Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Skinny Tie Halloween Special Part 1

Ooooooooooh, it's motherfucking Halloween!!!! Not that you could tell. By any stretch of the imagination Orlando just doesn't cut it as scare central unless you count the fact that you take your life in your hands every day you climb up on I-4. Interestingly we have Casadega, the psychic enclave just to our north, and a yearly Halloween bash that oozes over every single theme park in the area (which is...a lot). But all in all, Halloween just doesn't have that feeling as it did back when I was growing up. I mean, it is rather hard to trick or treat in a town where everyone lives in an apartment and the roadways are treacherous enough that you dare not let your kids out on their own. Luckily, I live near one of the spookiest places in all of Orlando...

Nestled between the East/West Expressway and the brick streets of downtown, Greenwood Cemetery is the resting place of Orlando's first families and it should be noted, one of the most haunted spots in O-Town (that's what all the cool kids call Orlando; that and Whore-Lando).

After I first moved to the downtown area I went out to survey the land trying to locate my nearest gas station, Publix, dry cleaner, McDonald' know, the essentials. It wasn't for me trying to find it that stumbled upon Greenwood Cemetery with its rolling green hills, it sort of found me. I couldn't have missed it if I tried though, it is practically within zombie attack distance from my apartment. This isn't surprising though as I have always been "too close" to a cemetery every place that I have lived and well, you all know my feelings toward the "Z" word.

During the day though, Greenwood Cemetery is a very lovely place. It has nicely kept grounds with gigantic Live Oak trees and quaint twisting thouroghfares. And yes, even though the sign states that no pets are allowed, I find that it is a perfectly fine spot to walk the dog. Given the fact that not many people living or dead (thank God) are seen visiting the park, it is also a very quite place to go if you ever need some down time or just want to roam and take in the artwork on the tombstones or gander at the very historic names of the residents of Greenwood Cemetery.

I apologize if you are not from this area but for those of you who have driven anywhere downtown, the names on some of the graves should ring a bell to you: Joseph Bumby, Mayor Mahlon Gore, Cassius Boone (Great-Grandson of Daniel Boone), Mayor Capt. James Parramore, Mayor Bob Carr, Mayor Beardall, T. G. Lee, David Lockhart, Samuel Robinson, Elijah Hand, Carey Hand, Joe Tinker...Batman. Yes, Batman!

Although I could not find a Bruce Wayne living in Orlando, the grave certainly gave off an austere presence and commanded my upmost respect.

The story of Greenwood Cemetery is exceptionally ripe with textbook examples of why it should very well be the most haunted place on earth short of being the former site of some ancient druidic society. In 1892, the city of Orlando purchased the site which had been named Greenwood Cemetery from its private owners for $3000. At the same time, the city bought an additional 14 acres adjacent to the cemetery. This made a total of 60 acres. At the time, most graves were moved from downtown graveyards and other family plots to Greenwood.

Did I mention that the downtown graveyard referred to above was moved to make way for a church? (hence the name Church Street for all you locals) Oh yeah, it's classic Hollywood exorcist/poltergeist material in the making. It seems that this transaction was so hastily done that not until they built the foundations for the church that they found - Oopsie! not all of the graves had been moved! Couple this with the fact that the relocated bodies in Greenwood were lost after some time due to the fact that the simple wooden grave markers that were used had deteriorated. You can also attribute any ghostly activity to the dense Civil War burials and...get ready for it, Baby Land area. Yes, I said Baby Land. Trust me people, even in daylight this is one freaky section of the cemetery.

Yes, Greenwood has all the typical visual ephemeria that lends itself to tales of restless spirits whether the be real or not. There's the ubiquitous dead tree, the hanging spanish moss (suposedly a sign of a haunted place), the barely readable-because-it's-so-old headstone and the ominous creepy mausoleum. All of this is well and good but it is the other crap (with all due respect) that mixes in with the old to make this one heck of a visual romp!

For historical referrence (and sorry to bore you) here is a recounting of Greenwood's history from its architect and founder, Mr. Samuel Robinson as told to the Orlando Reporter-Star back in 1915, before it became the Sentinel and spent all its time slamming Disney.

"Some time since, Mr. C. A. Boone and I, who are the only original stockholders of the Orlando Cemetery Company who now live in Florida, petitioned the Honorable City Council of Orlando to name said cemetery "Greenwood." After the publication in the newspapers of a request that names be sent to the council for consideration, the Honorable Council finally decided upon the name which we proposed.

In 1875, the Town of Orlando was incorporated. It took all of the twenty-five voters living in the two miles square to legally incorporate. The importance of a large burial ground was not contemplated and interments were made in many places in this vicinity. Some were taken to Conway, some also to Powell's, south of Orlando, and some to the Beasley plot six miles west of Orlando. In the north part of Orlando, overlooking Highland lake, many burials were made, but there is now nothing left there to show a single grave. Many were buried north of a building which stood on the north side of Church Street in the east part of the Tremont hotel yard. I think that there is not a vestige of anything left that will show where Samuel Russ and many others were buried. The building above referred to was used as a church and schoolhouse, and was the means of the street being called 'Church Street.'

I designed, surveyed and platted the cemetery, and it has been pronounced by experts as being one of the best original designs.The City of Lakeland, Florida copied my design in laying out their cemetery last year.In 1911, the boundaries of the city were changed by an act of the legislature, so as to include the forty acres owned by the city. The city management of the cemetery has been good, and the present council are very ably upbuilding and beautifying Greenwood.

Respectfully submitted,

Samuel A. Robinson, September 14, 1915"

I have not seen any orbs appear in my photos, encountered any apparitions, nor have I felt anyone watching me aside from the groundskeeper making sure that Olive didn't go #2 on T.G. Lee's grave. I did take a few really neat photos that I would like to share with you now. Happy Halloween!

The detail at Greenwood is amazing, beautiful and creepy all at the same time.

"I want to be laid next to Ma"...priceless sentiments like this are everywhere. Click to Enlarge.

I just liked the graphic in the middle. Reminds me of a graphic they would use in an ad for a 1950's community.

I was drawn to this interesting bit of architecture.

More of it.

1. a column. 2. Please don't tell me that a 166 year old main is still alive and kicking in Orlando. Come to think of it, I might have been behind him at Publix when he was trying to use a check. Fred is a strange guy for picking that quote for his grave. Doesn't bode well for him. Click to Enlarge.

Another odd sight. This was taken in August!!!

I have to tell you seeing this was profoundly intriguing.

People in Florida are cool.

A creepy Mausoleum.


Stairway to Heaven?

Greenwood Cemetery, 1603 Greenwood Street, Orlando

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