plot of land became a hangout for teenagers. That is when the ghost stories started about this place. Strange noises were heard and disembodied voices moved on the air. And the most famous ghost here started making appearances. This would be the woman in black and she would regularly appear sitting on a tree stump near Baby Lester's grave. She would be holding a ghostly baby in her arms. That stump soon was nicknamed the Warlock's Chair. Another spirit said to be here belongs to a young girl that was murdered and had her body dumped nearby. She wanders around the tombstones, perhaps looking for her killer.
Erie Street Cemetery in Cleveland
Erie Street Cemetery is located right across from Progressive Field at 2254 E 9th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the city of Cleveland's oldest cemetery and was founded in 1826 as the Erie Street Cemetery because that was the name of the street there at that time. Today, that street is known as East 9th Street. The cemetery was more on the outskirts of town, but eventually as the city grew, development encroached and soon bodies were being removed in the early 1900s. Some bodies were sent to Lake View Cemetery and others to Highland Park Cemetery. The Pioneer's Memorial Association was founded soon after to save the cemetery and that is why this cemetery is across from a ball field. The use of pioneer in the name is fitting as many of Cleveland's pioneers are buried here. This includes Lorenzo Carter who was the first permanent white settler in Cleveland. Cleveland's first mayor, John W. Willey, is buried here too. There could be as many as 18,000 burials here.
Many victims of the 1850 Griffith Steamship Fire are buried here. This tragedy took place on Lake Erie. The ship was the steamer G.P. Griffith and it caught fire at 3am on June 17, 1850. The steamer was close to land, so people on board were not too worried. However, about a half mile from shore, the steamer hit a sandbar and got stuck. There were 326 on board and only thirty would survive. These were those who jumped into the lake and swam for shore and this group included only one woman and no children. All other women and children on board died. One hundred fifty-four bodies were recovered.
Another burial here is for Joc-O-Sot and the headstone is cracked with a legend about how this came to happen. Joc-O-Sot was also known as Walking Bear and he was Chief of the Mesquakie, a tribe from Iowa. Joc-O-Sot took part in the Black Hawk War and when that ended, he went east to hunt and met a man named Dan Marble there. Marble had a theater troupe that traveled internationally and he invited Joc-O-Sot to join the troupe. He joined them in traveling to England where he met Queen Victoria and came under her favor. He stayed with the troupe until he became ill and he was so sick, he decided he needed to return home. If death was going to take him, he wanted to be in his ancestral land. Unfortunately, he only made it as far as Cleveland where he had some friends. One of those friends paid for his burial at Erie Street Cemetery. Soon thereafter, a crack developed across his tombstone and people claim that Joc-O-Sot's spirit cracked it because he was saddened that he had not been buried at home. Some claim that this spirit has even traveled over to Progressive Field and haunts that location too.
That's not the only legend connected to the crack though. Another story claims that people were hexed by Chief Thunderwater and these hexed souls cracked Joc-O-Sot's headstone. Not sure why they would lash out at that stone. There are several other ghost stories connected to the graveyard. Some think it is because so many bodies were disturbed when they were moved to other cemeteries. There are many unmarked graves too and that may have left some souls disturbed. There is the spirit of a Woman in White here. She wears a long white dress and is usually seen standing near the gothic gates of the cemetery and beckoning to cars and people passing by.
Some cemeteries have their own crematorium on the premises. One of my favorite cemeteries in Colorado is Fairmount Cemetery and it has its own crematorium. I remember hearing a story on a tour there that several decades ago, the screening apparatus malfunctioned and the smoke got out into the air. They had no idea it was broken until a woman called them to tell them that it was broken and the reason why she knew was because she had survived Auchwitz and she would never forget that smell. It was a sobering story. The history of cremation is a long one. The practice of burning bodies goes back to ancient times with the first evidence of this dating to 17,000 years ago with the Mungo Lady, whose partially cremated remains were found at Lake Mungo in Australia. There were signs that it was a practice in the early Stone Age, around 3000 B.C. Archaeologists have also found indications of cremation in western Russia among the Slavic people through various decorative pottery urns that have been unearthed. The Bronze Age, 2500 to 1000 B.C., saw cremation moving into the British Isles and into what is now Spain and Portugal. Specialized cemeteries for cremains were developed in Italy, northern Europe and Hungary at this time.
Not every civilization during those early times were okay with cremation. Egyptians banned it as they thought it impossible for the soul to transmigrate if cremated. Throughout history, it has been banned due to cultural prohibitions or religious ones. The Jewish religion and Christianity forbade cremation, particularly because they believed in a bodily resurrection for everyone. And Muslims as well forbid the practice. Other religious beliefs readily accepted cremation. These included Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Other cultures embraced it with flair. Take the Vikings for example. The Vikings had some of the coolest burial rites. These rights were
fashioned around their pagan beliefs. After a Viking died, they would
enter an afterlife with multiple realms, so it was very important that
the funeral send-off was done right. In Norse mythology, two of these
realms were known as Valhalla and Helheim. Valhalla was a place for
fallen warriors and Helheim was for Viking people who had died due to a
dishonorable death. To die in bed because of laziness or old age was not
considered brave. The most common send-off was via cremation.
Christianity later made inhumation the course of burial, but for a long
time, cremation was the way to go for a Viking. With cremation the body
was burned at temperatures so hot that flesh and bone would turn to ash.
