a few of my favorite headstones

by Kaylah Stroup

angel of death victorious, haserot, crying angel, headstone, cleveland, lakeview

The Haserot Angel. Lake View Cemetery. Cleveland, OH


Last year around this time I shared a list of my favorite cemeteries but some recent awesome finds have prompted me to start a list of my favorite headstones. Over the years I’ve been to tons of cemeteries. So many headstones look exactly a like, and as cheesy as it sounds, they just don’t make them like they used to. There are definitely exceptions though! So, I present to you, a list containing a few of my favorites I’ve seen made the journey to see in person…

▴ Giant lion

Lake View Cemetery. Cleveland, OH
I’ve spent hours wandering around Lake View Cemetery but only recently noticed this lion. When I turned around and spotted him for the first time he actually startled me. I think part of his appeal is that he just seems out of place.

weird headstone

▴ Specimens

State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery
This one had been on my radar for years before I finally took the trip to go see it. I still can’t believe it’s real. Specimens in this case are most likely parts that had been removed during standard procedures and kept to study at the hospital. (Tumors, gallbladders, kidneys, etc) After a number of years it’s easy to imagine they’d probably have a pretty large collection of spare parts that they didn’t know what to do with. I guess it’s also in the realm of possibilities that it’s something a lot more sinister… Either way, this definitely ranks among my top three! The State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery contains quite a few interesting headstones, definitely check out this post if you’d like to see more.

▴ Be of Good Courage

Bonaventure Cemetery. Savannah, GA
I don’t know what it is about this headstone but it first caught my eye back in 2014. I loved it immediately. When I returned to Savannah a few years later, though I had completely forgotten about it, I managed to end up stumbling upon it yet again in the massive cemetery. There’s just something about it… Find more photos of Bonaventure here.

▴ Skull with wings

Granary Burying Ground. Boston, MA
This isn’t so much about this particular headstone but in general, headstones with skulls on them are my favorite. It wasn’t until I visited Granary Burying Ground in Boston that I saw my first one. It’s fairly common on older headstones found in the North Eastern portion of the US but definitely not something you see around Ohio. I think I’m drawn to them because they seem like something that would be a Halloween decoration, something you’d see in cartoons, not something that is on a real headstone.

▴ Tom’s collage

Riverside Cemetery. Cleveland, OH
This is easily the weirdest headstone I have ever laid my eyes on. The first time I spotted it I took enough photos to write a whole post about it… but then I felt weird writing an entire piece about one specific headstone. I still don’t even know what I’m really looking at. It has a little bit of everything on it…

girl in blue, killed by a train, headstone, josephine klimczak

▴ The Girl in Blue

Willoughby Village Cemetery. Willoughby, OH
The Girl in Blue was the very first headstone I ever shared on The Dainty Squid. I remember it being such a huge deal to be blogging about a cemetery. I didn’t know how people would react or if I’d lose my readership because everyone just thought I was a giant weirdo. The post was surprisingly well received and I still catch these photos floating around the internet. Read more about her here.

▴ Corrina Shively

Brown Pet Cemetery. Columbus, OH
Brown Pet Cemetery still remains the only cemetery that has made me cry. It’s filled with incredible memorials. I just think it’s so touching that in a time when photography wasn’t as accessible as it is today that someone got glamour portraits of their kitten done. Check out more photos from my visit here.

▴ Seldom Seen Slim

Ballarat Cemetery. Ballarat, CA (a ghost town!)
“Me lonely? Hell, no! I’m half coyote and half wild burro!” That has to be one of the most interesting epitaphs out there!

▴ Unknown man died eating library paste

Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery. Goldfield, NV
Of course this makes the list! I mean, c’mon! The story of this one is that a homeless man was wondering the streets, looking for something to eat. In the library’s trash he found some book paste which at the time was a mixture of flour, water, and alum. Large quantities of alum are toxic when consumed, especially on an empty stomach. You can find more photos of the unique headstones in this cemetery here.

▴ Home for the Friendless

Erie Cemetery. Erie, PA
The Home for the Friendless was a home for orphaned or unwanted children in Erie, PA. (It was later renamed the Sarah Reed Children’s Home, thankfully.) I’m a bit more immune these days to the not so PC names certain institutions used to have but I’ll never forgot the complete shock I felt when I stumbled upon this one for the first time.

lilly e gray, salt lake city cemetery

▴ Victim of the Beast 666

Salt Lake City Cemetery. Salt Lake City, UT
If you’re having trouble reading the above headstone, it reads ‘Lilly E. Gray June 6, 1881 – Nov. 14, 1958 victim of the beast 666’ There are lots of interpretations that seem to just be made up by folks looking to write a good story but no one really knows for sure why her headstone says this as the only information on her death, straight from her obituarty, reads that she died of natural causes.

Laurel Grove Cemetery. Savannah, GA

Other notable spots;

Mound View Cemetery. Mount Vernon, OH

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Kate @ GreatestEscapist.com November 2, 2017 - 11:44 am

Whoa, there are some incredible ones in here. The Haserot angel is one of my faves, of course, &, I, to, love the almost cartoonish skulls found on centuries-old New England headstones. There were SO many cool ones at the cemetery across from my house when I lived in New Hampshire! And I think Seldom Seen Slim’s epitaph is the kind we should all aspire to.

