Books: Ghosts in the Cemetery and Ghosts in the Cemetery II by Stuart Schneider
FYI: This book was published by Schiffer, the publisher of Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, which I wrote with Charnell Havens. They gave me a copy for review.
I stop along country roads so that I can visit the dead. The longer they have been dead the better. That sounds rather irreverant? But the choice of burial markers and inscriptions hint at stories of whole lives–even regions. I cannot resist seeing the ghosts of former lives revealed in a cemetery, even while I feel a bit creepy about it.
Cemeteries can be gardens, or woods–peaceful places for contemplation. They can be displays of wonderful carving by unknown sculptors–stonemasons who in former days might have been building cathedrals. The writing on the stones can be terse or poetic. The size of a monument can say “modest”, “died broke”, or can arrogantly proclaim “I was rich and important.”
Ghosts in the Cemetery and Ghosts in the Cemetery II (and his soon to be released book III) take the “ghosts of former lives” phrase I used in the first paragraph much more literally than I do with my tombstone tromping. Schneider and “Rebecca Benjamin,” who is listed as the photographer in the first book*, do not just photograph the stones and trees and mounds of earth, they photograph the ectoplasm–the wispy remains–the ghosts.
As Stuart Schneider‘s web site says:
“Old cemeteries are like outdoor museums or stone gardens. They have character. The headstones and mausoleums are all that remain of the stontmason’s art and nature has weathered the stones, adding moss, age, and patina.“
Schneider, who has eclectic interests, has written or– excuse the expression– ghost written dozens of books. One of his subjects is Halloween, and these two Ghost books fit right in to Halloween thoughts. He takes the photographs for these books, and wisely is not telling HOW he takes them, beyond the fact they are taken with a digital camera. That is key, because official ghost busters only accept film photos where they can examine the negative as well as the print. He says he has no interest in convincing skeptics. Fair enough. That might be a full time job in an age when we can no longer trust digital photographic evidence.
Besides, it does not matter to your enjoyment of the book whether you are skeptic or believer. The photographs are beautiful in themselves, like this evocative shot taken in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, in the area made famous by Washington Irving with his spooky stories.
Not only are the photos lovely to look at, but Schneider’s research has turned up delightful stories to go along with each place he photographs.
If you want to use these books as a kind of travel guide to cemeteries worth seeing, the first book features the northeastern United States and one place in Quebec. Book II, subtitled Farther Afield, also features many in the eastern United States, but wanders to Arizona for the mining town of Jerome and the San Xavier Mission Cemetery in Tucson. Without any particular logic, the book visits one foreign country, going to the Pere Lechaise in Paris and to Lyon, France. Pictures from that one at top of page and here…
*Rebecca and Benjamin are Schneider’s two children–so Rebecca Benjamin is, in effect, an ectoplasm herself. The author/photographer invented “her” for his first book because he was afraid that he would anger people who bought his other books, particularly ghost hunters. Since he got acceptance, he “lost” Rebecca in subsequent books.
All photos here are the copyrighted property of Stuart Schneider. You can see more of his ghost photographs at the Schneider web site.
Your turn. Do you visit cemeteries? Any to recommend? Every photographed a ghost?