This ash could then be scattered, buried or sailed out to sea.
Generally, a funeral pyre would be built because that was the only way
to get temperatures high enough for complete cremation. In some cases,
the pyre was built on a boat and sent out to sea burning with the
Viking's belongings on board. This was reserved for the wealthy or great
Cremation became a very popular Grecian burial custom during the Mycenaean Age. The reason for this is that the Greeks wanted a quick way to dispose of people killed during battles and they believed it was healthier. By Homer's time in 800 B.C., it was nearly the only form of burial practiced. The Romans followed the Greeks and eventually an official decree had to be issued in the mid 5th Century stating that bodies could not be cremated within the city of Rome. Cremated remains were put inside elaborate urns and stored in columbarium-like buildings. Since this had been so popular with the Romans, early Christians considered cremation a pagan ritual and forbade it. This resulted in earth burial becoming more prominent during Constantine's rule in 400 A.D. This would remain for 1500 years.
During the Victorian Era, cremation would undergo a change as people sought better methods for cremating the body. Funeral pyres just weren't a convenient method. It would be at a world exposition of all places that modern cremation would be birthed. This would be the 1873 Vienna Exposition. The motto for this event was culture and education and was the first expo to offer an international forum for scientists. Over seven million people visited the expo. One of the displays at the expo was a cremation chamber developed by Professor Brunetti of Italy. Yep, it would be the Italians and this really is no surprise because they make the best stone oven pizza around!
The idea of making a crematory
was introduced in 1869 to the Medical International Congress of Florence
by Professors Coletti and Castiglioni. Professor Paolo Gorini of Lodi
and Professor Lodovico Brunetti of Padua published reports in 1873 and
then a model of Brunetti's cremating apparatus was made and displayed
with the ashes it made at the Vienna Expo. This would start modern
cremation practices, particularly because Sir Henry Thompson, 1st
Baronet, a surgeon and Physician to Queen Victoria, saw the crematory
and became its biggest proponent in England. He and some colleagues
founded the Cremation Society of England in 1874. The first crematories
in Europe were built in 1878 in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany, but
America had already beat them. Dr. Julius LeMoyne had built the first
North American crematory in 1876 in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania could change its state motto to "Home of Cremation" because the second crematory in America would also be built in the state in Lancaster in 1884. Many members of clergy and medical professionals would start forming cremation societies to promote the health benefits of cremation. Crematories started to be built across America and by 1900, there were 20 crematories in places like Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Los Angeles. Dr. Hugo Erichsen would found the Cremation Association of America in 1913, and there would be a recorded 10,000 cremations that year. The numbers of crematories has continued to increase and cremation is more popular than ever. It is believed that over half of the deaths in North America are handled with cremation today. There are over 2,000 crematories in the United States. Australia got into the cremation game in 1901.
In our modern era, a cremator is used to cremate bodies. A cremator houses furnaces that can heat up to temperatures between 1,600 and 1,800 degrees. This high temperature is needed to ensure disintegration of the corpse. A cremator uses oil, natural gas and propane as fuel. Coal and coke were used until the early 1960s. The chamber where the coffin is placed is called a retort and is lined with heat-resistant refractory bricks that have a special design. The outer layer is usually something like mineral wool, then a layer of calcium silicate and two layers of fire bricks. These bricks are regularly replaced. The coffin enters the retort via a charger, which is a motorized trolley. This needs to happen quickly to retain heat. Full cremation is usually completed in three hours depending on weight.
Coffins that are used for cremations include wooden or cardboard boxes and in places like Britain, a regular coffin is used, but it must be combustible. Rental caskets are used quite often during a service and then the body is removed for cremation. A cremulator is used to further grind the remains down into a finer texture before they are given to relatives or loved ones or placed in a columbarium.
*Fun Fact: Did you know that you can cremate a body without fire? This is done via Alkaline hydrolysis, which is technically known as resomation. The body is placed in a steel chamber and then potassium hydroxide and water are added. The temperature in the chamber reaches around 350 degrees and 145 pounds of pressure are added. The body is reduced to bones in about three hours and the bones are crushed into a white powder. This was developed in Europe in the 1990s to get rid of the bodies of cows infected with mad cow disease. Florida was one of the first states to legalize resomation. This all sounds great when it comes to the environment, but I have one question. What happens to the liquid from this process? You know, coffin juice. This coffin cocktail would be water, chemicals, acids and soaps from body fat. It's actually just dumped down the drain and disposed of through a waste water treatment process.*
Ashes weigh anywhere between one pound to eight pounds. There are no laws about keeping cremains, but there are some in regards to spreading of remains. For example, California requires cremains spread at sea to be quite a distance from shore and the Golden Gate Bridge doesn't allow dumping of remains from it. Cremains can be kept at home in urns or mixed into paint to make paintings. There are places that will turn ashes into reefs or diamonds. A variety of jewelry can hold cremains. And there is even a company that will shoot you into orbit inside a lipstick case sized holder. The possibilities are endless.
We couldn't share all that about cremation and not share a story about a haunted crematory. This is from the Daily Commercial Herald, September 20, 1888:
We love our cemeteries, especially if they have ghost stories connected to them. Are any of these cemeteries really haunted? How about that crematory? That is for you to decide!
“Mountain Town” by Platt Cline
“Who Lies Beneath” booklet from cemetery tour/fundraiser by Northern Az. Pioneer’s Historical Society.