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Author Interview – Karen Schauber

August 27, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Group of Seven

What is your book about? 

The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings is at once artistic and literary. This anthology is a gorgeous testament to the Group of Seven, through the unique lens of twenty-one acclaimed flash fiction writers. – Each flash fiction story, (a brief, condensed, though fully realized narrative, written in under five hundred words), is paired with a lush full-colour reproduction of the painting that inspired it, showcasing both Canada’s historical artistic oeuvre with its contemporary literary artistic talent.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

The impetus for this book began as a writing prompt. I am always looking for interesting, layered prompts: a phrase, paradox, scenario, image, to inspire and formulate a story around. I happened to be walking my dog along Vancouver’s Jericho Beach early one frigid but bright wintery morning and was struck by the awesome beauty of the snow-peaked North Shore mountains looming across that stretch of ocean. I imagined that Lawren Harris would have wanted to paint that stunning vista, and in that glance, had the inspiration for my story. – It was only later, when conducting background research for my piece that I learned that the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Group of Seven was coming up in 2020. – A light bulb went off! The anniversary presented a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the enduring genius of these painters, in story. I contacted fellow flash fiction writers with the idea of putting an anthology together inspired by the landscape paintings of the Group of Seven and the enthusiasm for this project was immediately infectious. I wanted to put together a book that would both increase the profile and expand the reach of these iconic Canadian painters, while at the same time introduce art lovers to the marvels and delight of flash fiction.

Why flash fiction?

Flash fiction is the hottest rising literary trend in Canada. It is my current obsession. I have been on a maelstrom writing flash for the past three years. Each miniature story (flash fiction) is a delicious morsel, the flavours exploding with each bite. For me, flash fiction (always written in under 1000 words, and usually in under 500) is storytelling at its best. It draws the reader into another world engaging her in an immersive, evocative, and emotionally resonant experience, albeit for a brief moment in time; ‘for a flash’. Each miniature story is meant to delight, surprise and challenge the reader. There is often much hidden in between the lines and white spaces inviting the reader to return again to discover more in the layers of the story. And while each flash fiction takes only a few moments to devour, each story takes much longer to ‘perfect’, requiring a practiced skill in crafting, sculpting, editing, and polishing. I love the challenge writing flash poses, and the sense of satisfaction in completing a layered piece with a beginning, middle, and end, in a relatively short period of time. Relatively short compared to that of the traditional short story of 1500-3000 words, novella, or novel (which can take years to realize). The Flash Fiction community of writers and readers across Canada is exploding. Canadian literary magazines, journals, and anthologies now publish several flash fiction pieces in each issue, and flash fiction workshops and classes, both online and in house, can be found everywhere. I find this so exciting!

 

Why the Group of Seven?

When I first saw a Group of Seven painting, a Lawren Harris, I was gobsmacked. A stunning mountain carved like folds of butter, light cascading down upon its peak, pure and ethereal. I was immediately transported, somewhere deep, sublime, and otherworldly. My love affair with the Group of Seven began in that moment. As a university student living in Toronto in the 80’s, I had the opportunity to visit the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg many times. The McMichael Collection even then, was remarkable and awe-inspiring. Over the years as I have discovered more of the Group’s landscape paintings in galleries, museums, books, and on-line. They have captured my imagination and heart for all these many years, transporting me into the story of the canvas and beyond. – I was inspired and driven to realize this book in celebration of their enduring genius.

How did you decide to pair the Group of Seven with Flash Fiction? 

For me the match is made in heaven! The paintings are immediately perceived as storied, and the flash pieces are beautifully written, as if a painting. Both image and story invite the reader/viewer into another realm; a place of deep resonance and wonderment. Each read of the narrative, when paired with the layers, shadows, and textures of the landscape painting, becomes an immersive experience.

Each Contributor chose a landscape painting that inspired them, from a selection of Group of Seven paintings. Works by Tom Thomson and Emily Carr, both contemporaries of the Group, are also included in the book.

Who are the Writers/Contributors in The Group of Seven Reimagined and how were they selected?

Most of the Contributors are award-winning short story authors, several times over. They come from all regions of Canada, from coast to coast to coast, and three from the US, the UK, and AU, each with a distinct Canadian connection. I felt it was important to invite writers from across Canada who I thought would present a varied, distinct, and unique voice, and, be expert at crafting a miniature work of fiction. While Canada has so many brilliant short story writers, writing flash fiction presents unique challenges, i.e. excellent editing chops and concision, not every short story writer is comfortable with or interested in exploring.

I am a voracious short fiction reader. I read as many short story collections, journal, magazine, and anthology short fiction pieces as I could find, looking for a range of style, genre, and voice. Above all, I was looking for writing at a level of excellence. And of course, I found brilliant storytellers, and was excited by so many extraordinary works of fiction. It was also important that each person I invited to participate be more than enthusiastic about celebrating the Group of Seven and be inspired by their paintings.

I am thrilled with each of the writers selected. Mike Blouin, Carol Bruneau, Paulo da Costa, Alfred DePew, Tamas Dobozy, Valerie Fox, Travis Good, Mark Jarman, JJ Lee, Brett Loney, Lorette C. Luzajic, Yael Eytan Maree, Michael Mirolla, Isabella Mori, Nina Munteanu, Waubgeshig Rice, Robert Runté, Nina Shoroplova, Mireille Silcoff, Mary Thompson. Each one a consummate professional and joy to work with. Each writer has selected a gorgeous Group of Seven painting to inspire their story and each has contributed a marvellous flash fiction piece. The results and pairing are stunning.  In addition to being the editor, I also have a flash fiction piece in the book.

