Allegory of “The Tree of Life” in Segovia – Spain

We are in Segovia, Spain. In the local Cathedral, among the colors of the stained glass windows and the splendid Gothic architecture, there is also a curious painting hanging on the wall. It is called The Tree of Life, locally El Arbol de la Vida, and is one of many that hangs in the Immaculate Conception Chapel (Capilla de la Concepción) in Segovia Cathedral. A riotous party is taking place in the bough of a tree symbolizing life, complete with food, live music, and merriment. Meanwhile below, a sinister skeleton…

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The real Sleepy Hollow: where the legends lives!

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by name of Sleepy Hollow … A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. — Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Historically, the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, also known as the Dutch Reformed Church, is the oldest existing church in New York. Together with its two-and-a-half-acre colonial-era burying ground, served as…

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Friedhof Der Namenlosen – Cemetery of the Nameless: a hidden gem for Danube’s victims

We are in Vienna. Many tourists who come to the Austrian capital visit the Zentralfriedhof, the Central Cemetery, which is the city’s largest and most popular cemetery, the final home of personalities such as Ludwig Van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Johan Strauss but also more modern celebrities like pop star Falco. However, among the 55 cemeteries in Vienna, one of the most touching and quaint is probably the Friedhof Der Namenlosen, the Cemetery of the Nameless. Suicide victims who turned away from a Catholic burial, bodies with no names…

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Los Angeles: The Museum of Death

The Museum of Death, a showcase of just that, was originally founded in San Diego in June, 1995, when James Healy and Cathee Shultz decided to fill the void in death education in this country and made death their life’s work. It began as a hobby of the founders: they would write to serial killers they were interested in, and then show off the artwork their pen pals had created once a year at a specialist show. In 1995, after a few years of exhibitions, the collection, and many other…

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The “Merry Cemetery” in Romania: colors and irony to exorcise death.

For us cemeteries are places of mourning and sadness: these are places in which the dead rest. On the tombstones usually only the dates of birth and death appear. When someone dies, their memory generally enters a kind of idealized state in the minds of those who loved them. Often their flaws are forgiven and forgotten, and the way in which they passed (especially if it was unpleasant) often goes unspoken, and on their tombstone generalized niceties are written, often reduced to as little as “Rest in Peace.” But not…

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Rome: Here lies the head of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine.

We are in Rome again, and even in the Italian capital there are some singular “oddities”. After the doll hospital, I talk you about a skull that resides in a glass reliquary in a small basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, surrounded by flowers. Lettering painted across the forehead identify the owner as none other than of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine. However, knowing just exactly whose skull it is, of course, is complicated. First off, there was more than one Catholic saint known as Saint…

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The bone church – Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic.

The 40,000 to 70,000 skeletons within Sedlec Ossuary (known also as Kostnice Ossuary Beinhaus) in Czech Republic welcome you, literally, with open arms: the ossuary, located close to Kutná Hora is a singular place, displays some of the world’s more macabre art, and undoubtedly is a fascinating destination not to be missed. Known to most as “the Bone Church,” its history begins in 1278 when the Abbot of the Sedlec Monastery (Abbot Henry) brought a handful of earth back from a journey to the Grave of the Lord in Jerusalem.…

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India: Skeleton Lake of Roopkund~

Roopkund, locally known as Mystery Lake or Human Skeletons Lake, is a high altitude glacial lake at Uttarakhand state of India. The area is uninhabited, in the Himalayas at an altitude of 5,029 metres, and surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains, the lake is a popular trekking destination. It is a shallow lake, having a depth of about two metres, which has attracted attention because of the human skeletal remains that are visible at its bottom when the snow melts. The remains lay in the lake for 1,200 years…

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Monterey Peninsula in California: Pebble Beach, ghost trees and the ghost of a Lady in Lace ~

Pebble Beach was the original name of the rocky cove located on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in California. The owners of the near-by Hotel Del Monte purchased the cove and surrounding area and constructed a scenic drive throughout the property. The drive was 17-miles long (about 27 kilometers) with the Hotel being both the starting and finishing point for any excursion. Today, the Monterey Peninsula is home to eight public and private 18-hole golf courses. In the area, there are also haunting and beautiful trees, but doomed to die: the…

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The Ma’Nene Festival in Indonesia: the mummies of the dead return to visit their loved ones.

As we know, all cultures have their own way of celebrating those who have passed away, but in Indonesia, in the province of Tana Toraja, funeral rites are a little “different” from the usual. The Ma’Nene ritual is the festival of ancestor worship. When a person dies, the body is mummified with natural ingredients and buried in rock tombs. The mummification process allows the preservation of the corpse and allows the family to return to exhume it! The Torajan people proudly display their dead relatives after digging them up and…

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Hasanlu’s Lovers: a kiss 2,800 years long

Teppe Hasanlu, in northwestern Iran, is a famous archaeological site of a city that was excavated in 10 seasons between 1956 and 1974 by a team from the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania and the Metropolitan Museum. Over the years many findings of great historical value have been discovered, including a couple called “The Lovers”, which symbolizes eternal love. There are some very rare cases in which burials are occupied by two people, often due to catastrophic events such as wars or natural disasters. The two skeletons of Hasanlu, in…

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Cruger, Mississippi: the Grave of the Lady in Red~

Cruger, Mississippi, is home to barely 400 residents. It lies within the confines of the large area of fertile agricultural lands known as the Mississippi Delta, and places nearby have unusual names, like Alligator Bayou, Mosquito Lake, or Mossy Island. Located near Cruger is Egypt Plantation, an active farming area of almost 2,000 acres in which heavy equipment during farming season are used. In summer of 1969, while farmhands were digging on Egypt Plantation, the backhoe operator felt a crunch: just about a meter beneath the topsoil, he had hit…

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Mt. Moriah: the cemetery housing wild west legends in South Dakota.

It is said that often it’s possible tell the history of a town through its cemetery. This is a little cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota, and buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery, overlooking Deadwood Gulch, are western legends, folk figures, murderers, madams, children of misfortune, and Deadwood pioneers. In addition to the “normal” population, here there are four different sections in the graveyard: Potter’s field, where there are the graves of unknown people or settlers that came from Ingelside. They were buried without a stone or marker. Then there is a…

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Aokigahara: the Japanese Suicide Forest called “the perfect place to die”.

Aokigahara is known throughout the world as the “Suicide Forest”, and is a 35-square-kilometer spot located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest, called “the perfect place to die,” contains a large number of icy rocky caverns, some of which are popular tourist destinations. Locals say they can easily spot the three types of visitors to the forest: trekkers interested in scenic vistas of Mount Fuji, the curious hoping for a glimpse of the macabre, and those souls who don’t plan on leaving! The thicket of…

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La Madone de São Paulo, Brasil: the giant mural in memory of our mortality.

We are in Brazil, in São Paulo’s city center: this giant mural of Santa Muerte reminds passersby of their own mortality. Painted on the side of a building in downtown of the brazilian city, this elegant and fantasmagoric mural representation of Santa Muerte, aka Our Lady of Holy Death, confronts you with your mortal destiny and your short time on Earth. The genesis of this unusual contemporary memento mori, titled La Madone de São Paulo, came in 2015 through an artistic collaboration between the Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz and…

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