The Seaside Calls


One girl's mission to escape monotony

Did Amelia Earhart Survive?

Exactly 80 years ago today, the search for Amelia Earhart was called off, and she was presumed dead. The official search for Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, was conducted in 1937 by the US Navy and Coastguard and lasted only two weeks before they released a statement saying, “It is regrettably unreasonable to conclude other than that the unfortunate fliers were not above water upon conclusion of the search.” In other words, because they couldn’t find any evidence of their survival, it was concluded that they had crashed into the sea. However, after countless searches over the years, absolutely no concrete evidence has ever been found to back this theory up. No bodies. No plane. Nothing.

In light of the recent discussions over new evidence that has been unearthed, I wanted to share what I’ve learned from years of researching this very topic. In case you’ve been out of the loop, a photo was recently discovered that appears to back-up the theory that Earhart and Noonan were both captured by the Japanese. I want to begin by mentioning that this is not a new theory by any means. Ever since her disappearance in 1937, it has been suggested by many that the Japanese military had a hand in it, and this theory has rapidly grown in popularity over the years as witnesses have continued to come forward.

First off, I want to debunk some common misconceptions:

  • Amelia (I feel like I know her well enough by now to be on a first-name basis, right?) did NOT go missing in or near the Bermuda Triangle. I have no idea how this rumor got started, but it seems to be widely believed, though it could not be further from the truth. She was reported missing near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean on July 2nd, 1937, thousands of miles from the Bermuda Triangle.
  • Amelia was NOT the first female pilot. She was, in fact, the 16th woman in history to earn a pilot’s license.
  • While Amelia Earhart was technically the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane, she was not the pilot. On the 1928 flight that gained her recognition and fame, her only job was to keep the plane’s log. However, in 1932, she did become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

A bit of historical context:

Amelia’s planned route

It’s 1937. Amelia Earhart has already broken every record there is for her to break. All except one, that is. No female pilot has yet to circumnavigate the globe, and no pilots, male or female, have yet to do it around the equator. With some convincing from her husband, George Putnam, Amelia decides to attempt this death-defying flight.

As Amelia readies her new Lockheed Electra L-10E plane for her most challenging flight yet, tensions are rising around the globe.

A few years shy of World War II, the Japanese begin occupying islands in the Pacific Ocean, including the Marshall Islands. Their actions do not go unnoticed by the United States.

Fast forward to June of 1944. The Armed Forces have just liberated the island of Saipan from the Japanese military. Many of these men, in addition to over 200 islanders, later claim to have knowledge of Amelia’s presence on the island. As the story goes, Amelia’s plane went down between Milli Atoll and Jaluit Atoll, and was then transported by the Japanese from the Marshall Islands to the island of Saipan. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

The Photo

This photo was discovered by Les Kinney, a retired Federal agent, while he was looking through the National Archives in search of a lost file that would prove that Amelia was captured by the Japanese. One thing we know for certain is that this photo was taken on Jaluit Island, but we do not know the exact date. The first thing to notice is the boat full of native fishermen. They’re all looking at the dock, indicating that something significant is happening.

Supposed photographic evidence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands found in the National Archives by Les Kinney.

According to Kinney, as well as Kent Gibson, a professional forensic examiner, the man on the left is likely to be Fred Noonan, while the figure sitting in the center is likely to be Amelia. They both appear to be caucasian, and, during that time, the Japanese had banned Westerners from the Marshall Islands. When they went missing, Noonan was reported to have a knee injury, and in this photo, the man appears to be holding onto a post for support. Some people have suggested that the figure suspected to be Amelia has too broad a back for a woman, but Amelia was very athletic and had a very boyish figure.

Look closely at their hair. The man’s hairline perfectly resembles that of Noonan, while the center figure’s hair appears to be too long for a native man, and too short for a native woman, but just right for Amelia.

Kinney suggests that the man on the left is Fred Noonan, and the figure in the center is Amelia Earhart
Amelia and Noonan

The ship in the background has been identified as the Japanese Koshu. Long before this picture was found, many witnesses stated that they saw Amelia Earhart and her plane being picked up by the Koshu. On the back of the ship, you can see that it is towing a barge, carrying what appears to be Amelia’s Electra L-10E.