Full Bios (incl photo) for each of the Contributors can be found at: http://SevenFlashFiction.weebly.com  

Where did you get your training? How long have you been writing flash fiction? Have you always written, have you always wanted to write?

I think my path to becoming a writer is rather unique. I was sixty-two before I wrote my first story, ever. And I will be sixty-four before this book is published. I have never written fiction before. Never even tried. My writing up until very recently has been academic and analytically focused. I had done some journal writing intermittently as process-writing, but that’s it. Back in high school I wrote my final English exam interpreting a poem about the Tree of Life, referencing photosynthesis/ chlorophyll / life cycle / and the ecosystem. I was clearly off the mark. Words and imagery, conveying personal experience through metaphor or simile was not my forte, comfort level, or inclination.

Since beginning to write fiction three years ago, I have been published in twenty-five international literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, and have more in the queue.

My training is in Psychology. I am a seasoned Family Therapist. Decades of ‘being fully present’ in the therapy session has made the transition into writing surprisingly seamless for me. As Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler describes, ‘writing takes place in the Dreamscape’. Being fully present in this ‘Place of Solitude’ is where writing is best explored and fashioned. I enjoy this space. It is where I am most myself. And it is where I create from.

I discovered flash fiction reading journals and magazines online. There is a dynamic global flash fiction community. I read flash fiction journals regularly and enjoy discovering new writers (new to me) – the talent out there is magic. I quickly found online workshops teaching flash fiction and have participated in many three-day, ten-day, and monthly workshops, and continue to enrol in one every month or two. The workshops are lots of fun, generative, and attended by highly creative, respectful, and generous writers. I’m totally hooked.

What do you enjoy most about editing?

Cultivating a relationship with the writer is a must for the editing process to be successful.

Pulling back to the barest of form and arriving at clarity is what motivates me in editing. I love the process. Finding increasing precision in word choice is my kind of fun. I delight in the concision, word craft, play, and intentional word choice used to create imagery that resonates and evokes an emotional response in the reader. My tool is a thesaurus. I clean up a piece to reveal its essence, letting it take center stage and shine. Presenting a re-configured or revised passage to a writer who chooses to accept it, is the ultimate satisfaction for an editor.

What’s next?

I have a lot of ideas, although only two have reached the planning stage. 1. A flash fiction anthology similarly structured to The Group of Seven Reimagined, ekphrastic writing, – flash fiction inspired by visual art. This time showcasing the surrealist and magic realism artists Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. and 2. A collection of flash fiction, all my own pieces.

I am exploring how to approach this next project differently. It has been enormously expensive to put this book together. The cost of permissions and licenses from Art Galleries, Museums and Estates to use hi-res reproductions of the paintings in the book has been almost prohibitive. This expense comes out of the author’s / editor’s pocket; the publisher does not absorb this cost. Having a sponsor/corporate interest would help move this next project forward. It is something I’m looking into.

Where can we read your work?

All my flash fiction can be found online at http://rebelshorts.weebly.com with links to each journal/magazine where the piece is published.

Detailed info about The Group of Seven Reimagined, its inception, contributors, and resources about the Group of Seven and Flash Fiction all can be found at http://GroupofSevenFlashFiction.weebly.com  

Advanced info and resources about how to write Flash Fiction can be found at http://VancouverFlashFiction.weebly.com

The Group of Seven will launch in Vancouver in October, and in Toronto in May – details on Vancouver and Toronto launch coming soon – if you would like to receive an invitation to attend either Launch party, send an email to groupofsevenflashfiction@gmail.com with ‘Vancouver Launch Invitation’ or ‘Toronto Launch Invitation’ in the subject line. We are going to celebrate!

ISBN 978-1-77203-288-8  Heritage House $24.95

Purchases in Canada

https://www.amazon.ca/Group-Seven-Reimagined-Contemporary-Paintings/dp/1772032883

International Purchases (from outside Canada)

https://www.heritagehouse.ca/book/the-group-of-seven-reimagined/

Karen Schauber - credit Koichi Saito - (44) photo

Bio:

Karen Schauber is a Flash Fiction writer obsessed with the form. She has been on a maelstrom writing since she was first introduced to this brief condensed short story form three years ago. Her work has since appeared in 25 international literary magazines and anthologies, including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending GenresCarpeArteEkphrastic Review, and Fiction Southeast. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings, celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters, is her first editorial/curatorial flash venture. Schauber runs ‘Vancouver Flash Fiction’, a flash fiction Resource Hub and Critique Circle, and in her spare time, is a seasoned Family Therapist. A native of Montreal, she has called Vancouver home for the past three decades. 

http://KarenSchauber.weebly.com

http://GroupofSevenFlashFiction.weebly.com

http://VancouverFlashFiction.weebly.com

http://www.facebook.com/VancouverFlashFiction/

fb @Karen Schauber

twitter @karenschauber

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Mandy!

 

 

 

Ask a Question Thursday

August 1, 2019
mandyevebarnett


ask-a-question-logo-300x150

For those of you with school age children/grandchildren – are you celebrating having the house to yourself after the summer holiday/vacation? Do you plunge right back into your current manuscript or have some downtime to refresh?

back to school

Last week’s question: Do you incorporate politics and/or religion into your stories? What is the reason?

