Straddlin’ the Fence: Halloween fun with tombstones

Jean Schwieder

Halloween seems to have a lot to do with ghosts and goblins and tombstones and death.

But I have a feeling of peace and restfulness when I visit a cemetery. I love to just walk around and read the tombstones, wonder about the people. I feel sadness when I see the markers for children, especially more than one child belonging to the parents, who are buried close by. I recognize the dates on some as corresponding to the flu epidemic in the early 1900s when so many people died. I wonder how parents can handle losing not just one but three or four children close to the same time.

One thing I enjoy is reading the inscriptions on tombstones. Most are loving and kind, some give names of children, some mention what the person died of. And then there are the humorous ones. Our daughter Janna has always said that when she dies she wants “I Told You I Was Sick” put right on her tombstone.

I haven’t really found any humorous tombstones in my walking through cemeteries, but going to my favorite research place, I’ve found some good ones. Here are a few I found:

• Albany, N.Y.: “Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.”

• Thurmont, Md.: “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.”

• London, England: “Here lies Ann Mann, who lived an old maid but died an old Mann.”

• Ruidoso, N.M.: “Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon him for not rising.”

• A lawyer’s epitaph in England: “Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.”

• On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket, Mass.: “Under the sod and under the trees, Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there’s only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.”

• On Margaret Daniel’s grave in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Va.: “She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her.”

• In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England: “Jonathan Fiddle – He went out of tune.”

• Fun with names with Owen Moore in Battersea, London, England: “Gone away, Owin’ more, Than he could pay.”

• Tombstone, Ariz.: “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a .44, No Les no More.”

I don’t know if we have any haunted cemeteries around here, but there are claims of such in other areas. I’ve found a list of some haunted cemeteries and why they are considered thus:

• Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Ill., that has a female ghost they call “Resurrection Mary.” This ghost likes to hitch rides and then disappear.

• Toledo Ohio, Wolfinger Cemetery is known for an entire family that died within weeks of each other. It has been said that children are sometimes seen playing around their tombstones.

• Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, outside of Midlothian, Ill., is not taken care of and isolated. It is reported that ghosts have been seen there.

• Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Ill., has a limping boy in large overalls wandering among the headstones.

So on Halloween there just might be a few ghosts and goblins wandering the streets around our homes, evening some knocking on our doors. It is a fun time for children. My mother used to recite the poem “Little Orphant Annie” to us, not to scare us but as a story, or maybe to get us to mind. . I loved it and found a copy of it recently. Halloween is a good time for this one. It has four verses, but I’ve just included the first and fourth:

Little Orphant Annie

By James Whitcomb Riley

First verse:

Little Orphan Annie’s come to our house to stay.

An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,

An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep

An’ ,ale the fire, an’ bake the bread’ an’ ern her board-an’keep;

An’ all us other children, when the supper things is done,

We set around the kitchen fir an’ has the moistest fun

a-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,

An’ the Gobble-uns‘ll git you

Ef you




Second verse:

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,

An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs

His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,

An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!

An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,

An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;

But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:

Er’ the Gobble-uns‘ll git you

Ef you




Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at