The object being towed compared to a photo of Amelia and her Electra

A few weeks after this photo made headlines, a Japanese blogger came forward claiming that he found the photo in a Japanese coffee table book published in 1935, two years before Amelia’s disappearance, therefore disproving the photo’s credibility. This was all over the news, with headlines like “Japanese Blogger discredits photo after two minute google search”. Amazingly, however, when the Marshallese government released this statement that the dock in the photograph was not built until 1936, there was no mention of it by anyone in the media. 

The photo could not have been “published” in 1935 if the dock hadn’t even been constructed yet. Another important thing to note, is that the “coffee table book” he mentioned wasn’t actually a published book at all. It’s a photo album bound together by a string, and, as far as we know, is the only copy in existence. None of the photos within the book are dated, and the only thing tying it to the year 1935 is a stamp in the back of the book that was added whenever this book was submitted to the library. Obviously, the librarian misdated the album, as the dock pictured hadn’t been built yet.

This stamp translates to “The 10th year of the Showa Emperor”, also known as 1935.

If you aren’t convinced yet, there’s more information that no one in the press has mentioned!

Eyewitness Testimonies:

There are numerous eyewitness accounts from both islanders and men who served in the US military, many of which can be seen in the documentary, Amelia’s Electra. The interesting thing is that though these testimonies come from many people who had no connection to one another, none of them are contradictory, and they all back up the same story. Some of the Islander’s stories were given in broken English, but they are very cohesive nonetheless. Here are some of the most important testimonies:

•Manuel Muna (islander): “The captain of [my ship]…told me that he remembered back in 1937 when he was ordered to shoot down the plane when he was the captain of the Japanese [aircraft] carrier Akagi. Then, after the plane was shot down, he learned that the pilot on the plane was a man and a girl. Then, later on, he found out that the pilot and the navigator was Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.”

•Bilamon Amaron (islander and medic): “I saw her on the ship… There were two Americans, one lady and one man… We were told by the officer on the ship that the ship left Mili Island at four or five o’clock in the evening, and on their way to Jaluit, they saw the plane about five or six miles West of Mili Atoll. So, they stopped by and picked them up and continued their trip to Jaluit… The doctor examined them and there was nothing very serious, so he told me to go ahead and treat the man- just a little small cut on the front side of his face and on his knee… The ship picked up the plane. They put the boat on the ship and it had the airplane.”

•Oscar DeBrum (former First Secretary of the Marshall Islands): “I remember distinctly, when I used to go to school in Jaluit, Marshall Islands, when I was in first grade in approximately 1937, my father came home one day and informed us that an American lady pilot had been captured and that she was being taken to the Japanese office, and that people were not permitted to go close to her.”

•Tan Blas (islander): “[I] saw Amelia riding on a motorcycle with a blindfold and handcuffs on her hands, and two guards on the side of Amelia, and then they took her down to the place where they want to kill her, and they shot her right straight on the chest, and she fell back on her back to the grave.”

•Andrew Bryce (WWII Navy Veteran): “[the Navy] hired these Marshallese men to work on the base… I found out this one guy liked Coca-Cola so I told him where my tent was and I said, ‘Come over and I’ll give you a Coke.’… He told me he had worked for the Japanese as a deckhand on some cargo ships before the war… So one evening I said to him, ‘did you ever hear of Amelia Earhart?’ because I knew she had gone down somewhere in that area, and his eyes lit up and he said, ‘Yes, yes!’ and I said, ‘Did you ever see her?’, and he said, ‘No no. See plane.’ I said, ‘You saw her plane?’ he said, ‘Yes, yes’… He said that it came from Milli Atoll, and they brought it on a barge… And he said they were amazed at that plane because it was covered with metal. Their planes were covered with some kind of a treated fabric… So I said, ‘What did they do with it?’ and he said, ‘I helped load it on ship.’ I said, ‘You did? Where did they take it?’ He said, ‘They take it away.'”