Mandy Eve-Barnett

 

I have used a matriarchal society in my novel, Life in Slake Patch as the background to a young man’s life in that regime. It was interesting to write about the influences and attitudes of a different society. In contrast my novel, The Twesome Loop, which covers two time periods, shows the patriarchal suppression in the 1800’s.

 

Join the conversation and leave your comment below.

If you have a suggestion for a question please let me know.

HAPPY 150th CANADA

July 1, 2017
mandyevebarnett


canadadaysouthhuron

I’m sharing my story of my first visit to Canada – this will be published in my writing group’s Canada 150 special anthology.book project

My First Taste of Canada by Mandy Eve-Barnett

My first visit to Canada was in the early eighties, a last big vacation before starting up my company, knowing vacations would be impossible for at least a few years while the company grew. I believed, at the time, that it would be a once in a lifetime trip.

                Arriving in Edmonton in late July invaded my senses with big city life. A country girl all my life with only occasional trips to London, UK for art galleries, museums and shows, the buzz of the city around me was hard to acclimatize to – the heat, noise, fumes, people and sirens – all assaulted my senses. Added to this was attending the unforeseen wedding ceremony and reception of a distant cousin. My mind became blurred at names and faces of people I had no real knowledge of before that day. Maybe a few too many glass of cheer didn’t help!

                The next day my Uncle and Aunt took me on a tour of the city sights, I marveled at the height of the buildings – glass and metal reflected the heat and I quickly became uncomfortable. Air conditioning, an unknown phenomenon until then, was soon my best friend. Large department stores all encased in cool aired malls saved me from heat exhaustion. Fashions, ornaments, accents and manners intrigued and delighted me. An evening meal at a nice restaurant satisfied, but a visit to a local club with a younger cousin was more enlightening than first expected. The club looked like many discos of the era and it took me a while to realize the absence of young men. Not knowing my cousin very well I was wary to ask the obvious question. All was revealed once we sat down and the lights dimmed. One after the other male strippers entertained the all female audience. With a room full of excited and tipsy women the doors opened to the young men who had queued outside waiting on nine o’clock. It was certainly an experience!

                My Uncle and Aunt owned a small RV and this was our mode of transport to Vancouver, their home town. Our route would take us through the Rocky Mountains and until I saw those magnificent structures I had no field of reference to their size and magnitude. Used to rolling hills and lush greenery these monoliths in dark steel grey, snow capped and craggy were awe inspiring. Mile upon mile of evergreen firs spread outwards in all directions, rising sharply to the base of the mountains and becoming sparse on the rocky outcrops. Taking it all in was mind blowing; my head turned this way and that at speed trying not to miss a single view, a glimpse of a wild animal or roaring river.

After several hours we took a rest stop in what seemed to me an isolated cabin restaurant overlooking a lake. The food was good, the ability to walk and stretch even more welcome. Just as we were leaving a thundering sound filled the air and the owner of the establishment urged us outside. Fearing something awful was about to happen I stayed close to my Uncle. We stood in awe as an avalanche crashed its way down the mountainside on the far side of the lake. The sound echoed around us, the ground beneath our feet shivered, and our chests felt the shock wave of air as it rushed past. In that moment I understood the absolute power of nature, trees snapped like twigs, huge boulders rolled and were consumed and the landslide of snow and ice crashed into the lake water making a tidal wave. Nothing could stop that power, that motion.

                When the last of the avalanche snow slid downwards, we returned into the restaurant by kind invitation of the owner to celebrate with a glass of champagne. He admitted in the fifteen years he had owned the restaurant it was the first avalanche he had seen. We were there no more than an hour and a half and witnessed such a spectacular event. I will always remember the sight and sound of that avalanche it has stayed with me for decades.

                Our onward journey was not without more adventure however. The temperature dropped quite significantly as we drove further into the Rocky Mountain range and I huddled under a blanket, peering out at the scenery that changed dramatically as the sky became overcast. Snowflakes began to fall much to my surprise but not to my Uncle and Aunt, who assured me it was common in the higher altitudes. The snow fell heavier and the mountains disappeared under a white curtain. Our reduced speed and burgeoned windshield wipers made me anxious but my Aunt comforted me saying my Uncle had driven in such conditions before. Then there was a sputter, a sudden decrease in speed and then all was quiet. The engine died and I saw my relative’s shoulders tense. Now what? Unfurling a map my Uncle plotted his route and estimated our location.

“There is a hotel around the next bend, if I’m correct on our position. We will make it that far.”

   Easing the RV along slowly he inched our way toward the hoped for hotel. At the bend we saw a grey shape materialize and formed into a hotel. Spluttering to the front of the building the RV stalled as if to say my work is done. There were only a couple of vehicles outside the hotel so my Uncle went in to investigate. On his return he advised us the hotel staff were working on a grand opening after a refurbishment and that they were not actually open yet. However, understanding our predicament they made up a couple of rooms for us and one young man helped fix the RV the following morning, allowing us to continue to Vancouver. A place I really loved mainly due to the ocean view and salty air so like home for me.

Canada is now my home and I have come to know a small part of it through incredible road trips with my dear friend, Linda. I will never ‘see’ all of Canada – the continent is just too vast but my experiences and friendships have given me some knowledge of Canada and it’s inhabitants.

