I’m your tour guide, Uncle Alex Nosferatu! The 2021 All-Spooks Festival features a new and expanded garden venue, filled with creeps and chills, and Halloween fun for boils and ghouls of all ages.
The highlight this year is a set of eight homemade tombstones and a gothic birdbath, enhancing the realistic feel of the garden cemetery. They were constructed from foam insulation board, with the help and guidance of my friend Trish Magee. Trish made some tombstones for her own yard last Halloween, and I was so impressed with the results, I begged her for a tutorial this year, which we did at her Delaware home in June.
An 8’x4’ sheet of pink insulation is cut down into basic smaller sizes, then shaped with a jigsaw into the desired outlines. A black marker sketches out the basic design and epitaph, a wood burning tool is used to “carve” the design into the foam, knives cut cracks and weathered features, and then the painting begins! A layer of flat black is overlaid with pale grey in a sponge paint pattern to create a marbleized granite effect, bits of moss are applied to add a look of decay and age, then the whole is sealed with clear enamel. Holes are drilled in the bottom, to fit metal piping which is driven into the ground to stabilize the tombstones when on display.
I made eight tombstones this year, and Trish gifted me with the birdbath, a new project for her this season. Four are pseudo-markers for actual historic personages: Giles Corey, who was pressed to death with rocks when he refused to plea to the charge of witchcraft made against him in Salem, Massachusetts during the 1692 witch hunts; Edgar Allan Poe, poet and author of many tales of the macabre; Lizzie Borden, tried and acquitted of axe-murdering her parents in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892; and Mercy Brown, the so-called “New England Vampire”. Suspected of preying upon family members after her death in Rhode Island in 1892, Mercy’s body was exhumed, her heart removed, burned, and its ashes mixed with water, given to her last remaining relative to spare him from her supposed curse. He died months later.
Together these form the newest section of the “Nazareth Necropolis”, as the garden is known at this time of year. Nearby is “Dead Lover’s Lane”, with its courting couple canoodling under the bat tree. In addition to a presiding ghoul, this year the lovers have acquired a peeping Tom, who looks agog at their intimate embrace.
Moving on, a pair of spooks, a Reaper and a banshee, welcome you to the “Last Stop Cemetery”, the entranceway to the largest section, where “Our Guests Never Complain”. This graveyard enclave leads on to the “Bushkill Boneyard”, populated with eight skeletons and another shrouded ghoul. A pair of skeletons occupies the picnic table, playing with their pet rat and zombie cat, while a bereaved father has brought his twin boys to visit their decomposing mother, strewn about the boneyard, on “Dead Mother’s Day”; and another helpful skeleton is assisting his mate in the difficult crawl out of the grave. This cemetery also features the “Tree of the Dead”, with dangling garlands of skulls suspended from the birch branches, eerily swaying in the breeze. Massive webs and huge black spiders have found a home here as well.
The set piece of the garden graveyard is the Hilltop Cemetery, with its fine view of the grounds, where a pair of seated skeletons is relaxing in the flagstone seating area, enjoyed a refreshing blood cocktail al fresco. An obsequious waiter has already served Madame, and Monsieur stretches out a skeletal hand for his own goblet. This cemetery features the remaining four new tombstones: a four-foot Christian Cross, a “Memento Mori” admonition to “think of death”, a five-foot Celtic Cross, and another inscribed stone, which reminds the reader of the fleeting nature of life – “As You Are Now, So Once Was I; As I am Now, So Shall You Be.” As you look about at the dead and dying vegetation, it’s easy to feel you’ve come to the right place, at the right time!
Lit strategically by solar spotlights to create islands of brightness in the gloom, the Nazareth Necropolis welcomes visitors of all ages, for both daylight and nighttime tours. Open October 13th through November 10th, come enjoy a saunter through the afterlife!