Three days in a row I arrived at Cemetery Number One too late, mostly due to people giving me inaccurate closing times. When I finally got a chance to walk in, it was like passing through history. Except for the part Nicolas Cage destroyed.
Some things I learned about New Orleans while in the cemetery:
- The people of New Orleans hate talking about Katrina (and responding to misinformation).
- People who love history and know the cemetery hate it when idiots vandalize the cemetery.
- New Orleans hates Nick Cage.
Although traditional burials were attempted in New Orleans early on, frequent floods meant frequent floating bodies, so the city shifted to above-ground tombs. Here we see a double-decker awaiting new inhabitants.
Interestingly, these are rarely solitary affairs and were not meant to lie undisturbed, as most modern Americans might believe graves should be. Instead, family tombs were often used, with one body placed in, left to rot, then pushed back into a pit under the cemetery when it was time for another family member to be laid to rest. Often these tombs were stacked, sometimes five or six dead guys high.
There’s naturally a lot of legends and superstitions surrounding the old cemeteries of New Orleans, not the least of which are those connected to theVoodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Sadly, rumors and hearsay have led to misguided tourists vandalizing various tombs, often believing one tomb or another must be hers. The faux superstition (I say this as every local I spoke to seemed to think it was a thing tourists believed the locals believed) seems to be that if one defaces an eternal resting place with three Xs, turns around while making a wish, that presumably the wish will come true. And I’m sure without any appropriately Monkey Paw-style irony either. Many tour guides take it upon themsleves to clean up after the tourists, including throwing away any “offerings” (usually discarded trash) left behind.
Of course, the biggest controversy seems to be that of Nicolas Cage. It seems the man-who-would-be-Superman-if-he-could-have negotiated and bought a few plots in the cemetery, destroying some hundred-year-old tombs in the process, and built himself a gaudy pyramid emblazoned with the words, “Omnia Ab Uno,” which I overheard a tourguide suggest might be Latin for “I’m an asshole.”