In my travels, the quest for the perfect burial is sought by curious kings and paupers in just about every culture and most religions all over the world. Throughout history, nature has taught us that everyone wants to out do the guy next to him. So what curious ways do people desire to be laid to rest?
In our world, full body burial and cremation are the usual ways to go, but what happens after the fires cool and the casket has been closed? What curious, bizarre, and completely awkward happenings go on once the mourners have control? Earlier, I talked about Sky Burials in Tibet where the body is used in the “cycle of life” since it was merely a vessel for your transcendent soul. I even discussed the Sedlec Ossuary which is decorated in human remains. If you thought that was curious wait until you see what other countries, cultures, and just the unusual everyday person has in store for the afterlife!
1. The Hallstatt Ossuary
Hallstatt is not what one would call a “normal” ossuary (if by any means you believe them to be normal at all!) Instead of full skeletons or decorations made from human remains, Hallstatt prefers to keep the most recognized part…the skull.
Hallstatt, located in Austria is known by many as the world’s oldest continuous human settlement. So you can imagine cemeteries and tombs getting rather over crowded over the centuries. Their solution? Grave rentals! That’s right! A body would be buried for about 10 to 15 years and then dug up to make room for another body. In order to respect the dead, the skull was taken, bleached in the sun until it was white, then placed in the ossuary with others.
What makes this ossuary even more unusual than just having skulls stacked against the walls is the strange custom family members started to avoid putting fresh flowers on the skulls in tribute. Why not painted flowers and decoration directly on to the skull so it can always be there…even when they could not make it to the ossuary to lay real flowers out? This almost reminds me of the Dia de los Muertos skulls of Mexico only with a more Germanic flare!
To be perfectly frank, cremation has (since the 60’s) been preferred over burial. However, if you still wish to reside in the ossuary it is quite simple! Just make a request beforehand…seeing as it would be quite odd if you did so afterwards…and you too shall have your place in this curiously macabre resting place.
2. Crypt of the Capuchins and the Capuchin Catacombs
By far the most bizarre, the most understated, and the most curious of all crypts I have seen! I am not even exaggerating! If you look up bizarre crypts, this will probably be the first thing shown! This is a rather unique ossuary as it not only contains the remains of humans arranged in the Baroque style…but the mummified remains of Capuchin friars are nailed to the walls and positioned to appear as if they are doing their everyday jobs.
The crypt was erected by Pope Urban VIII and since has obtained over 4000 remains of friars who remind you of the journey one must make on this Earth. On an plaque in the Crypt of 3 Skeletons it reads “What you are now we used to be, what we are now you will be.” Cheery thoughts.
The Capuchin Catacombs in Sicily are a little different. Here, everyone who wants to be included in the crypt can join. It’s not a club, but it is exclusive. The last burial was a young girl named Rosalia. She is one of the most perfectly preserved bodies in the world. She looks as if she is only sleeping! This crypt hold double the bodies of the crypt in Rome and shows everyday people in comfortable and sometimes very curious gruesome-like settings.
3. The Hanging Coffins
There is actually a very simple explanation for this curious type of burial that takes place in many parts of China and the Philippines: keep out of reach of beasts…oh! and to bless the soul. The practice is easy enough to explain but harder to actually pinpoint. The coffin is either place high on a cliffs edge out of reach of animals, on a cave opening, or placed on wooden supports directly on the side of a mountain giving them the “hanging” effect.
4. The Tomb of Georges Rodenbach
I needed to mention this particular grave here because of it’s extraordinary appearance! Rodenbach was a French symbolist and novelist at the end of the 19th century. Don’t know about him? You might remember his name once you see his grave! His tomb is so spectacular looking that it deserves merit. He would be a formidable thing to come across in the middle of the night!
5. China’s Lost Tomb
This is a curious little place since this is a tomb that no one alive has ever seen before. The terracotta warriors found in China buried for centuries was thought to be both a marker and perhaps the tomb of the first emperor of China himself! Alas, all we really have to go on for the existence of this tomb are those warriors (an army fit for China!), myth, and historical speculation!
Though I can find no image or diagram, one theory is that the tomb was supposed to be in an enormous mound with a miniature model of the kings heavenly palace complete with liquid mercury canals and a star lit sky of the cosmos above on the ceiling!
6. The Tomb of Smithson
I truly have seen this with my own eyes. It’s not really the tomb itself that is impressive. It’s the location and reputation that make this an interesting burial site! James Smithson, as some of you might not know, was the reason why America has the Smithsonian Museums. Even though Smithson never visited the new nation, he left his fortune to the infant country to help better the world through knowledge…how this happened was up to Congress.
Then Alexander Graham Bell moved his tomb from Genoa to Washington D.C. However, due to the strange nature of his request and the fact that his tomb is in Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C., his tomb is said to have a unique feature…snakes! Now, no one can be right or wrong since there could very well be snakes in his tomb…so let the mystery continue!
7. King Tut’s Tomb
How could I talk about wondrous burials without mentioning King Tut? I suppose that since it has been mentioned, hypothesized, and exonerated for so many years by so many people, many choose to overlook it. “It’s overdone”, I hear that a lot! Yet, I feel compelled to give this famous pharaoh his due credit. He is famous for one reason…his tomb was found intact! Everything was there. Gold, statues, Tut himself! This was rare in a time when looters had already taken their toll on Egyptian tombs. But it was his “curse” that generated real controversy!
Lord Carnarvon, the man who funded the dig, died of an infected mosquito bite. At that moment, all the lights in Cairo went out! Again, the lights around Cairo still frequently go out…even today, but it is rather curious!
I believe this post has sparked a few new ideas for later ones! After researching and remembering so many tales and historical facts, I was able to accumulate many other articles for the future! History…it still inspires!!