No Picnicking Allowed in the Haunted Cemetery!
Many of us think about spirits 365 days a year, but there are those who only think of them when pumpkins and Halloween decorations appear in the stores. They want to hear scary ghost stories, and if those tales have a basis in fact, well, all for the better.
Humankind has been fascinated with phantoms since the time of the cavemen, their shamans telling them tales around a blazing campfire built to keep the dark and unnatural things away. But over time some cultures began to honor their dead and welcome their ancestors to come visit them, bringing them foods and gifts, just like Mexico does with their Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos).
More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to eradicate. The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. These skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. They also were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month long ritual. The Spaniards thought death as the end, while the natives embraced it, because to them it was only the beginning. Not able to kill this barbaric ritual, the Spanish merged it with “All Saint’s Day” and “All Soul’s Day,” the first two days of November.
Nowadays, the Mexican people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. They placed wooden skulls on altars dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. Families would also visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate grave-sites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to grave-sites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones.
Strangely enough, in Richmond, Virginia, families would come to town and visit their buried dead at Hollywood Cemetery (considered the most haunted cemetery in Richmond), picnicking by the graves. Today, in the contract, it is stated that when you purchased a grave, no picnics are allowed there!
Honestly, the dead may haunt the graveyards, but they don’t stop there, as paranormal activity has been cited in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, amusement parks, so many places. And they don’t wait for Halloween or Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day, but any day of the year works for those who passed away. After all, the dead don’t stay dead anywhere you look! Evidence of this can be seen on popular Colonial Ghosts ghost tours in Williamsburg, Virginia, just south of Richmond. The ultimate ghost tour and extended ghost tours cover more than 20 haunted locations throughout a walking tour of the colonial city!