The Seaside Calls


One girl's mission to escape monotony

Black Diamond Cemetery | Washington

This was, without a doubt, the creepiest cemetery experience I’ve ever had… and I loved every minute of it. While I was planning my trip to Washington, I couldn’t pass up a visit to the state’s most haunted cemetery. The drive was just under two hours from Silverdale. As soon as we got into King County, things started getting weird. Unfortunately, we were on a race against the setting sun, so we didn’t have time to photograph the horrors we witnessed along the drive.

The first thing we noticed was a Victorian mansion on the side of the road. There was a couch sitting in front covered in glass dolls, and a sign advertising that you could have tea with the dolls … Then we had to drive on this really dark and windy road for about 8 miles. The trees were overgrown to the point where you couldn’t see the sky. The canopies were keeping the sunlight from reaching the road, so it felt like it was night. There was an old abandoned bridge on the side of the road and a bunch of abandoned buildings. About halfway down the road, we saw a sign nailed to a telephone pole that just said “handyman”, followed by a phone number. Noelle and I both concluded that it was put there by a serial killer. Right around this time, we noticed a white van following us (and that was the only living soul we saw in the whole area).

Things only got scarier when we made it to the cemetery. After walking around for a few minutes, we began to hear a chainsaw and very loud screaming coming from the nearby houses. Eventually the chainsaw and the screaming both stopped… at the same time. A few minutes later, we could hear what sounded like a gramophone recording of a woman singing something Tiny Tim-esque. As we strolled through the graves, we were both on the alert, convinced that an axe murder was sure to jump out of the surrounding pines at any moment.

 

 

I have a theory that Victorian-era cemeteries are the most haunted due to that generation’s deep interest in Spiritualism. That theory seems to align with this particular cemetery.

Black Diamond was a mining town during the 1800’s, and visitors have reported hearing whistling, smelling strange smells, and seeing the dead miners’ lanterns swinging in the fog. A few have also reported seeing an apparition of a white horse. I can’t claim to have experienced any of these, but Noelle and I were both overcome with a feeling of unease that neither of us had ever experienced before. It was awesome. And terrifying. And awesome.

I found an instagram account run by a couple of ghost hunters, and they posted a video of an EVP they took at Black Diamond Cemetery. I don’t know if I believe that it’s real, but it gave me chills.

 

 

 

One thing you’ll notice when visiting any Victorian cemetery is the frequent amount of children’s graves. Thanks to the lack of sanitation, poor nutrition, and the many rampant diseases, only two in every 10 babies born would live until their second birthdays.

 

 

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And, of course, we just had to take a few etherial, death-inspired portraits. Then, as the sun finally set, we rushed back to the car because the strange noises were starting up again and we were extremely creeped out. Someday I will return to Black Diamond, and I will use this horrifying experience as inspiration for a short film. Mark my words. Mere words cannot convey how frightening this experience was, so I’m committed to recreating my experience as accurately as possible for you all to enjoy.

 

 

Have you ever experienced something paranormal? I want to hear your stories! Let me know in the comments below ⬇👻

 

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Brontë Country | West Yorkshire, England

“I bounded, leaped, and flew down the steep road; then, quitting its windings, shot direct across the moor, rolling over banks, and wading through marshes”

-Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

 

Most of the Brontë sisters’ writings include descriptions of the Yorkshire moors, and they were truly a sight to behold. I felt like I was Jane Eyre, and that’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted to be. I honestly would have preferred to have visited on a cold and gloomy day to get the full Yorkshire experience, but at least it wasn’t hot. After I’d had enough of the beautiful surrounding landscapes, it was a short drive to the village of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and died.

 

 

The Brontë Parsonage Museum

 

 

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Brontë sisters, I’ll give you a little background:  Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë  were stereotypical Victorian girls. Charlotte and Emily, as well as their older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were sent away to school in early childhood, three years after their mother passed away. They remained there until Maria and Elizabeth became sick and died. Charlotte and Emily returned home to their grieving father, brother, and little sister, Anne. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne turned to writing, and their works were heavily influenced by their own heartbreaking experiences. They all gained fame by 1847, their most notable works being Jane Eyre (written by Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (written by Emily), and Agnes Grey (written by Anne).

These photos are of their home, their grounds, the church they attended, and the church’s graveyard. Inside the Haworth Parsonage Museum, pictures aren’t technically allowed, but you can get away with sneaking a few when no one’s looking. The home is filled with fantastic treasures and artifacts from the family’s time on earth, which I spent hours geeking out over.