•Douglas Bryce (WWII Air Force Veteran): “[my sergeant] said to me, ‘you know, Amelia Earhart’s plane is down on the strip.’ I said, ‘Amelia Earhart’s plane? Well, she went down at sea.’ He said, ‘No, that’s only part of the story.’… And so, as quick as I could, I went down to see… It was in a restricted area, I wasn’t allowed to go in there. But I saw it from a distance of probably the length of a block away, and as near as I could tell by looking at it, it looked like a picture of her plane. And there was no reason for it not to be; they all said it was, and there was only two or three of those planes ever made, and I know the Japanese didn’t have any of them, and the Armed Forces didn’t have any of them, so why was it there? Well, it was there because the Japanese brought it there from Milli Atoll down in the Marshalls.”

•Robert Wallack (USMC Saipan veteran): “We were in Garipan in the ruins of a Catholic church, and next door was a military building, and we saw a big safe in the rubble… I looked in and grabbed a briefcase and thought, ‘Whoa, it’s full of money. I’m gonna be a rich Marine’, but it wasn’t. It was just as good, or better. I grabbed it and ran off with it and opened it up, and lo and behold, it was Amelia Earhart’s papers off her airplane. Her briefcase she had on the airplane. I said, ‘there’s something wrong; these things are bone dry!’ They told us she crashed in the ocean off the Howland Islands. They would have been wet! They’re not wet, they’re dry! I could see passports and visas and everything else that was there… I could read everything… I remember the Marine Corps telling us, if you found anything of military value, you had to turn it in. If it wasn’t military value, you could get it after the war. Now, this wasn’t of military value, it was a civilian’s briefcase… I told an officer what I had, and he then proceeded to give me a receipt, and that was the last I ever saw of the briefcase I gave to the Navy officer on the beach of Saipan.'”

•Julious Nabers (USMC Saipan veteran, whose job was to decode messages): “…The message came over the radio, and I went and got it and decoded it, and it said that ‘we had found Amelia Earhart’s plane at Aslito Airfield.’ It said, ‘I need one more man for guard duty.’ It said, ‘we were guarding Amelia Earhart’s plane’ in this hangar out there… [The colonel] came over and said, ‘Tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock, we’re going to destroy Amelia Earhart’s airplane.’ They pulled it across the airfield, and they parked it. They crawled up on top of it and poured three or four cans of gasoline on top of it… it went up in a big smoke and fire, I mean, it was a humungous fire.”

• Thomas E. Devine (WWII Veteran): “The fire didn’t destroy the plane, it was metal, but it did destroy identification marks and so forth, which I believed they wanted to do. Why the government kept this from the public, I do not know. I saw her plane, I saw the person who was in charge of destroying the plane, I saw markings on a Japanese jail cell indicating her presence, I was shown a gravesite by a native island woman that contained the remains of a white woman and a white male who had ‘come from the sky.'”

Additional Information

In 1987, the Marshall Islands released a set of stamps to commemorate the many stories that native islanders had come forward with about witnessing two caucasian pilots, one male and one female, crash landing on one of the small islands.

Note the Koshu pictured on the bottom right

According to many witnesses, including Manuel Muna and Thomas Devine, Amelia and Noonan were held in Garapan Prison. Muna stated that they were incarcerated in 1937, and executed in 1942 or 1943. Amelia was reportedly shot in the chest, and Noonan beheaded. Devine witnessed Amelia’s name scratched into a small door in her jail cell that was most likely used to give her food. This door is now in the possession of a woman named Deanna Mick.

In 1968, and excavation was made on Saipan in what was believed to be Amelia’s grave. They found 189 bone fragments that were sent to an Ohio State University anthropologist, Dr. Raymond S. Baby, who determined they came from a caucasian woman who was approximately 40 at the time of death (Amelia was 39). This was before DNA testing was available, and unfortunately, the bones have since then mysteriously disappeared.

Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt

Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were good friends. It has been suggested by some that FDR may have asked Amelia to spy on the Japanese while making her flight, and that perhaps that is why she was kidnapped and executed. Years ago, a military airplane mechanic came forward and claimed that he had put two of the most sophisticated spy cameras in the belly of her plane, and he restated this claim many times in several different interviews.

