Monday, March 24, 2014

Research in a Cemetery

One of the things I love about writing is the excuse to do interesting things in the name of research. Recently I wrote a story about a necromancer who spends considerable time in cemeteries. As I was writing, I sort of used generic cemetery details with the idea that I'd research the setting later.

Later came along a couple of weeks ago. I went to one of the older cemeteries in town to walk around and take some pictures. While I was writing, I somehow had it in mind that the fence around the cemetery would be huge and imposing. Maybe I've read too many stories about grave robbing, I dunno. Anyhow, I was surprised to find that it was actually short enough that a person could easily prop their hands on top and hop over. Not that I did that, mind you, I went during regular hours and drove in like a respectable person, but my characters do odd things. Ahem.

Anyhow, one of the first things I noticed was that there was a separate section for the Greek Orthodox Church. When I got home, I did some googling and found that quite a few Greeks ended up in Albuquerque with the intention of making money and going back home. I'm sure some ended up doing that, but apparently quite a few stayed in the Land of Entrapment.

A Woodman of the World tombstone
Some headstones also told where people were from. Folk came from Missouri, Greece, Germany. I wondered what brought them here. Was it the railroad? Did they end up here because of tuberculosis? Around the turn of the century, a lot of physicians sent their patients here because the altitude and dry air helped with the symptoms. In fact, one of the founding physicians for a local hospital ended up here because he had TB.

I also discovered that there is such a thing as The Woodmen of the World. Initially I thought maybe these were people who belonged to some sort of wood carving group, but it's actually sort of a philanthropic organization (and they don't carve wood, alas). They provide life insurance, give away tons of flags, and for a while they erected these elaborate tombstones. According to Wikipedia, they stopped erecting the more elaborate stones in the 1920's.

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