Happy Birthday Canada

 

Flag_of_Canada_150-dated_svg

Writing Hub -Books, Writing, Tips & more…

April 26, 2017
mandyevebarnett


writing-hub

Writing:

Conference logo 2017

My conference presentation was well received and my audience engaged in the interactive segments with gusto. The theme of the conference was everything Canadian to tie in with the 150 year celebrations. My session ‘Building a Canadian Character’ included choosing a particular province and building a character from its particular landscape, economy, resources etc. With numerous handouts I managed to compile, each attendee went home with helpful resources.

When I created the individual folders I pinned a small cloth doll to each and then asked everyone to choose – this meant they went for colour or pattern unaware I had put a photo inside for another exercise. Sneaky maybe but it worked well. Then later I asked everyone to describe with as much detail as possible the person in those photos. After they read their description they shown the photo to everyone else. It was a lesson in description. 

The week was not as busy although planning for the major event in June did take up quite some time. My other project is ghost writing a book, which is progressing nicely.

I am now on countdown to the Spring Writers Retreat, which starts on 18th May through to 22nd May. Here I will immerse myself in my writing without distraction. The location is perfect with a small river, woodland and trails to refresh a tired Muse. It is a huge log cabin with an expert chef, whose meals are just so appetizing everyone wants to take her home.

strawberry-creek-lodge

Books:

The Other Life by Ellen Meister – I am enjoying the story’s theme and the tension risen by choosing one life over another.

The Other Life

My friend Karen gave me this book, as she believed the mystery would intrigue me. Looking forward to reading it.  Her Fearful Symmentry by Audrey Niffenegger 

Symmentry

Writing Tips:

Do it. Write.  Write every single day.
Read as much and as often as you can. Remember, every writer is a reader first.

 

Awe Inspiring Headstones…

November 2, 2016
mandyevebarnett


Some of these headstones are just magnificent, while others tell the story of the departed. I have had a fascination with headstones from an early age (yes I know I’m weird). However many of the older memorials are just the most beautiful examples of stone masonry, an art form unfortunately dying. Today the extreme costs of such effigys is prohibitive to most people.

These examples are of the more famous kind but there are many, many more in old graveyards that I have found, that are works of art.

john-paul

John Paul Jones’ Crypt
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
The crypt of John Paul Jones on display at the United States Naval Academy. (Photo: Kevin H. Tierney/US Navy/Public Domain)

John Paul Jones was the father of the American Navy, best known for shouting, “I have not yet begun to fight!” in response to a request for his surrender during a Revolutionary War battle. Less well known is the fact that for over a century after his death, the location of Jones’ body remained a mystery. Following his victories with the American Navy, Jones soon found his employment opportunities in America running dry. He joined up with the Russian Imperial Navy for a time, until he retired to Paris. Jones died there and was buried in a cemetery belonging to the French royal family. This property changed hands and Jones was forgotten. It wasn’t until 1905 that Jones’ remains were rediscovered by America’s Ambassador to France and returned to the United States.

Today, Jones rests in a extravagant sarcophagus below the chapel of the United States Naval Academy. The incredible coffin is covered in sculpted barnacles and is held up by bronze dolphins. The whole thing is sculpted out of a black and white marble that makes it look as though it has been weathered by untold ages beneath the waves—not so far from the truth.

davis

2. Davis Memorial
HIAWATHA, KANSAS
The Davis Memorial.
Davis and his wife Sarah in old age. (Photo: Ammodramus/Public Domain)

The Davises were a simple but highly successful Kansas farming family. When Sarah Davis passed way in 1930 her burial site was marked with a simple headstone that reflected the quiet life she and her husband had led, despite the vast wealth they had accrued. But soon after Sarah had been placed in the ground, John had her stone removed and replaced with a marble statue, which was just the beginning. Over the next decade John installed 11 total marble or granite statues, many of which depicted Sarah as a young woman, an old woman, and even as an angel. There was also a statue of John resting in comfortable armchair next to an identical, empty armchair. All of these are arranged in a haphazard manner, facing in all different directions.

The cost of the memorial became astronomical, which upset a great number of Hiawathans suffering under the poverty of the Great Depression in a small town that did not even have a hospital. Many believed that John was simply trying to squander his fortune so that Sarah’s family, who had always hated the man, could not touch it. Still others believed that he was simply an eccentric with a permanently broken heart.

jules-verne
3. Jules Verne’s Tomb
AMIENS, FRANCE
Jules Verne’s tomb.
Jules Verne’s tomb. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user rogerbcn)

It’s fitting that Jules Verne, father of science fiction, would have a dark, otherworldly gravestone. Two years after his death a sculpture entitled “Vers l’Immortalité et l’Eternelle Jeunesse” (“Towards Immortality and Eternal Youth”) was erected atop his marker. Designed by sculptor Albert Roze, and using the actual death mask of the writer, the statue depicts the shrouded figure of Jules Verne breaking his own tombstone and emerging from the grave.

The effigy has become iconic enough that in first issue of seminal science fiction magazine Amazing Stories (first published in 1926) and for many years thereafter a drawing of his tombstone appeared as part of the masthead.

jesus

4. Jesus in Cowboy Boots
PARIS, TEXAS
Willet Babcock’s grave
Willet Babcock’s grave, topped by Jesus in cowboy boots. (Photo: Library of Congress/Carol M. Highsmith/LC-DIG-highsm-26027)

Willet Babcock was a furniture and casket maker by trade, and ended up in Paris, Texas where his factory and downtown store put him squarely in the center of respected Parisians. Before he died, in 1881, he ordered himself an impressive memorial from a master-stonecutter, a German immigrant named Gustave Klein, who carved some of the more ornate markers at Evergreen. Along with some typical memorial elements—carved wreaths, a cross, an angelic figure in robes—Babcock gave his final presentation to the world a little Texas twang. Jesus is sporting cowboy boots.

