I read Ghostland: an American History in Haunted Places last October, before I started this blog, so I didn’t think to write about it. I loved it, though, so I’m writing about it now. A lot of “haunted America” type books are just story collections, and while I like that, I loved that this book was so much more. It discusses what kinds of ghost stories we tell and why we tell them. It’s less ‘history of ghosts’ and more ‘how we use ghosts stories to deal with our history.’
It’s not a dry-but-thorough examination of American hauntings, but more a series of musings about famously haunted places and what the stories tell us about their history. It was a relaxing pre-Halloween read, and especially good for those who like a spooky atmosphere without too much blood and gore. Be warned, though, that it does have some discussion of slavery, and slavery is always hard to stomach.
If you know and like U.S. history and culture at all, this book is a fresh and interesting way of looking at it. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get beyond the stories and look at why we tell them in the first place.
There are actually two international Plan Your Epitaph days, so if this one has caught you unprepared you’ll have another chance on November 2. It’s never too early to plan for your inevitable demise.
Goths have a reputation for being “obsessed with death” but in my experience we’re really not. It’s more that non-goths are so obsessed with avoiding death that they get weird the moment you bring it up. Even goths can be more interested in abstract death and dying than our own plans for the future, but it pays to be prepared.
If I didn’t believe that before, it became all too clear a few Aprils ago when a good friend died in surgery. She, like so many people, didn’t have much of a plan and would not have approved of all the decisions made in her name. Since then, every April my thoughts turn both to her and to my own future affairs.
To that end, Mr. Robot and I have bought life insurance and written wills. We’ve discussed organ donation (hell yes) and what point we want each other to stop live-saving measures. And we’ve made basic plans for our funerals and remains. I plan to be cremated and, if I die too long before Mr. Robot, to have my ashes put in a tasteful urn (red and black preferred) and prominently placed in the living room. Mr. Robot is hoping for a green burial–one where they plant a tree over your grave–and I’d like my ashes spread and buried with him. Our kids like the idea that we’d be “in the tree,” continuing the cycling and recycling of life.
This plan doesn’t really need an epitaph, but I wouldn’t mind a tasteful plaque near our tree. I’d quite like this quote from the Mahabharata:
What is the greatest wonder? Death strikes every day, yet we live as if we were immortal.
May you live long, die well, and leave timeless last words. In the meantime, perhaps these epitaphs will entertain and inspire you.