Saturday, August 15, 2015

Post-Mortem: Bizarre Graves, Part II

~by Marie Robinson

In death we become faceless. We are a reduced to a slab of stone with a humble engraving to sum up our lives. Walking through cemeteries (a beloved hobby of Christine and myself), you see a lot of the same stuff: “Loving father and son”, or similar stones listing a person’s roles and accomplishments.

There is, every once in a while, a headstone that stands out, either by bizarre shape or mysterious inscription. Take a moment to look at the stranger side of death in these four unique graves.

The Girl in Blue (?-December 24th 1933) 


In 1933 on Christmas Eve, a young girl was struck and killed by a train in Willoughby, Ohio. She had no identification in her purse and no one was able to recognize the poor girl, even in the two weeks she was laid out in a funeral home, where thousands of residents stopped by to see her; she was defined only by the blue woolen dress and blue shoes she wore. A grave was made for her, the funds raised by the town residents, and was given the moniker, “the Girl in Blue” since no one knew her name. At the bottom of the headstone reads the eerie tagline, “unknown but never forgotten”. An additional fund was raised that flowers (geraniums, to be specific) would be placed on her grave once a year.

Her identity was finally confirmed in 1993, by a real estate agent who had recently been looking through the history of what happened to be the girl in blue’s family home. While her original headstone still stands, she now has an additional one with her true name, Josephine Klimczak.

Grancer the Dancer (1789-1860) 

Near Kinston, Alabama in Harrison Cemetery, there is a very large, unusual, and infamous grave. A large, white stone tomb, belonging to a William “Grancer” Harrison does not fit the traditional form for a headstone, but is instead constructed in the crude shape of a bed.

The man buried in this bizarre grave is somewhat of a legend in his part of Alabama, and the story goes that he owned a large and successful plantation. His nickname “Grancer”, is a shortened, slurred version of “Grand Sir” (kind of like Grandpa back in the 1800’s), and it just so happened that he loved to dance, so his moniker eventually became “Grancer the Dancer”. He loved to host parties and balls so much he had his own dancehall built where he would wear his clogs and stamp out the dance floor.

When Grancer eventually passed, he made demands to be buried in his bed, donning his famous dancing shoes, and within earshot of his dancehall. After his death, rumors began to spring up about his grave. Many claimed it was haunted, and people said they could hear a fiddle being played at night, or the tap of heavy clogs (earning him yet another nickname, “the dancing ghost”), or a loud voice calling out line dances.

There was also talk that Harrison had buried a large sum of gold along with him, or scattered in the land near his grave. His tomb was exploded with dynamite in 1964, which turned up no gold but all but destroyed his corpse. The cemetery was vandalized again in 2010; 50 headstones were overturned in search of the buried gold, but none was found.

Margorie McCall (?-1705)

If you are visiting Shankill Cemetery in Lurgan, Ireland, local legend will lead you to a very strange stone. Erected into the bottom of an old, almost unreadable headstone is the inscription, “Margorie McCall, Lived Once, Buried Twice”. There are no dates on the grave, but local folklore claims that Margorie McCall fell victim to a fever in 1705 and was quickly buried to avoid an outbreak.

 It apparently was common knowledge that she was buried wearing a valuable ring, and the same night she was laid in the earth grave robbers exhumed her. Her body had swollen from the fever and the ring would not come off of her finger, so one of the robbers made to sever it.

However, when he began to saw at her finger, the “corpse” of Margorie McCall shot up, screaming in agony. The grave robbers fled—or, in some stories, died of fright. It seems that Margorie had not died but simply fallen into a coma and was buried prematurely. She got up out of her grave, walked home, and knocked on the door. When her husband answered and saw his wife standing in the doorway with her burial dress covered in dirt and blood he fell dead on the spot. He was then buried in the same grave that Margorie had abandoned.

This story is actually a popular European urban legend called “The Lady with the Ring”. Versions exist all over the British Isles as well as in Germany, Italy, and France. It is most likely that Margorie McCall never even existed; and someone had the stone made and erected under the grave of a random “John McCall” to feed into the legend.

For a more in-depth look at this fascination story, please take the time to read this article penned by our good friend James Gracey, who has a unique tie to the Shankill Cemetery!

Katherine Cross (1899-1917) 

18-year-old Katherine Cross is buried in Violet Cemetery in Konowa, Oklahoma. While the death of someone so young is always a tragedy, the epitaph on her headstone has left a bizarre mystery surrounding her; it reads, “Murdered by human wolves”.

Surprisingly, few stories have sprung up about Katherine, but her grave has become notorious simply for its troubling etching. Dozens of grisly images come to mind with the strange words, and it’s only obvious that some locals believe she killed by werewolves, and that her remains were found in gory shreds at the edge of the woods.

Other stories say that she was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. There is a plausible explanation that has been established by researching the end of Katherine’s life. Records show that she died while under the care of a Dr. A.H. Yates, and his schoolteacher assistant, Frederick O’Neal. Cross’ cause of death is listed as “criminal operation” on her certificate, and many have come to the conclusion that she died during a botched abortion. This was apparently not the first time the two “doctors” were charged with a criminal operation, which led to the death of a young woman.

We probably will never know exactly what happened to Katherine Cross, but you can’t deny that the epitaph was definitely a strange choice of words. Next time you’re in Oklahoma, keep an eye out for the human wolves.

If you missed Part I of this series, check it out HERE!!