I had a strange experience a couple of years ago.
During an especially boring day I randomly started googling family member names. For the most part nothing really popped up. Obituaries, house sales, things like that. Until, that is, I got to my Great Grandfather. A huge thread appeared with quite a bit of information - things about the family I never knew or heard of. It came from a distant relative in Sweden who was trying to find out what happened to the relatives that came to the United States. Not only was the Larson family line traced back to the 16th century, but I now knew when, and why, my ancestors came to Chicago.
|The Emigrants by Knut Ekwall (1843–1912) represents the artist's vision of what the 19th-century transatlantic experience might be like. Date unknown.|
My Great Great Grandparents came to the United States from Sweden in 1869. Because the famine and crop failures in Sweden combined with the American Homestead Act, which offered affordable land to farmers, prospects seemed much brighter here than there. They were in Chicago for about two years before the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city. They had 6 children and both died around the Turn Of The Century. I discovered that they are buried in Graceland Cemetery.
Graceland Cemetery in Chicago is no ordinary resting place. It's where the founding fathers of the city are buried, those that rebuilt the city after the fire and those that created the World's Fair of 1893. The monuments in the cemetery are extremely interesting. Because it's also a Victorian resting place, there are also a number of unsettling monuments.
|Graceland Cemetery as seen from the Chicago Red Line train|
I had walked past the cemetery on several occasions, but had never gone in. Because the first Larsons in Chicago were interned there, I felt I had to see it. During a tour in late fall, I was stuck at how bizarre the place truly is. This was just after Halloween. the leaves were off the trees, the skies were grey, and there was just a hint of a chill in the air. The first thing I saw was the grave of Dexter Graves known as "Eternal Silence"
|Eternal Silence, or "Statue Of Death"|
|Legend has it that if you stare into the eyes you see a vision of your own death!|
The statue used to be completely black before the elements washed the color away. There is some graffiti scratched into the statue in the bottom of the robes, but what was even more unsettling was that someone had placed coins at the statue's feet.
There's also the grave of Inza Clark, a 6 year old girl who died when stuck by lightening in the late 1800's. The grave is said to be haunted and the statue apparently disappears during thunderstorms only to reappear later, and she has seen wandering the cemetery.
These were not all. I found the monuments so unsettling that I thought of what I saw for days. During the tour, my wife and I watched as a female jogger run past us, using Graceland as her own personal running track. As I watched her go down the road I couldn't help but ask myself " I wonder what she dreams about?"
Visitations will explore that a bit. Taking place in turn of the century Chicago, we meet characters in a cemetery very much like Graceland. Who they are and what happens to them will be surprising. More information to come...