There is debate about whether it really is Jesus. Some say the face is too feminine (there is no beard) and he (she?) appears to be leaning on the cross rather than carrying it. But whoever the angel in robes was intended to represent, the memorial has long since been dubbed “Jesus in Cowboy Boots.”

tomb

5. Lycian Rock Tombs
FETHIYE, TURKEY
A Lycian rock tomb.
One of the impressive rock tombs. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user skaremedia)

The Ancient Lycians believed that their dead were carried to the afterlife by angels from the heavens. To facilitate this ascent they placed their honored dead in geographically high places, like this cliffside. The tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century, are guarded by massive entryways adorned with tall Romanesque columns and intricate reliefs. The oldest tombs are often no more than unremarked holes dug into the rock. Despite the external grandeur, the interior of the tombs are spare chambers cut into the rock with a simple monolith inside to display the body. The rooms are otherwise empty from hundreds of years of looting.

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6. The Snow Tomb of Captain Robert Falcon Scott
ANTARCTICA
The Grave of the Southern Party.
The grave of Scott and his men. (Photo: Herbert Ponting/Public Domain)

In November 1912, the remaining members of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition were searching for their leader. Scott and his party had vanished into the snows the previous year, never returning from their quest for the South Pole. One of the group saw “a small object projecting above the surface” of the snow. It was part of a tent. They had discovered the final resting place of Scott and two of his men, Henry “Birdie” Bowers and Edward Wilson. Scott lay between them, his diary recording their final days: “It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more,” the last entry ran, “For God’s sake look after our people.”

The bodies of Scott and his men were not brought back to Britain. Instead, wrote Cherry-Garrard, who had been part of the search party, “We never moved them. We took the bamboos of the tent away and the tent itself covered them. Over them we built the cairn.” This tomb of snow, topped with a stark cross, was all that marked the remote spot in the Antarctic emptiness which has not been seen for over 100 years. The grave site was quickly buried in drifting snow, while the tent and bodies have been migrating downward into the ice under the weight of accumulating snow and seaward with the ice shelf toward the Ross Sea. A more permanent monument to Scott and his men was erected on Observation Hill near McMurdo Station, but given time, it is likely that, encased deep within an iceberg, the bodies of Scott, Bowers, and Wilson will slowly drift away out to sea.

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7. The Tomb of Enrique Torres Belón
LAMPA, PERU
Tomb of Enrique Torres Belón
Inside Belón’s strange tomb. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user slsteinb)

Lampa is a small colonial town with all the provincial charms of a 16th century Peruvian town, but what stands out the most is its enormous church, the Iglesia Santiago Apóstol. Connected to the church is Enrique Torres Belón’s freaky mausoleum, a silo of bones capped by an aluminum replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Belón, an engineer and architect, designed and built the tomb in the mid-20th century so that he and his wife could rest in peace surrounded by the earthly remains of the city’s forbearers. The otherworldly tribute is lined with hanging human skeletons and hundreds of skulls exhumed from the town’s cemetery and the crypts beneath the church. At the bottom is a black marble cross, whose lighting exaggerates the eerie shadows cast by the macabre wall hangings. The dramatic grave makes Belón seem very important—all Lampa’s founders are looking upon him for all eternity.

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8. Mrs. Chippy Monument
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
Mrs Chippy, resting on Harry McNeish’s grave.
Mrs. Chippy atop Harry McNeish’s grave. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user sandwichgirl)

Early polar exploration was a lonely business where sailors would be stuck on their ships for months, subsisting on barely edible rations among some of the world’s most inhospitable climates. However, the Shackleton expedition was made just a bit brighter by the presence of the ship’s cat, Mrs. Chippy. Harry McNeish was a carpenter on Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition to Antarctica, as well as a member of the long journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. He was also the primary caretaker of Mrs. Chippy, the cat that accompanied the men until the Endurance became trapped in pack ice. Unfortunately Mrs. Chippy was shot along with the sled dogs once the team became trapped in the ice. To honor the brave, beloved kitty, the New Zealand Antarctic Society added a bronze statue of Mrs. Chippy to McNeish’s grave in 2004.

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9. Circus Train Wreck Victims Memorial
COLUMBUS, GEORGIA
Circus memorial
The Big Top-shaped headstone for the victims of the circus train wreck. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user mom0ja)

The Con T. Kennedy Carnival Show had just wrapped up an unusually successful Harvest Festival week in the center of Atlanta. On the early morning of November 22, 1915, the 28-car Kennedy show train pulled out of the station with the entire company on board. Just a few hours later the show train collided with a steel passenger train. The crash was so powerful that the two engines fused together. While no one was killed on the sturdier passenger train, the Kennedy performers were not so lucky. “I saw those poor fellows pinned in their sleeping wagons and they could not get out,” one eyewitness recalled.

The fire raged for hours. When the smoke had finally cleared, bodies were discovered in the wreckage. At least 50 Kennedy workers were injured. Due to the transient nature of show people, the exact number and identity of those killed has never been determined. After a mass funeral at Columbus’s First Baptist Church, there was a procession to Riverdale Cemetery where the burials took place. Since the carnival band’s instruments had been burned, local Columbians loaned them instruments so they could send their comrades off in style.

