Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet Neil McNally, author of "The Daily Deceased"

The eighty fourth in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association


The Daily Deceased

When I was younger I was a big admirer of Walt Disney, Mel Blanc (the voice of Looney Tunes) and L. Frank Baum (the author of “The Wizard of Oz). As I read more about them, two places always came up…“Hollywood Forever” and “Forest Lawn-Glendale” respectively. But, when you’re almost 3,000 miles away it’s hard to visualize what those places looked like, or where exactly they were in Los Angeles.

So, flash forward to three years ago when I moved to Los Angeles from New York. Once I got settled in, where do you think I headed? If you said “Hollywood Forever” and “Forest Lawn-Glendale” you’d be correct! It really was standing in front of these three men’s graves that were the impetus for exploring the rich history that Los Angeles’s cemeteries provide.

Obviously, when you live close to Hollywood, you’re reminded of what once was. If you scrape under the dust and crud, the glitz and glamour is still to be found. That’s where “The Daily Deceased” comes in, and a certain journalist named Dave Bury!

What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?
I run a Monday through Friday blog called “The Daily Deceased.” Its main purpose is to post a daily picture from my collection of headstones; be it movie stars, authors, politicians. It really doesn’t matter. I wanted each day to have affectionate, but light-hearted tributes to celebrities. At the same time, I did not at all want it to be morose. It was easier to do that in a newspaper format, and having an alter ego named Dave Bury as its head writer and editor.

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?
I found the association online and was really impressed with how many other blogs and sites were out there. Obviously, there are big ones that most people know, such as “Find-A-Grave,” but GYR really opened my eyes to other smaller and lesser known blogs. How could I not join?

Did you always have a fascination with cemeteries?
I have actually. Growing up, I’d read a lot of books about Harry Houdini, séances, and ghosts. I suppose that was the initial stages of it. Then when I’d be on vacations or trips, if it was convenient I’d always snap a picture of a celebrity grave like Elvis or Jim Morrison for instance. But, moving to Los Angeles really opened my eyes to how many are here. I do have to say that Los Angeles cemeteries are like none other, and for me the blog and visiting these places is a way of tipping the hat and saying thanks to these people.

Do your family members think you are a “little off center” with respect to your cemetery obsession?
No not at all. My parents have always been supportive of my eclectic interests and hobbies, and seem to be pleased with what I post every day. My girlfriend also says she’s learned more about the movie business and cemeteries in the two years she has known me than in her entire life. I work in film and television production out here, and I feel that was an extension of my love of pop culture and movies. So the blog is a way to combine all these things and add a “Daily Fun Fact” as well. So, yes I am a “little off center,” but in a good way!

What advice would you have for would-be cemetery rabbits?
You should always be respectful and don’t always be obvious about what you’re doing. That depends on the cemetery, of course, but the main Forest Lawns here in L.A. will throw you out if they catch wind of you. That has never happened to me personally but, I’ve heard of it occurring. Cemeteries aren’t Disneyland, and I’ve seen other grave hunters lose track of that in person and on other websites. Ultimately, I think if you enjoy history and respect what came before you then cemetery hunting is a worthy pursuit. I guess it’s a different way of putting it but, to me it’s like a treasure hunt; one where at the end I get to pay a mini-tribute to a person and hope maybe somewhere out there they can see that.

New Article Available In The Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal

“Disaster Fills The Cemetery”

Often in our research, we encounter cemeteries that were created or filled with the victims of a disaster. Such is the story of the cemetery of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York. The Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery, was filled with victims of a horrific disaster, the worst disaster in New York history until 9/11. Sadly the victims of the disaster were all parishioners of St. Mark's Church.

You'll find the rest of this article from the History Hare in
the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Article on the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal

While we are living under a Heat Dome in much of the US, it may be a good week to skip cemetery exploring and read the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal in the air conditioning. This week we are learning about Jewish Cemetery Symbolism in our latest installment of the Graveyard Guru, written by Stephanie Lincecum.  Don't miss it!  (and stay cool, rabbits!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Article, Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal

Ever wonder about Grave Dowsing? Have you tried it yourself? Or do you just want to learn more about the historic practice?  Then delve into this week's Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal, where Randy Seaver guides us through the data that covers a spectrum of answers in this week's Digging for Answers. Remember, Randy regularly digs for answers for Graveyard Rabbits, email the editor to submit your question- and she'll pass it on to him!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meet Kale Liam Hobbes, author of "Rock of Ages: Grave Concerns"

The eighty third in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association


Rock of Ages:  Grave Concerns

I first became interested in joining the GYR after reading about the Association in a genealogical magazine and then stumbling through a few sites of fellow rabbits.  I thought it would be enjoyable, as the sites reminded me of happier times with my Grandmother, Emily.