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:20 am

There definitely are! Cleveland has lots of hidden gems!

Amber November 2, 2017 - 11:56 am

I really thought that library paste one was a joke until I read your explanation! My favorite cemetary statues are always the weeping ones, especially the weeping angels. I bet that Savannah one was pretty cool! If you ever come through Albuquerque, NM we have a few creepy ones here, especially the one in Corrales, it’s way way old and all crumbly and the creep factor is so high! I like to walk around there around Halloween. There’s also this random old one right off the highway, I don’t even think anyone keeps it up or anything, it’s right off of I-40 and Gibson, a little on each side of the freeway. One time someone weird was spotted there, but I read the story and never did see if they figured out who it was or what they were doing. Here’s the story if you’re interested: http://krqe.com/2014/08/12/grim-reaper-visits-albuquerque-cemetery/

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:15 am

Wow! What a neat looking lil cemetery! I love NM, and I’m sure we’ll make it back there sometime in the next few years. Definitely adding that to my to-visit list. 🙂

allie November 2, 2017 - 12:34 pm

These are all so SO GOOD. All of the Ohio ones are added to my list for future visits – especially Specimens, which I’m still so happy for you that you got to see! Is that cat wearing a turban??? I’ve been to several pet cemeteries now and those ceramic portraits always get me!

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:06 am

I’m gonna need you to write your own version of this post! I wanna see your favorites. Plz + thank you.

Sam November 2, 2017 - 1:02 pm

I always love your cemetery posts – which is weird to say but there it is!

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:05 am

Totally not weird! 🙂

Kristina B November 2, 2017 - 1:53 pm

Loved this! Seeing all the super cool headstones you’ve found in one spot…what an accomplishment and *cough* memorial to all your exploring!

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:04 am

Oh, you smooooooth, Kristina.

ette November 2, 2017 - 5:17 pm

I still love your posts about cemeteries and tombstones, they are interesting to read and beautiful to look at (if that is the right word to use in that context, but I think you know what I mean).
As I am living in Europe, I was quite puzzled that skulls on a tombstone seem to be so very unusual in the US, it was quite common in medieval and post-medieval tombstones, so a late 17th century tombstone with a skull is nothing I would have considered special, interesting to learn how biased ones perception can be.
And they were even more odd in the old days: A very special kind of late medieval european tomb sculpture are transi or cadaver tombs, with your love for anatomy and headstones they might be of interest for you. The stone sculpture on the tomb shows a partly decomposed corpse as a sign of transience, sometimes paired with a “normal” stone effigy. These sculptures are very drastic and sometimes more detailed than you wish for, but it is so interesting to see how even kings and queens decided to have themselves represented like this after their death.
Greetings from Switzerland, ette

Kaylah November 3, 2017 - 7:03 am

It really is so interesting how different areas have different things that are common for headstones. I guess its not weird that we eat different foods or have different customs so why would cemeteries be any different?

Can’t wait to to come over that way some day and check out all your cemeteries! 😀

Abbey November 21, 2017 - 3:47 pm

If you ever make it to Italy, you have to check out the Monumental Cemetery in Milan, it’s incredible! I was on holiday there, and randomly picked it off the map, and I’m so glad I did! I have never seen so many interesting and varied graves in one place. Absolutely stunning.

Kaylah November 22, 2017 - 9:20 am

Will do! 🙂

Cherie Emery Klein July 3, 2019 - 1:00 pm

Kaylah, I love wandering through cemeteries and speaking the names out loud, names that no one maybe has spoken in many years! It feels really special and strangely honorific. I was drawn to your pictures of the unusual headstones. ( I stumbled upon your blog because I was trying to research how to fix the binding of an old book with library paste, and there you were !) So, I have 2 suggestions for cemeteries to visit If you ever get the chance:
1) Sacajawea’s gravesite in the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming. Visually, the cemetery is a mixture of overgrown dried weeds and colorful plastic flowers dotting each grave, outlined by the metal headboards and foot boards of twin-sized beds. I’d never seen bed frames marking graves before, and this graveyard is full of them! Then you come to the upright marble headstone of Sacajawea and her sons. Obviously placed there in a place of honor and with much respect, one is struck by the contrast of the memorials, and by all she represented. Very moving and worth the trip off the beaten path.
2) Slide Cemetery, Dyea, Alaska’s small cemetery for those who perished in an avalanche while attempting to climb over the mountain with a year’s worth of gold-mining supplies, April 3, 1898. The Palm Sunday Avalanche is well known for taking the lives of somewhere between 75-100 miners. The experience of seeing this cemetery is so different from others. You really appreciate the tragedy that happened that day—the desperation and loss of the accident. What struck me first was that all of the grave markers (hand painted, wooden signs) had the same date! Then it might say the city or state he was from. Exceptions to this also stood out because their dates were different and because it didn’t say “died in the avalanche”. I remember one that said “shot in the woods.”

This cemetery is accessible from the tourist town of Skagway, Alaska, a former jumping off point for gold miners, now a tourist town for cruise ships coming up the beautiful inside passage. Worth the trip by cruise ship (if you can do that sort of thing), or like we did, by car through Canada.

Happy hunting!

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