In honor of his fallen employees, Con. Kennedy erected an appropriately circus-y monument in Columbus’ Riverdale Cemetery, and then he and the rest of his remaining crew headed back down the long, hard, show business road.

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10. The Grave of Tom Thumb
TATTERSHALL, ENGLAND
The Grave of Tom Thumb
The diminutive grave of Tom Thumb. (Photo: Thozza/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Nestled in the quaint Lincolnshire countryside is the village of Tattershall where, according to legend, the remains of a miniature folk hero can still be found. Visitors who step inside the town’s 16th century church will find a tiny grave marker, adorned with flowers and bearing the name Tom Thumb. He was reputedly just over 18 inches tall and lived to the ripe old age of 101 when he passed away in 1620.

It’s difficult to pick fact from fiction because Tom Thumb has been a common character in English folklore for hundreds of years, with the first written examples of his escapades appearing in the early 1500s. Traditionally, the character of Tom Thumb was a canny, cunning boy who used his size to trick and beguile foolish people. There are rumours that the Tom Thumb buried at Tattershall was popular with the King’s court and often visited London. Whether or not this is true and whether or not a man named Tom Thumb really is buried in that small church, it’s safe to say that his story has become forever intertwined with wider folklore. This charming little grave is now part of that.

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11. William G. Bruce’s Grave
MONT VERNON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
William G. Bruce Grave
The hound who guards the grave of William G. Bruce. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user GregBoggis)

William G. Bruce’s family had deep roots in the Town of Mont Vernon. He was an avid hunter and suffered a grave wound while hunting alone in 1883. He died the same day of his accident, but not before his wife Augusta Whittemore Bruce was rushed to his deathbed. William Bruce was industrious and frugal in life and left his wife a substantial sum of money. Augusta Bruce used some of this inherited wealth to commission noted monument maker Peter Brennan to craft a fitting memorial for her departed husband.

The book Lives Once Lived Here contains a facsimile of a ledger page that reveals Mrs. Bruce paid $35.00 each for the two headstones for her and her husband and $145.00 for the granite dog (a couple thousand in today’s dollars), who has remained faithfully by his master’s side in perpetual vigilance as his stone guardian in the afterlife.

miss-baker

12. The Grave of Miss Baker
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA
Miss Baker’s Headstone
Miss Baker’s grave, topped with bananas from visitors. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user treytatum)

Miss Baker, a monkey purchased by NASA from a Miami pet shop, was the first primate to return alive from space. She and another monkey, Miss Able, were fitted with adorable little caps and jackets to wear into space and crammed into less than adorable metal monitoring capsules. Then in the wee hours of May 28, 1959, the duo were placed into a Jupiter rocket and shot 300 miles into the sky. The flight only lasted 16 minutes, over half of which consisted of weightlessness, and the rocket landed safely, for the first time, in the Atlantic Ocean.

She retired to the Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola where she was married to another monkey, Big George. Miss Baker died of kidney failure in 1984 at the age of 27, earning her the secondary honor of being the longest lived squirrel monkey on record. She has the honor of being buried in a grave outside of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama and given a proper headstone next to her first husband. The grave is located in the center’s parking lot, but admirers and fans of the little astronaut still come by and leave bananas on her headstone.

jane

13. The Tomb of Jane Griffith
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
To Jane, My Wife.
“To Jane my wife.” (Photo: Atlas Obscura user Luke J. Spencer)

Jane Griffith’s grave depicts a commonplace domestic scene with a tragically sorrowful ending. Charles Griffith says goodbye to his wife Jane on the footsteps of their brownstone on 109 West 13th Street. It is the morning of August 3rd, 1857, and he is about to leave for a typical day’s work, starting with a commute on the 6th Avenue horse trolley which waits on the corner. When Charles returned home from work, he found his wife dead from heart failure.

The artist’s detail is extraordinary, from the iron fencing to their pet dog waiting on the top step of the brownstone. Simply titled to “Jane my Wife,” the monument captures poignantly the morning Charles said farewell to his wife without knowing that it was for the last time.

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14. Hi Jolly Monument
QUARTZSITE, ARIZONA

The grave of the U.S. government’s first official camel rider. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user Avoiding Regret)

During the mid-1800s when much of the southwest of America was still uninhabited desert, the government decided they would deal with the terrain like the desert dwellers of the Middle East and hire camel drivers, such as Hi Jolly, to carry their goods across the arid terrain. He was born Philip Tedro in Syria, converted to Islam and changed his name to Hadji Ali, which the Americans of the U.S. Calvary pronounced as “Hi Jolly.” They contracted him to be the first member of the experimental Army Camel Corps. Jolly stood out from the rest of the riders for both his ambition and his cantankerous attitude.

Eventually the camel corps was disbanded after it was found that the much larger camels spooked the native livestock and horses. Jolly remained in the states before passing away in Arizona in 1902. Today his grave is marked by a stony pyramid that is topped by an etched metal camel.

beard

15. Grave of Joseph Palmer
LEOMINSTER, MASSACHUSETTS
Joseph Palmer’s grave
“Persecuted for wearing the beard.” (Photo: Atlas Obscura user kensears37)

Joseph Palmer began wearing a beard in the 1820s, in spite of the fact that beards had been out of fashion for nearly a century. Palmer was considered by most all in his small town to be slovenly and ungodly. He was even criticized by his local preacher for communing with the devil, famously responding to the accusation, “…if I remember correctly, Jesus wore a beard not unlike mine.”