Rock of Ages: Grave Concerns is the title of my blog.  It is a composite heading of my grandmother’s favourite hymn, “Rock of Ages,” and a pun on words “grave concerns.” My use of the pun is in regards to alerting the masses of deteriorating conditions of gravestones and burial markers, and how photography can stop Time and damages by preserving these pieces, if just in digital format.  

I try to showcase cemeteries in Alberta, but sometimes the best photos to emphasize my postings come from my genealogy collection, which involve cemeteries located in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Michigan, New York State, England and Burma. 

My love for genealogy grew from my fascination with cemeteries.  It all started with a grade three history assignment:  trace your family tree, then bring it in and show the class.  Well, my artistic talents were challenged tracing stick people, so I decided to bring in our family tree instead. Yes sir, a ten-year-old Maple, but I had two little problems:  blisters, after digging a measly six-inch hole, and “Momma Rabbit.”

Long story short:  the maple tree got to stay in Momma’s garden, and I was convinced I would flunk grade three because of it – that’s when “Gramma Rabbit” got involved.  She took me that year, and for the next five summers until she died, to the local cemeteries to tend to four generations of family gravestones: her parents and in-laws, her grandparents, her siblings and their spouses, one of her six sons, her husband and many other relatives.  I would read aloud the inscriptions as we walked through the grounds, because the old girl always forgot her reading glasses!

Q:  Do my family members think I am a little off center with respect to my cemetery obsession?

My wife, “Mrs. Rabbit,” works in the psychiatric field; I could ask her for you. *LOL*  
I was nine-years-old when I started (almost 40 years ago) and Momma Rabbit hoped that I would eventually take up a normal hobby like stamp collecting.  “It’s just a phase, he’ll grow out of it” was her mantra.  I think she’s still waiting :) I believe, the rest of my family didn’t think too much of it, as we each did our own thing back then.

Q:  Which situation evokes an immediate response of “Oh! Oh! Stop the car!”
- you spy a yard sale in the distance
- you notice a cemetery from 1⁄4 mile away
- you see a sexy man on the side of the road
- from afar you spy Elvis with your eye

There are some situations that invoke immediate car stoppages and others than result in emergency avoidance counter-measures.  

When Mrs. Rabbit is navigating, coffee breaks are a necessity and cemeteries visits become “rolling stops” – just long enough to plot the location in the GPS for a better-planned trip later, but when I am travelling alone, every cemetery along the route gets a short visit.

Hey, do you know that sexy man on the side of the road?  He’s a nuisance! My wife always smiles and waves to him every time we see him -- I just keep driving.

As for Elvis, I still owe him a coffee; he helped me locate an old cemetery in Central Alberta, last month.

Q: What advice do you have for anyone considering joining GYR and creating their own GYR-affiliated blog?

Do it.  You may have no idea how to blog (I still don't) or what to showcase; but if you have twenty minutes, a camera and a cemetery, Inspiration will always find you.

Q: What advice would you have for would-be cemetery rabbits?

[1] Have fun with it.  Cemeteries are like libraries, archives and art galleries; they are filled with history and culture.  Every stone on its own can reveal something you did not know before about the individual deceased; but in a group, you re-live your community’s past, good or bad.
[2] Bring spare batteries, because the farther away you are from a store, the more likely your camera batteries will die.
[3] If you bring it, put your cellphone on vibrate.  You don't want the chorus of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" going off while you're shooting pictures, do you?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Article on Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal

Heading out on your summer vacation but don't have room in your suitcase for your NEW cemetery guidebook? Don't fret!  Hop on over to the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal for our latest article.  LisaMary Wichowski reviews cemetery e-books and apps so you never have to weigh down your suitcase again!