Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA
Yo, my folks were mildly discomforted that I blogged about my killer Thanksgiving hangover, so this week I think I gotta switch things up and write about 200 acres of human remains instead. #truth
Before diving in, let's take a quick moment to set the mood and tune to the very real 'Gothic / Cold Wave / Dark Wave / New Wave / Synth / Post Punk / Witch House' Spotify playlist. All set? Everybody feelin' your inner goth? Got your Robert Smith sadface on? Cool cool cool. Let's do this:
I've been taking long walks inside Homewood Cemetery for the better part of two years now, and it never fails to dazzle. Established in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 1878, these tranquil resting grounds are truly something to behold. It's not uncommon to see a herd of whitetail deer grazing along the grassy slopes, or a rafter of wild turkeys gobbling amongst themselves between the endless rows of headstones. Just inside the Dallas Avenue entrance, one might choose to delight in the music of frogs while reflecting about life (and death) alongside the spring-fed pond. Simply pastoral, I tell you! One of the best parts about this place is that dog aren't allowed. I happen to love dogs, but it's also totally fair for cemeteries to be poo-free zones. Also, let's just be honest: most dog owners are jackasses, myself included! This simple rule makes for a quiet oasis smack-dab inside a very residential area. Excellent for solitary strolls, jogs, moonlight streaking, etc.
Foggy mornings in late autumn make for perfectly spooky adventures in the boneyard. There's hardly another living soul around (ha!), and the atmospheric vibe is just, well, to die for. You need to be an early riser though, 'cause that fog tends to dissipate real quick, just like a ghostly spirit. Aaaand that right there was me trying my hand at cemetery humor. Oh, please, hold your applause.
Something about this place keeps drawing me back, and I find myself traversing these haunted hills at least once a week. There are so many cool cemeteries around Pittsburgh, but Homewood is absolutely my fave. I can't seem to get enough.
Of course, it's worth noting that there are several quite recognizable souls who have, er, taken up residence inside Homewood Cemetery. Thanks to the all-knowing Wikipedia, we know that a few of them are:
Chuck Cooper (1926-1984), First African-American to be drafted into the NBA
Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), Industrialist, financier, union-buster, and art patron. Frick left a will in which he bequeathed 150 acres of undeveloped land to the City of Pittsburgh for use as a public park, together with a $2 million trust fund to assist with the maintenance of Frick Park, which opened in 1927.
Henry P. Ford (1837–1905), Mayor of Pittsburgh, 1896–1899
Erroll Garner (1921–1977), Jazz pianist and composer
Teenie Harris (1908–1998), Photographer
Henry John Heinz (1844-1919), was an American entrepreneur who founded the H. J. Heinz Company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Heinz developed his business into a national company which made more than 60 food products; one of its first was tomato ketchup. Really fun fact: Heinz's second cousin was a guy named Frederick Trump, who happens to be Donald J. Trump's paternal grandfather. It's a small world after all....
H. John Heinz III (1938–1991), Heinz served in the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977, and in the United States Senate from 1977 until he was killed in a plane crash in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania in 1991. Interesting tidbit: Heinz's widow, Teresa, has been married to that dude John Kerry for the past few decades.
There is something straight up magical about cemetery deer, dontcha think? I mean, they might actually be ghosts. We just don't know! Homewood has a healthy population of whitetail deer, and you will almost always see a few of them on any given visit to the grounds. Not only are these majestic creatures not hunted, but they have also become very used to human presence (living and dead). But that certainly doesn't mean you should approach them, cemetery deer (or, ghosts?!) need their space too.
Cemeteries continue to both fascinate me and weird me out. They are surely beautiful, but where in the world did we westerners get the idea that pumping corpses full of chemicals, dressing them up, stuffing them in a box, and burying them six feet under was the ideal way to lay our loved ones to rest? Perhaps you have been pondering on similar questions, so allow me to suggest some light reading:
If you haven't heard of Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, author, blogger, and YouTube personality known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices, please please please do yourself a favor and check her out. It's about damn time someone spoke up about the, frankly, bizarre views many people have about death. Both of her books are absolutely lovely (albeit, not for the faint of heart) and would make wonderful xmas gifts for that special weirdo in your life.
Until next time, friends!
PS: If you actually took the time to put on that Spotify playlist I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you actually deserve a medal and we definitely need to become BFFs.