In May of 1830, Palmer was attacked by four men outside of a hotel in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Armed with razors and scissors, the men attempted to forcibly shave Palmer’s face, but the bewhiskered man stabbed two of his attackers with a pocketknife, and was subsequently arrested for assault. He could have avoided jail by paying a fine and court fees, but Palmer refused, maintaining his innocence, and more importantly his right to a glorious beard. He was subsequently jailed for 15 months, including time in solitary confinement.

Upon leaving prison, Palmer joined the Fruitlands utopian community in nearby Harvard, Massachusetts after being influenced by his friendship with fellow Fruitlander, Louisa May Alcott, who wrote a character based on him. Palmer died in 1865 and his tombstone displays a portrait of him with a long beard, a final act of rebellion.

merchant

16. Merchant Ball
MARION, OHIO
Merchant Ball
The mysterious Merchant ball. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user markallender)

The Merchant family were prominent industrialists in Ohio, and when they erected this massive sphere in 1896 to mark the grave of Charles Merchant it matched the style and fortitude of the clan. The giant granite ball was placed atop a stone plinth and polished and stained to a fine shine, except for the circle where the ball rested on its stand. Within a few years of its installation the sphere had mysteriously begun to slowly rotate on its pedestal, eventually revealing the bald spot.

The estimated 5,200 pound ball had not been secured to the base, thinking the huge amount of friction would have simply held it in place. Several times, the Merchant descendants have attempted to right the sphere, once oven securing it with tar. Despite all this, the stone has managed to continue spinning on its pedestal. No one is quite sure why the sphere keeps moving, be it from imperceptible vibration or ghostly intervention as some would have it. But no matter the cause, the Merchant ball rolls on.

cage

17. Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb
The empty tomb, waiting for Nicolas Cage. (Photo: Britt Reints/CC BY 2.0)

There are plenty of pyramid tombs, but most date to the 19th century and earlier. This one is not only modern, but empty. Actor Nicolas Cage purchased a plot in the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and erected a stark, nine-foot-tall stone pyramid for himself. There is no name on the pyramid yet, but it is emblazoned with the Latin maxim, “Omni Ab Uno,” which translates to “Everything From One.” The actor himself has chosen to remain silent about his reasoning for the flamboyant tomb. Some speculate it’s an homage to the “National Treasure” movie franchise. Others think the pyramid is evidence of the strange actor’s ties to the probably-fictitious secret Illuminati society. The more paranormally minded suggest that the pyramid is where Cage will regenerate his immortal self.

Whatever his reasons, the Cage pyramid has already become an iconic part of the cemetery, much to the chagrin of many locals who are furious that he was able to obtain a plot in the cramped graveyard. Many have even accused the tomb of damaging or removing other centuries-old burials to make room.

collins

18. Grave of Harry L. Collins
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY
Grave of Harry L. Collins
The grave of Frito-Lay’s corporate magician, Harry L. Collins. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user Matt Blitz)

Harry Collins was a lifelong magic lover, and even performed in jazz musician Bob Crosby’s traveling USO show, “This Is The Army Show” during World War II. After serving, Collins returned to the United States, moved to the big city, and got a job as a salesmen at Frito-Lay, the purveyor of many a fine snack food. For the next twenty years, he was a Frito-Lay man by day and “Mr. Magic,” Louisville’s most popular magician, by night. He was so dedicated to both professions that the magic word for every one his tricks was “Frito-Lay!”

In 1970, Frito-Lay named Mr. Magic their official corporate magician. He traveled across the country and world, performing magic tricks and paying homage to corn chips. Now his effigy stands atop his grave, extending an arm to welcome visitors into his world of corn chips and wonder.

vista

19. Afterglow Vista
FRIDAY HARBOR, WASHINGTON
Afterglow Vista
“Afterglow Vista,” a fantastical mausoleum steeped in symbolism. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user thendaramarie)

Its formal name is McMillin Mausoleum, named for John S. McMillin, Freemason, Methodist, and lime works businessman. He combined all of these devotions when he constructed the epic mausoleum that would house the remains of he and his family’s remains, Afterglow Vista, the name which is actually placed on the stone arch leading to the burial site.

The so-called “mausoleum” is actually an open air rotunda with a huge limestone table in the middle. Around the table are thick stone chairs not only representing the members of the McMillin family, but actually containing their ashes and acting as headstones. This was meant to represent the family dinner table that the McMillins would rather around. There seems to be an empty space at the table and it is said that this was meant to represent the McMillin son who turned away from God. The table is circled by a six Roman columns and a single broken column which is said to represent the unfinished nature of man’s life. The columns were originally going to hold a brass dome over the table, but in the end the family opted to leave the site exposed to the elements. Even the steps leading up to the monument were numbered with Masonic significance to represent the stages of life.

buck

20. Cursed Memorial of Colonel Buck
BUCKSPORT, MAINE
John Buck Memorial
The cursed stain on the Buck memorial. (Photo: Courtesy of J.W. Ocker)

Bucksport’s founder, Colonel Jonathan Buck, had a witch executed in the town’s early days. Before she died, she cursed Buck to always bear the mark of that deed. One story says that while she was burning at the stake, her leg fell from her body and into the crowd, and this stain has appeared to remind everyone of the gruesome event. Whatever the story, Bucksport is left with a pointy stocking-shaped stain on an obelisk of granite in a hilltop graveyard on Main Street, dedicated to the founder of the town. It hangs right below his name like a stocking on a fireplace.

