Sheared Bliss

Walking with the Dead

Last weekend was the Victorian Halloween event at the museum and the second annual Walking with the Dead tour.  I ended up writing most of the script this year since PioneerJ (my usual partner in crime) was at home recovering from a run-in with a mule.

Ms. Celery and I were tour guides.

CodeMonkey reprised his role as a crazed Ichabod Crane.

NurseK played a grieving daughter trying to make contact with her papa in the afterlife and PioneerA portrayed the medium who was helping her draw aside the veil during a spiritualist seance.  FarmerV gave a lecture and demonstration on postmortem photography.  Spooky atmosphere was provided by PioneerV as an invisible, but noisy ghost, BlacksmithC as an unscrupulous gravedigger, and BlacksmithS as an animate scarecrow.

The whole thing went really well and I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the script here.  In light of a recent news item, this bit seemed appropriate.

A shift in burial customs that occurred during the Victorian era may have been partly responsible for people’s need to connect with their deceased loved ones.  Previously, many burials had occurred in family burial plots on land owned by the family.  As more and more people moved to cities during the Victorian era, this became increasingly impractical.  In cities, the dead were buried in centralized cemeteries.  Even in a relatively small city like Denver, there were three cemeteries by 1890.  Leaving their loved ones’ remains in the care of strangers made some people understandably nervous.  Graves that were in a public cemetery rather than a family burial plot might go unattended or worse – they might attract the attention of grave robbers looking for valuables to pawn or fresh bodies to sell to medical schools for anatomy lessons.  Residents of Denver who had relatives buried in the City Cemetery had yet another possibility to worry about.  The City Cemetery, officially called Mount Pleasant, was founded in 1859.  There were separate sections for various religious, ethnic, and community groups, but large number of the corpses interred there were those of paupers or criminals.  By 1890, the cemetery was seldom used and had fallen into disrepair.  The city decided to turn the cemetery into a park and families were given 90 days to remove the remains of their deceased relatives for reburial elsewhere.  By 1893, the majority of the bodies remained unclaimed so the city contracted with an undertaker named McGovern to remove the remaining bodies.  McGovern was to dig up each body, place it in a new coffin, and remove it to the Riverside Cemetery.  For this he was to be paid $1.90 per body.  McGovern was not a particularly scrupulous man and he quickly realized that by using child sized coffins and dividing the bodies into several pieces he could triple his profit.  Of course, this process was a little messy and body parts and bones were strewn everywhere.  A crowd gathered to watch and souvenir hunters actually looted the graves and coffins.  There was a public outcry and the city put a stop to McGovern’s work.  The city built a fence to keep the public away from the open graves but never hired another undertaker to finish the job.  Eventually the graves were filled in and the land was turned into Cheesman Park.  An estimated 2,000 bodies remain buried in the park to this day.

I hope everyone had a creepy Halloween!


2 Comments so far
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Thank you again for working so hard to make this work! It was fun!

Comment by MonteCelery

Aw, well thank you for being willing to say all of the silly stuff I wrote.

Comment by ShearedBliss

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