 

 

The Graveyard

 

It was a melancholy experience getting to see this beautiful area fraught with such a tragic history, but I am a lover of the dark and disturbing, so it was right up my alley.

 

 

The Church

 

Unfortunately, like most Victorians, all of the Brontë sisters died young. Emily caught a severe cold at her brother’s funeral in 1848, which soon developed into tuberculosis and killed her at the age of 30. Anne died the following year of tuberculosis, at the age of 29. After six years without any of her siblings, Charlotte became ill and died three weeks before her 39th birthday, along with her unborn child. She had been married less than a year, and her last words were, “I am not going to die, am I? God will not separate us. We have been so happy.”

Heartbreaking, right!? The Brontës were not buried in the church graveyard, but within the church itself. All except Anne, that is, who passed away in Scarborough and was laid to rest there.

 

 

Here you can see the names of all of the men who led the local church over the years, including the girls’ father, Patrick.

 

 

What’s in my suitcase

 

Bolton Abbey

 

 

Bolton Abbey really inspires the romantic in me. The haunting ruins put me in mind of Thornfield Hall from Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, which made it the perfect next stop on my road trip. It’s the kind of place that makes me want to recite some Byron. Or some Brydon.

Yes, as much as I adore the poetry of Lord Byron, I spent most of my time here channeling my inner Rob Brydon while reenacting one of my favorite scenes from The Trip. If you’re planning a trip to Northern England, you absolutely must watch this film first.

 

 

 

If you’re as big of a Downton Abbey fan as I am, you may be thinking, “this looks more like a church than an abbey.” You’re right. The ruins are actually that of a Gothic Priory that began construction in 1154. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, Bolton was stripped of anything that could be sold, and the Eastern half was essentially abandoned. The Western half, however, was kept intact and religious services are still held inside. As an American, it’s not often that I get to behold such ancient ruins, let alone walk through them. It was like stepping back in time.

 

 

There’s this great little stone bridge you can walk across, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Some of the stones are farther apart than others, some are wobbly, and some aren’t even fully above the surface of the water. Amazingly, I managed to make it to the other side without falling into the water, but just barely. When you get across, there are a bunch of friendly cows wandering about.

 

 

After the bustle of London, this was the perfect country getaway. In the city, even a city as historic as London, you’re constantly reminded of the present. It’s hard to imagine living in another time when you’re surrounded by McDonalds’ and double-decker busses. But, in the north, there are less distractions and more chances to be reminded of what once was. I delight at any chance I get to immerse myself in another time. Some people like to escape reality by visiting Disneyland. Well, this is my Disneyland.

Of all the Brontë’s, I’ve always admired Charlotte the most. Jane Eyre is my favorite novel, and one I think all women should read. If it weren’t for Jane Eyre, I wouldn’t be a world traveler. I wouldn’t be an independent woman. I wouldn’t be who I am now. Visiting Yorkshire and walking the same streets Charlotte walked allowed me to connect with her in a very special way.

So, if you haven’t already, I challenge you to read Jane Eyre (hell, read all the Brontë novels), and then visit the place where it all began. You won’t regret it.

 

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Graceland Cemetery | Chicago

Day 1 In Chicago

Half of my family live in Chicago, so I usually visit the city at least once a year. Having been so many times, I wanted to skip the usual attractions and explore corners of the city I’d never seen before. So, naturally, I asked my cousin to take me to a cemetery. I was not disappointed. Graceland Cemetery is one of the largest and grandest graveyards I’ve ever had the pleasure of strolling through. Well, in this case, it was less like strolling and more like trekking. The grounds span nearly 120 acres, so we spent about 3 hours wandering in the horrible humidity of June. I kid you not, the cemetery provides maps for its visitors because it’s so easy to get lost.

The History

Graceland Cemetery was built in 1860. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, many of the bodies which were originally laid to rest in Lincoln Park were transferred to Graceland. Unlike our usual dark and gloomy idea of cemeteries, Graceland was designed to have a comfortable, park-like atmosphere. During the 1800’s, this was actually quite common. When people felt like spending time outside, they would often go for walks through their local graveyards. Victorian-era cemeteries were made to feel welcoming. Unlike the tight, ordered rows of graves in modern cemeteries, the Victorian graves were purposefully placed in an irregular manner, leaving plenty of space for visitors to weave through them as they walked. 