jedi

21. Gravesite of Utah’s First Jedi Priest
WEST VALLEY CITY, UTAH
Head Stone of the First Ordained Jedi in Utah
“May the force be with you–always.” (Photo: Atlas Obscura user jbbutcher79)

In sleepy Valley View Memorial Park there is a treasure the first of its kind in Utah. Hidden in the Southwest corner of the cemetery is an onyx-colored plaque in the ground that is hard to ignore. It reads, “Steven Allan Ford April 7, 1980-September 7, 2010 MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU–ALWAYS.” This is no overzealous fan, but indeed the resting place of someone remarkable: Steven Ford, the first ordained Jedi priest in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah.

wooldridge_monuments

22. The Strange Procession Which Never Moves
MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY
Wooldridge Monuments and their thousand-yard stare
Colonel Woolridge’s private statuary. (Photo: C. Bedford Crenshaw/Public Domain)

This might look like a small, private cemetery within Maplewood Cemetery, but it is actually the grave of just one man, Colonel Henry G. Wooldridge. It was built over the course of seven years until Wooldridge’s own death in 1899, and commemorates family members and other loved ones Wooldridge lost over the course of his lifetime. The figures include his mother and sisters and his horse named Fop.

Prompted by no one but his own aching heart, the man spent his last years pouring his fortune into immortalizing all that was irretrievably lost in stunning fashion. After more than a century of visitation by a public fascinated by the spectacle, the site has acquired an unofficial, completely disconcerting name: “The Strange Procession Which Never Moves.”

pilot

23. Ämari Pilots Cemetery
ÄMARI, ESTONIA
Ämari Pilots’ Cemetery
The grave of an Estonian pilot. (Photo: Robert Treufeldt/CC BY-SA 3.0 ee)

Tucked into the scrubby woods near Estonia’s Ämari Air Base is a pilot’s graveyard where Soviet airmen are buried beneath the fins of the very aircraft they likely died in. While some of the graves are crude and simple affairs, the graves of the many of the military pilots are topped with actual tail fins from Russian aircraft. These are dedicated to pilots who flew and died when Estonia was part of the Eastern Bloc until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The stark opposition and funereal atmosphere turn the site into a haunting memorial not just to the fighting men buried at the site, but for Estonia’s past as well.

angel

24. The Haserot Angel
CLEVELAND, OHIO
The Angel of Death Victorious
The weeping angel on Francis Haserot’s tomb. (Photo: Ian MacQueen/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Perhaps the most famous statue at Lakeview Cemetery is “The Angel of Death Victorious” seated on the marble gravestone of one Francis Haserot. The life-size bronze angel holds an upside-down torch, a symbol of life extinguished. Perhaps its most unsettling feature, however, is how the statue appears to be weeping black tears at all times. These “tears” formed over time, an effect of the aging bronze combined with the impressive sculpting work of the piece itself. This lacrimal feature attracts a number of visitors and tourists each year.

lying-down

25. The Recumbent Effigy of Victor Noir
PARIS, FRANCE

Victor Noir’s romantic effigy in Père Lachaise Cemetery. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user allison)

Victor Noir was a 19th-century political journalist shot in a duel by Prince Pierre Bonaparte in 1870. He became a symbol of the imperial injustice and a martyr for the Republic. More than one hundred thousand people came to his funeral, where frenetic weeping was mixed with calls for insurrection. After the downfall of the Second Empire, Victor Noir’s remains were transferred to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and a bronze effigy was commissioned.

Noir was depicted as an elegant man, lying dead on the floor after the impact of the lethal bullet, his top hat tipped over on his side. Dalou chose to represent Noir in a very realistic way, his face having the detailed quality of a cast death mask. However, another detail of Noir’s anatomy would soon get more attention than the sober realism of the memorial bronze.

Victor’s grave remains one of the most popular at Père Lachaise, but not because of his political symbolism. Generations of women have come to kiss his lips and rub his bulge, believing it will bring good luck. After a century and a half of this action, Victor Noir’s lips and groin are shiny and nickel-clean, while the rest of his body presents the greenish tone of oxidized bronze.

rope-walker

26. The Grave of Rope Walker
CORSICANA, TEXAS
A detail of his original headstone.
The grave of the peg-legged Jewish rope walker. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user seh256)

It’s not his name, but rather his profession. Rope Walker was a peg-legged tightrope walker who died in 1884, when he fell from a rope stretched across one of the town’s main streets with an iron stove strapped to his back. He asked for a rabbi as he was dying, but he did not reveal his name. Using the scant information they had about his, the townspeople buried him as “Rope Walker” in the Hebrew Cemetery of Corsicana.

minerva

28. Minerva in Green-Wood Cemetery
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Minerva waves to Lady Liberty from Battle Hill. (Photo: Atlas Obscura user allison)

Life-sized monuments are not so uncommon, but this one is half of a statue friendship. In 1920, Charles M. Higgins, an Irish immigrant and local history buff built an altar on Battle Hill to the long-slighted Revolutionary War Battle of Long Island, the first major battle after the Declaration of Independence. He chose to top the monument with a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. As if to communicate between past and present, Minerva’s outstretched arm reciprocated exactly 3.5 miles away by the Statue of Liberty’s raised torch. Their friendship has stood the test of time (and condo development) and their line of sight to each other remains unobstructed.

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