In 1943, this theory was adapted into a film. Interestingly enough, the film was produced by RKO, whose CEO was Floyd Odlum. His wife, Jacqueline Cochran, was a friend of Amelia’s, and a fellow pilot. It is also rumored that Amelia’s husband, George Putnam, was a writer for this film, but that has never been confirmed.

In addition to the now famous photo, Les Kinney discovered a record in the National Archives stating that, at one point, a 170 page file on Amelia Earhart’s was submitted by the Office of Naval Intelligence, and that it included a report from January 7, 1939 with information that “Earhart was a prisoner in the Marshall Islands”. When Les then searched for the file itself, it was no longer in the National Archives. It would seem that someone has done everything in their power to make sure that this information is not found. One reason may be due to the fact that if the world was informed that Amelia and Noonan were being held captive, it would have revealed to the Japanese that the US had managed to intercept their communications and crack their code.

So, what’s your opinion?

Do you think the theory holds up? Is there another theory that you find more convincing? Let me know in the comments! I would like to re-state that none of the information here is my own, and if you would like to know more, check out Earhart On Saipan, Amelia’s Electra, and Amelia Earhart: The Truth At Last.

 

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12 Things You Actually Didn’t Know About the Titanic

105 years ago today, the ill-fated Titanic sank. I don’t know if you’ve been seeing those articles all over Facebook and Buzzfeed about “things you didn’t know about the Titanic”, but I, for one, am sick of them. Okay, some people might not actually know that the last song the band played as the ship sank was “Nearer My God To Thee”, or that this was supposed to be Captain Smith’s last voyage before his retirement, but for those of us who obsess over the pursuit of knowledge that serves no purpose other than to win our table points at pub trivia night, these articles offer us nothing but empty promises. So, I present to you, 12 things you ACTUALLY didn’t know about the Titanic. 

 

1. She was a British ship, built in Ireland, and owned by an American.

American tycoon, JP Morgan

Titanic is known to be a British ship, having left on her first and only voyage from Southampton, England, so it is often assumed that she was built in Great Britain. Titanic was, in fact, built in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Harland & Wolff, a dominating ship-building company which still exists today, built the Titanic for the White Star Line, which was a British company. However, in 1902, The White Star Line’s Chairman, Bruce Ismay, decided to sell the line to American Banker, J.P. Morgan. Morgan had created the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM) in an attempt to monopolize all travel across the Atlantic. Along with the White Star Line, he purchased the Red Star Line, the American Line, the Leyland Line, the Atlantic Transport Line, and the Dominion Line. His attempt ultimately failed due to his inability to purchase some of the major lines, including the Cunard Line which launched the famous Lusitania.

2. There was a fire in one of her coal bunkers during the entire voyage

It has been theorized that the dark mark on the Titanic’s hull was caused by fire damage, thus weakening the ship and potentially contributing to her sinking.

There was a fire ablaze inside Titanic from the moment she left Southampton. But could this have contributed to her sinking? Author Senan Molony thinks so, and his theory was presented in the documentary, Titanic: The New Evidence, which first aired in early 2017. I’m not convinced, but it’s not an absurd theory.

3. Titanic had two sister ships

The Titanic, Britannic, and Olympic alongside one another

People are often surprised to learn that there were two other ships built which were nearly identical to Titanic. Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic were introduced as the White Star Line’s “Olympic-Class ships”, which were designed with the intention of rivaling the Cunard Line’s Lusitania and Mauritania. Of the three, Britannic was the largest, though she was only a few feet longer than Titanic. Beginning in 1909, Titanic and Olympic were built side-by-side, while Britannic wasn’t constructed until several years later. They were designed to be luxurious passenger ships, but only the Olympic lead a successful career as such. After Titanic sank in 1912, necessary changes were made to ensure passenger safety on her sister ships. Shortly after the Britannic was launched in 1914, World War I broke out. Britannic was converted into a hospital ship, and served as such until she was sank by an underwater mine in the Agean Sea in 1916. Luckily, 1,035 passengers were saved thanks to the lifeboats, and only 30 passengers died. The Olympic remained a luxurious means of transatlantic travel until 1935, when she was retired and scrapped.

