• Wendy Moxley Roe

Memento Mori : What is a Taphophile??? Tombstone Travels Inaugural Guest Blog

Today's Blog is the first in a line of guest blogs that we will be featuring on Tombstone Travels. We have met many wonderful people on our cemetery journey. We wanted to share some of the incredible work in and around our cemeteries across the country. We hope they inspire you as they did us <3

Our Inaugural guest blog is brought to you by incomparable Windy Rudnicki of Memento Mori Images.

We met Windy on February 3, 2013 in Bachelors Grove Cemetery. How do I remember the exact date? Three reasons. First, we met in our beloved Grove. Second there was a foot of snow on the ground, it was still snowing and we were the only ones taking pictures in a cemetery! Third, my Baltimore Ravens won the Superbowl that night!!

I have admired her work ever since. She introduced me to the word Taphophile back then and here she is sharing with you a fantastic look at what that word truly means!! She was one of the first cemetery friends I made and we are honored to have her as our first guest blogger!!!

“I am a Taphophile.”

There, I said it.

If you were to speak to some of my family or casual acquaintances, they would tell you that being a taphophile means I like to hang out in cemeteries all the time. They might also tell you that I am obsessed with death, which in their minds is pretty creepy. By now I’m sure, a picture of me is being conjured up in your mind. A pale girl who never smiles and who dresses from head to toe in black and listens to alternative music.

Well, you aren’t completely wrong, I do love to hang out in cemeteries. But the rest of the description couldn’t be any further from the truth!

So, what exactly is a taphophile? Here is a formal definition for you. Taphophile. Noun. (plural taphophiles) A person who is interested in cemeteries, funerals and gravestones and art. Also referred to as a Tombstone Tourist. The prefix comes from “taphos” which in Greek means tomb or sepulchre. “phile” added onto the end basically means an affinity for.

Here is a fun little meme I created to address the misconceptions that come with telling people you are a true taphophile. In fact, check out the bottom right hand picture. That’s me with my camera in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Notice the color I am wearing? You got it, bright pink!

As a tombstone tourist, I have traveled to approximately 38 states in the U.S. documenting and exploring cemeteries. This led to my photography business, Memento Mori Images, which celebrates fine art and unique imagery found within America’s amazing cemeteries

The piece to the left is known as the Bored Angel. She is found in Barre, Vermont, the Granite capital of the US. The area is home to the massive Rock Of Ages Quarry.

Isn’t she simply spectacular! Carved by an Italian master stone carver named Louis Brusa. She is a museum quality statue sitting right inside an open-air cemetery for all to appreciate. Want a good story? Brusa who knew he was dying, would also sculpt his very own memorial known as “The Dying Man.” It portrayed the artist lying in the lap of a woman. The only problem is that many began to whisper, saying that the woman was his lover… not his wife!

To the right is an intriguing copper work known as Black Agnes. It was created by Austrian sculptor Karl Bitter. Bitter worked from a studio in New Jersey. The statue is bestowed with the name “Thanatos” (Greek for the word “death”).  Sit on her lap and just you may regret it! She is notoriously cursed. Death is said to seek out those who tempt her within 7 days. Is it true you ask? I don’t know, I wasn’t silly enough to try it!!

Cemetery views like the ones below, offer an abundance of natural beauty, as well as stunning artwork. The first photo is a view of Bonaventure Cemetery which was once a stately plantation in Georgia. The ancient oaks drip with heavy curtains of Spanish Moss giving visitors a one of a kind cemetery experience. I find the history of this land quite fascinating.

The second photo was taken in a dark and

foggy New England cemetery full of secrets...

Here you will learn the tale of an illicit

love affair between the daughter of a prominent rising Senator on the political stage and an infamous actor. But not

just any actor, a man who would completely change the course of American history forever, one fateful evening.

It was said that a photograph of young

Lucy Hale was found in the pocket of

John Wilkes Booth the night his body

was searched. Their romance had been

kept a secret from Lucy’s family. It was

said that Lucy had captured the heart

of the playboy actor. To the shock of all,

the pair had intended to run away and marry.

So as you can see, there are more than a few great reasons to be a Tombstone Tourist. But, are you an actual Taphophile?

Take my Taph-Test and find out for yourself by answering YES or NO.

Do different time periods in history interest you?

Do you like to travel?

Are you an active person who puts value on walking for your health?

Do you love collecting different colored rocks at the beach?

You enjoy a good love story that requires a box of tissues to be nearby.

Do you find paranormal shows entertaining?

You have gone to an art museum or two.

Do you like researching and solving mysteries?

Are you family oriented and familiar with your genealogy?

Do foreign cultures and rituals fascinate you?

Do you like to take photos?

OK, tally up the YES answers. If you said YES to 2 or more of these statements, Congratulations! You have the makings of a taphophile! Again, a true taphophile is not necessarily a person obsessed with death. In my case for instance, it’s quite the opposite, I work as a Fire Fighter/EMT. I do everything in my power to fight off death!

My business name - Memento Mori, is Latin for “Remember Death.” It is a (often stern) reminder to live while you can because life is so very precious and short. For some reason that answer always throws people. Apparently, our Puritan forefathers used Death Head imagery on gravestones in an effort to “Scare Because They Care.”

A taphophile maybe a history buff, possibly even a period reenactor. They are interested in geology and cultural anthropology. Many taphophiles love to research new things while others are hard-core genealogists, connecting the family dots for fun. A few like to decode symbols. Some love folklore and are attracted to tales of the paranormal. For me, I love a good picnic in the sun in a beautiful garden cemetery after a long cold winter season. There are many reasons people love cemeteries. You don’t have to be afraid to admit it anymore. Just remember you are in great company, there’s lots of us out there!

Windy Rudnicki

May 2019

All photos are by Memento Mori Images and the sole property of said owner.

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