Notable Graves

Here lies Inez Clarke, daughter of John and Mary Clarke (although there is some speculation that she is actually Inez Briggs, Mary’s daughter from a previous marriage). Legend has it that Inez died when struck by lightning, either during a picnic or while being locked outside. They say that her statue disappears during lightning storms because poor Inez is so afraid.

Here lies Dexter Graves. He died in 1845, and was one of the bodies moved to Graceland after the fire. His remains are guarded by a terrifying statue entitled, “Eternal Silence”, which was created by Lorado Taft in 1909. There’s a legend that if you look into the figure’s eyes,  you will be given a vision of your own death.

See anything? 
          

Jack Johnson

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that this woman’s name was Olive Branch? 

I love finding graves without a death date, especially when there is no possible way that they could still be alive. I like to imagine good ol’ Marie enjoying her golden years (she’d be 128 as of 2016) sipping mimosas on some beach in the Bahamas.

Sorry, kids. Santa has been dead since 1914.

Other Highlights 

Graceland Cemetery, final resting place to so many of Chicago’s elite, was so overwhelming. So much land, so many spectacular graves, some of which don’t even seem like they could possibly be in Chicago. Overall, I give this cemetery an A+, but, if you plan to visit, I suggest that you avoid going on one of the hottest days of the year, because you will be miserable.

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Hólavallagarður Cemetery | Reykjavik, Iceland

A Dreaded Sunny Day

 

After checking out some of the spots Reykjavik had to offer, I went looking for the city’s legendary Hólavallagarður Cemetery. When I got there, it was pretty late at night, but since it was the dead of summer, the sun was up about 23 hours every day. It made me think of “Cemetery Gates” by The Smiths: “A dreaded sunny day, so I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates”.

Now, I love a good cemetery, and this one stands out amongst all those I’ve visited. In fact, it was voted one of Europe’s loveliest cemeteries. But it’s not just the beauty that makes this graveyard spectacular; it’s also the history. You may be thinking, “Okay, Nena, we know you’re a history nerd”, but it’s really interesting! Hear me out.

 

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This cemetery was built in 1838, and the first person to be buried there was a woman named Guðrún Oddsdóttir. At the time, Icelandic folklore taught that the first person to be buried would serve as that cemetery’s guardian for all time. Their flesh would not rot, and it would be their duty to look after all of the people who were to be buried there in future.

 

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The beautiful bell tower.img_9689

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Another thing that makes this cemetery so unique, is the fact that it was built with a limited number of plots. During the 1800’s in Europe, it was very common to add a new layer of earth over the graves when a cemetery had reached its capacity. Instead of building more cemeteries, they would simply bury the old ones, literally stacking the deceased on top of older graves. The reason I love cemeteries is for their historical value, so naturally, this tradition is incredibly depressing to me.

 

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There is an old proverb that states that every man dies twice: once when they take their last breath, and a second time the last time their name is spoken on earth. How sad it would be to be completely forgotten; to literally have your remains covered up by another person’s remains. Thankfully, the Icelandic people of the Victorian-era decided against this method. Occasionally, people are still buried here. There are only a few remaining reserved plots in Hólavallagarður cemetery, but it is possible to have your urn buried in the same plot as the coffin of an ancestor. The people of Reykjavik have built several other cemeteries for its current residents.

 

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You could get lost walking through the graves… and I did. This cemetery is fairly large, and it is hard to look for any distinguishing landmarks through the thick trees. But sometimes getting lost is the best way to truly experience the place you are visiting.

 

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I love cemeteries that have a variety of unique headstones, and this one holds the most impressive collection I’ve ever seen.

 

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I also love the vibrance of this cemetery. It may be a resting place for the dead, but there is nothing morbid about it. So many of the graves have been decorated and adorned, and it is so heartwarming to see the care that has gone into preserving the graves.

 

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Sadly, as in any cemetery, not all of them have been maintained over the years.

 

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My favorite thing about cemeteries is finding people who lived and died during the time periods I’m most interested in. Is that weird?

 

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As I reached the Northern edge of the cemetery, I could see the vibrant colors of the city through the dark canopy of trees.

 

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I love the people of Iceland. Not only for their refreshing friendliness, but for their preservation of history. As stated by Björn Th. Björnsson in his book, Minningarmörk í Hólavallagarði, this cemetery is the largest and oldest museum in Reykjavik, and I would add that it is also the most beautiful.