4. Violet Jessop Defied Death On All Three Ships

Violet Jessop was working as a stewardess on the Olympic when it collided with the HMS Hawke. There were no fatalities, but the Olympic was out of service for two weeks while her hull was repaired. When the White Star Line launched Titanic the next year, Violet was onboard as a stewardess once again, and she ultimately survived the sinking. When the Great War began, Jessop served on Britannic as a nurse. After surviving its sinking in 1916, Jessop continued working for the White Star Line, and went on to work for the Red Star Line and the Royal Mail Line later in life.

5. We have a photograph of the iceberg that (probably) sank Titanic

Shortly after Titanic sank, several ships were sent to recover whatever corpses/debris they could find. That’s when Captain De Carteret of the Minia spotted this iceberg with a stripe of red paint on it; a sign that it had recently been hit by a ship. If you’re wondering what happened to the frozen bodies that were recovered, they were buried in Nova Scotia at Fairview Cemetery.

6. 500 – 1500 Additional Lives Could Have Been Saved

Titanic survivors photographed from aboard the Capathia, the ship that came to the rescue.

When Captain Smith gave the order of “women and children first”, he meant that they should be given priority over men. However, this command was misinterpreted by the crew to mean “women and children only”. The first lifeboat that was launched held only 28 women and children, though it was capable of holding 65. Men were separated from their wives and children, and the spots that could have held them weren’t even utilized. This pattern continued, and again and again lifeboats were launched before reaching their capacity. Despite the fact that there were so many empty spaces available, only one of the 20 lifeboats returned to rescue people from the icy water after the ship had slipped beneath the surface. In the end, Titanic‘s lifeboats could have held 1178 people, but only 705 survivors were rescued. Titanic originally held more than enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone onboard, but they were removed shortly before her maiden voyage because good ol’ Bruce Ismay decided that they took up too much space on the deck; what good were lifeboats on an “unsinkable” ship? Ismay was one of the few men who managed to sneak onto a lifeboat, and while he dodged a terrible fate, he lived the rest of his life in shame as he was ridiculed by the public for his cowardice.

7. Morgan Robertson “predicted” the disaster

Morgan Robertson

In 1898, 14 years before Titanic‘s maiden voyage, author Morgan Robertson published a novel titled Futility. The novel was about the largest ship made by man, described as “unsinkable” and “equal to that of a first class hotel.” This steel ship was about 800 feet long, and sank after hitting an iceberg 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland on a cold April night. The ship did not have enough lifeboats to accommodate all her passengers, and in fact had only “as few as the law allowed”. The ship was called… the Titan. The only difference in the story is that the Titan struck an iceberg while sailing at 25 knots, whereas the Titanic struck her while going 22.5 knots.

8. There was footage taken onboard Titanic, which may be lost forever

Newlyweds Mary and Daniel Marvin

Daniel Marvin was an aspiring filmmaker. He and his new wife, Mary, boarded Titanic shortly after their wedding, which is believed to be the first wedding ever “cinematographed”. When it was realized that the ship was sinking on that cold April night, Mary refused to leave Daniel, but in the chaos she was thrown into a lifeboat, subsequently breaking the base of her spine. Daniel blew her a kiss, and she never saw him again. Mary gave birth to their child several months later, and eventually remarried Horace S. de Camp, who had been the best man at her first wedding. They had two children of their own, and their grandson, Stuart, was one of the few people with whom she ever discussed the memories of her experience on the Titanic. According to Stuart, Mary had him take her to New York’s Moose River a few years before her death. They rowed out into the water, and Mary revealed two rolls of film and told Stuart that one was the footage taken at her first wedding, and the other was footage that Daniel had shot while on Titanic. Mary had kept this footage a secret for over 60 years. And what did she do with it? She threw it into the river. There is no other known footage in existence taken aboard Titanic after leaving Southampton. Rumor has it that the trauma Mary experienced during the sinking haunted her for the rest of her life, understandably. She was invited every year to the reunion held by Titanic survivors, and she never once attended. In all likelihood, Mary spent the rest of her life running from her painful past, and ultimately decided to let go by getting rid of that which tied her to it.

