Let’s Talk with Karla Brandenburg

In the spirit of Halloween… some “spooktacular” research
By Karla Brandenburg

IMAG0064Congratulations Terri Rinko. Check your email to get your ARC copy!

Years ago, I did a cemetery walk as I was researching a novel. My first goal was to collect new character names by reading headstones. My second goal was to “feel” the atmosphere. I envisioned a young woman who felt most at home in the cemetery, bullied in school. I learned so much more! I continued my research more recently as I finally brought that story to life.

One of the first things I discovered was that there are actually societies that celebrate “cemetery art.” These people are called taphophiles, and while the definition varies, they are largely people who appreciate the beauty of a cemetery, from the various headstones and their symbolism and epitaphs, to more macabre pursuits.

Some of the symbolism that can be found on tombstones: a book, which represents faith or scholarly pursuits, a butterfly to represent the soul as it flies to heaven, a calla lily that represents marriage. The list goes on, etchings to represent some part of the life of the person the stone commemorates.

In addition to etchings, grave markers are also available in different shapes. Some of the more common are angels, which are often used for children, or obelisks. Some people prefer mausoleums, and then there are the cremation niches.

IMAG0062Today, 65 percent of people opt for cremation, and many of those people don’t ever end up in the cemetery (on grandpa’s mantel, dispersed into the ocean, etc.) either as a measure of cost or choice. Some cremains are buried and have a headstone, others are marked by a bronze plague at the cremation niches. What’s the impact? Future genealogists may never find relatives without a grave marker annotating their life. While some people would like to be commemorated, remembered for who they were, some people don’t care if anyone ever remembers their contribution to the world.

The physical research is fascinating, but how does one research ghosts? Skeptics will tell you there’s no such thing, and believers will recount hair raising ghostly encounters. I spoke with one of the guides of our local ghost tour and she shared an experience with a bus full of people who went to visit a particularly haunted locale in one of our local parts. As they all got out to walk around the hill, the electrical system in the bus mysteriously shorted out and they had to call for a second bus to rescue the tourists, only to have the second bus have the same issue. On Halloween. At a purportedly haunted site. Coincidence? Ghostly interference? I know I got goosebumps listening to her tell the story!

Whether ghosts are imagination or yet to be explained phenomena, I do love a good scary story! (SCARY, not GORY). Share your “ghost” story with me in the comments, and I’ll pick one lucky winner to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of “Epitaph,” the first in my next series.

Comments

  1. One night when I lived in Houston, I dreamed of my grandmother in Connecticut. She sat on my bed and we talked for about 15 minutes. It was a lovely discussion, catching us upon each others lives and family. I felt very secure and loved. After about 15 minutes we heard a number of voices talking and calling from somewhere behind my grandmother.

    “Mae,” they called. “Mae it’s time. Come Mae.” She stood and kissed me on the cheek, knocking over and breaking my alarm clock. And then she was gone. My room was dark and silent and I was alone.

    When I woke in the morning, my alarm clock was broken and I was left with the conviction that my grandmother had died during the night. I called my her home and my uncle answered. I asked if he had seen her yet that morning and he replied no but that he was on his way down to her room when I called.

    I asked him to check on her for me. She had died during the night and, adjusting for the time difference, her alarm clock had broken and stopped at exactly the same time as mine.

    • I had a similar experience – was writing a letter to my uncle who lived several states away when all at once I started crying. I called my mom and asked her if she’d heard from my uncle recently. So she called him, and his partner had taken him to the hospital with a heart blockage. In my case, he survived, but there was still that close connection.

  2. sallycootie says

    When we first moved into our town I wanted to learn everything about it and spent many hour in the small cemetery at the site of the Black Diamond Mine. Interesting to see how entire families lived and died trying to make their living from the mine.

    My ghost story – a few years after my father died we were going through some rough time. My mother, sister and I all saw a man in a yellow shirt outside the window at different time, separately. We decided it was my father come to help us get through things. Never saw the man in the yellow shirt after that.

  3. That is a creepy bus story. I’ve never encountered ghosts, thank goodness, although I have filmed orbs. As for cemeteries, the ones up north are way more interesting than South Florida. Here headstones are flat and can easily be covered over by grass or weeds.

  4. We stayed at B&B and the next morning my hubby was in shower. When he got out he saw the words Get Out on the mirror. Spooky

  5. don’t know any stories

  6. Very interesting post. I haven’t really seen a ghost, but I do believe that my Dad’s spirit visits once in awhile. I drive the car my Dad had when he passed away and when I’m driving every now and than the interior lights will flash on and off for no reason. I really believe it’s my Dad telling me he’s watching out for me.

  7. My sister has had a spirit following her around for years… she has seen him on occasion… then when my youngest nephew was born… he too, started to see him.
    I myself had two interesting things happen… one time I was babysitting and one of the touchable lamps my sister has turned on by itself… I told him he was not funny and to turn it off… surprisingly he did. Then a few years later, I was babysitting again… this time I saw a shadow of a man walk by my nephew’s bedroom door… boy did that get my heart racing!

  8. Before my Grandmother passed away 3 years ago, she and I had a running joke going over peanut butter. She and I would both get a spoonful whenever we felt the “need”…..about 3 months before she passed, she asked me to get her a jar of peanut butter she could keep on her nightstand for her cravings during the night. About 1 month after she passed, I opened a kitchen cabinet to retrieve a can of beans and suddenly the peanut butter jar (hers) fell out into the floor. It made me stop and think for a minute but I picked it back up and put in back in the cabinet. again, reaching for the beans (on opposite side of the cabinet) and the peanut butter jar falls out to the floor (her jar again)……this time I got the message and spoke out loud. “Granny, what are you trying to tell me? Are you okay? are you letting me know you made it?” After speaking to her a few more minutes, I put the jar back and it has stayed in that spot ever since.

    • Great story. I have chills! It’s nice to know those who have gone before are looking out for you, even if they make you pick up a jar a couple of times to get their point a cross 😉

  9. maggietoussaint says

    I’m the first to admit that we have a low-key citizenry, have had one for generations, so it was something of a shock & delight to come across a headstone here in our cemetery of a man who was “killed by an assassin’s bullet”, according to his grave marker.

    Much like some folks are susceptible to bee stings and others are not, I believe some people are sensitive to ghosts and paranormal energy. I’m not very receptive, for which I’m grateful because that would scare the pants off me, but I have (now deceased) relatives who demonstrated this ability.

    Two homes in our county were reputed to be haunted. One of them got torn down by a developer and the other was dismantled by its owner because the creek undercut the bank on which it was perched. People who spent any length of time in these houses would tell of the cold sensations they periodically felt and of their body hair (arms, neck) standing on end.

  10. As much as I’ve tried, I’ve never seen a ghost. Though I have a friend who got psychically accosted in the bathroom at a very fine Savannah hotel — she was nauseated and shaking and felt very unsafe in there, like she was being watched. The waitress at the restaurant nodded when we told her. “That part of the hotel used to be the morgue room at a funeral parlor,” she said. “We get that complaint all the time.”

    • Oooh! Yeah, we have a place like that where I live. A restaurant. When they close at night, the wait staff refuses to go to a certain part of the restaurant because the ghosts play with them

  11. My husband loves wandering through cemeteries. Savannah will keep him busy for hours.

  12. Terri Rinko says

    I love haunted houses and reading ghost stories! Something about that intrigues me. I would love to spend the night at a haunted house.

  13. Patsy Hagen says

    I am fascinated by the older cemeteries. Some of the standing stones are beautiful and some, especially children’s stones are so sad you want to cry.