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.