9. The wireless telegraphist failed to inform Captain Smith of the nearby icebergs

John George “Jack” Phillips

John George Phillips, the man responsible for receiving and sending telegraphs for both the crew and passengers, was warned by the telegraphist aboard the nearby Californian that they were headed straight for a field of icebergs. Phillips responded, “Shut up. Shut up. I am busy”. Telegraphists were paid more money to send personal messages to the passengers’ loved ones back on land than they were to send messages to other ships. Phillips was attempting to catch up on all the backlogged messages that he had been requested to send, and the signal from the Californian was interfering with his ability to do so. After being told to “shut up”, the Californian’s telegraphist turned off his wireless and went to bed. As far as we know, Captain Smith never received the warning and continued sailing into the night at full speed. The captain of the Californian decided that it was too dangerous to continue sailing that night, so he ordered a halt. They were 5 miles away from Titanic, and were sent frantic requests for rescue after the ship began to sink, but did not receive them because no one was awake to operate the wireless. The only ship that responded to Titanic’s destress calls was the Carpathia, but they were several hours away and didn’t arrive until it was too late to save anyone who hadn’t found their way into a lifeboat. The captain of the Californian has been highly scrutinized for not coming to save Titanic’s passengers, but perhaps they would have actually received the distress calls if Phillips hadn’t made it clear that their help was not wanted.

10. There were several animals on Titanic

12 dogs were onboard the ship when she sank, and only three of them made it into a lifeboat. John Jacob Astor, the richest man on board, was spotted releasing dogs from their cages in the ship’s kennel during the sinking so they would have a chance at surviving (Astor ultimately perished). Legend has it that one passenger, Anne Elizabeth Isham, was later found frozen in the icy water, still clinging to her beloved Great Dane whom she refused to board a lifeboat without. Titanic, like all ships, also had her own cat, Jenny. For hundreds of years, superstitious sailors have believed that cats bring good luck (and also take care of pesky rodents that manage to sneak on board). Jenny’s caretaker, Jim, supposedly witnessed Jenny leading her kittens off the ship the day she was to set sail, which he believed to be a bad omen, and it is said that he immediately walked off the ship and never got back on. There are no known sightings of Jenny onboard after the ship left Southampton.

11. No human remains have ever been found in the wreck

…Well, at least not for certain. No bones have ever been discovered, but when this picture was published in 2004 in a book by Dr. Robert Ballard (who discovered the wreck in 1985), it was theorized by some that this is actually evidence of human remains. Archaeologist James Delgado backs this theory up, stating that, “buried in that sediment are very likely forensic remains of that person.”

12. The ship is slowly disappearing

If you’ve seen pictures of the wreck, you’ve probably seen the “rusticles” that have formed all over it. In 2010, a new bacteria, which scientists have named “halomonas titanicae”, were discovered on the rusticles. These hungry organisms have been slowly eating away at the ship’s remains. Experts disagree on how much longer the ship will remain on the ocean floor; some say she’ll be gone by 2030, some say she’s got a good 100+ years left. However, one thing that is known for certain is that many treasure hunters and tourists have compromised the integrity of the ship by digging around where they don’t belong. Not only have they disrespected the memory of the lost souls by searching for the cargo belonging to first-class passengers (and often selling their finds), but their submersibles have damaged the ship itself. In 2007, a bill was proposed to the U.S. Congress to protect the wreckage from visitors, but this bill never passed. Much to my dismay, a tour company called Blue Marvel Private has announced that they will begin taking tourists down to the wreckage in spring of 2018. This will likely speed up the process of the ship’s decomposition, as there have already been reported caved-in roofs and weakening decks. Both the bow and the stern are in danger of collapsing, and this is the reason tourists are willing to pay shameful amounts of money to visit her before she’s gone for good. Ironically, they are also contributing to the reason why she’s disappearing in the first place.

 

So, did you learn something you didn’t know before? Leave me a comment telling me what you found most interesting!

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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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Nena’s Travel Essentials


 

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.