Sounds from a Lost Cemetery

Children tend to do some significant, but eerie things as they grow up. Yours truly was no exception to this rule. While growing up in New Jersey, as a preteen it was not uncommon for my friends and I to hide covertly behind a tombstone at the local cemetery. We would patiently await the passage of some poor, innocent “living being” as they made their way towards the local grocery store or somewhere else of importance to them in the early evening hours just after the arrival of darkness. In the event there was a full moon out that particular evening, the “scare game” we played took on a more sinister role and was even more enticing. I still to this day can vividly relive those creepy thrills experienced when we would suddenly leap out from behind the cold-stone tombstone and totally scare the pants off of an unsuspecting individual. To a young boy in those days this was a means of entertainment which actually hurt no one other than the intended victim and his or her missed heartbeats.
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Sounds from a Lost Cemetery

Joseph Parish

            Children tend to do some significant, but eerie things as they grow up. Yours truly was no exception to this rule. While growing up in New Jersey, as a preteen it was not uncommon for my friends and I to hide covertly behind a tombstone at the local cemetery. We would patiently await the passage of some poor, innocent “living being” as they made their way towards the local grocery store or somewhere else of importance to them in the early evening hours just after the arrival of darkness. In the event there was a full moon out that particular evening, the “scare game” we played took on a more sinister role and was even more enticing. I still to this day can vividly relive those creepy thrills experienced when we would suddenly leap out from behind the cold-stone tombstone and totally scare the pants off of an unsuspecting individual. To a young boy in those days this was a means of entertainment which actually hurt no one other than the intended victim and his or her missed heartbeats.

However, as I began to mature, the cemetery environment evolved into a place of potential nocturnal fear. Perhaps that was a result of watching too many episodes of late-night horror show hosts such as John Zacherle and his famous “Shock Theater” of the late 50s and 60s. Surely, no one can forget Cassandra Peterson, who we all have come to love as Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark. Either way, later years brought a certain measure of fear and a touch of phobia into our humble lives. The “Manual of Mental Disorders” has been so kind as to coin a special word for this fear of graveyards, it is known as Coimetrophobia. As mysteries would develop, it’s these people who display an irrational fear of cemeteries and who actually develop illnesses from the mere thought of a graveyard. For these unfortunate people, cemeteries bring about actual negative physical reactions which can include dizziness, heart palpitations, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking and the sudden inability to speak. Sounds a bit like the victims of a grade B horror film, doesn’t it? Now those side effects are what is really scary.

Is it the idea that zombies, ghosts and other things that go bump in the night are waiting to claim a new victim or the unknown mysteries which frequently surround the dead that perpetrates such fears? In reality, cemeteries will not hurt you, or will they? After my youthful escapades in the cemetery environment, I ultimately entered the United States Air Force and in due course was stationed in the State of Nebraska at a little know location called Hastings RBS. Our military base was fundamentally a part of the local college property as was the family housing units established for the dependents. A fellow worker and his wife lived some distance away from the base and to travel to their home one would need to journey a long, isolated stretch of house-less road. After traveling several miles on this thoroughfare, one would approach a deserted cemetery out in the middle of nowhere. No one has been buried in this graveyard since the early nineteen hundred, but the graves were still present and on occasion tended to. There were no churches near the grave sites, no houses to be found anywhere in the area, but only the cemetery itself – all alone.

We visited our friends one evening and during our stay the wife began to relate her personal experience on the road as she neared the location of the mysterious cemetery. She informed us that as she was traveling home late one evening, she took note of a very young girl of about seven or eight standing in the middle of the highway with her arms stretched out in front of her. The young girl gave the impression that she was seeking help. This upset my friend’s wife greatly, and she immediately slammed on the brakes of her car stopping the vehicle as quickly as she could. As she frightfully gazed with wide open eyes around the area it appeared that the little girl had simply vanished and was now nowhere to be found. Our lady friend got out of her car and looked all around it for the youthful child but was unable to discover her whereabouts. Finally, confused and somewhat petrified she climbed back into her car and continued on her journey to her home.

After she had finished relating her experiences to my wife and me, a fleeting thought passed through my mind. Why not place a tape recorder within the cemetery confines and record what takes place when the living is not present. I contemplated that perhaps nothing will take place and the tape will remain blank, but then again one never knows unless they try it. Our friend’s husband and I drove pass the cemetery towards my home to retrieve a small, battery operated cassette recorder and on the return trip back we made a brief stop to buy a fresh, new, unused tape for the machine and a supply of new batteries. As we approached the cemetery, we unwrapped the new tape and placed it into the recorder along with the fresh set of batteries. We stopped the car near the gate entrance and slowly made our way on foot around the graves until we arrived at the center of the cemetery where we placed the recorder on top of one tombstone and set it to record. And with that action complete that was our cue to quickly depart and that is what we hastily did.

While we were leaving both my friend and I began to experience bouts of chills running up and down our spine as if some unknown number of spying eyes were secretly following our every step and movement. We finally approached the car, rushed to get inside and immediately departed the area heading to my friend’s home. Upon arrival, we laughed with our spouses at what we had done. To us it was now a big joke. We looked at the issue as nothing more than fun and games. It was comparable to our scare tactics as young kids in the cemetery. None of us actually expected to hear anything usual or strange on the tape after we commenced to play it back. We could at least in the end have a good laugh and experience something unusual to relate to our children as they grew to adulthood.

As midnight approached, we decided to drive back to the graveyard and retrieve the recorder along with the cassette tape. We were very energized and could hardly contain our anticipation towards what “ghostly events” we may have captured on the tape. Once again as we made our way towards the center of the cemetery, we experienced the same chilling effect that we had previously felt, feeling that someone or something was still watching us as we moved around the graveyard. Our imagination quickly picked up steam from our eerie feelings and before long we were witnessing imaginary shadows dancing here and there before our eyes. We at long last picked up the recorder and as quickly as we could run, we made our way out of the graveyard and into the safety of our car. Off we went to my friend’s house to see what interesting sounds we had accumulated on the tape.

We arrived at the home and went immediately inside to sit at the table. As our host was providing fresh hot coffee, I rewound the tape to the very beginning and pressed the forward-play button. On the first play of the cassette it did not appear that anything was recorded other than a lot of static similar to that which you hear when the TV goes off the air late at night. We all decided to give it a fair chance and played it a second time. Our ears were getting accustomed to the static now and during the second play we could faintly hear distant voices on the tape unfortunately it was impossible to decipher what was being said. We assured ourselves that it was not our voices as we came and went from the cemetery in silence, and since there were no houses in the area for miles at a stretch, we knew it was not some sort of echo from a distant home. This left only the disembodied souls who resided at the cemetery. As we fine-tuned our ears to the recording, we could distinguish the sound of a train traveling in the background and clearly hear it resonating its horn every so often. In addition to the train sound, we could perceive the sound of church bells slightly ringing nearby. The fact of the situation was that there were no trains or tracks for many miles from this cemetery and certainly no churches in the vicinity.

In view of what we had heard on the tape we concluded that there was in fact a lot of abnormal activity taking place in and around that graveyard. Perhaps in the future I may try the same experiment again here in Delaware as we have an abundance of forgotten family graveyards which contain only a few graves within its enclosed gates. I might just hear some additional voices that could be made out and understood. Only time will tell.

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