Haunting Saint John’s German Catholic Cemetery

Well fans of the bizzare, the unusual and the natural unatural, it’s been awhile since we have been able to make a post. The long beautiful summer days found us out and tired when we got home. The time and the need to get back to writing as the new year approcahes is calling me back to mine and Marsha’s blog. The New Year I fear will  be a very interesting one, so stay awake, be watchful and, act if you can. Live in that moment of complete awareness and endless possibilities.(….so WE’ER BAAAAACK!)

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (21)

Driving down/up/ over/on  I75 North as you round the large newly refubished bend near Mitchell Ave. glance up the hillside exposed on the right and behold a sprawling city of the dead  becons you the weary traveller 😉 [HINT: melodrama works…sometimes]. In a state of tunnel vision, travelling this route for 40 years, I have seen it, wondered about it but never took the time to see what it was all about. [Hint: always take the time to check out anything that interests you. You never know what sites and adventures await] I always think of that classic line…”they moved the headstones but they didn’t move the bodies” when I see it.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (16)

So Marsha and I decided to take a look. What we found was a well cared for cemetery, simply beautiful, peaceful and pastoral, sitting with a small city on one side and a super highway on the other. Among the multitude of gravesites were headstones and monuments that ran gauntlet from the plain to the extravagant. Headstones have always interested me ,not just as markers but as works of art, that people poured their hard earned money into to commemorate the life of a loved one.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (13)

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Not too familiar with it’s history [Hint: always do your research] We found the grave markers and the single crypt to be unusual. There was a definite “nautical” theme running throughout the headstones, as well as quite a few of the rare”tree” monuments popular to the well off back in the days of funerary oppulance.

This Roman Catholic cemetery was founded in 1849, during a raging cholera epidemic. Many of Cincinnati’s other cemeteries were already full of the victims. Many of Cincinnati’s oldest German families are buried in this cemetery and the old stones are written in German.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (10)

Burials also include 25 Franciscan Friars, who were founding members of the St. John the Baptist Providence. They first came to Cincinnati in July 1844, to serve the evergrowing German population. Some of these young men were as young as 17, 20 and 21, who had left their homelands to the German-speaking Catholics.Other burials include Clement Barnharm (1857–1935), a Cincinnati sculptor and his parents also John C. Roth a Cincinnati meat packer.

What we found most intriguing was the detail on some of these headstones from a lone frog seeming placed at random between two headstones….

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (57)

to the headless man guarding over his charge.

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This cemetery contained one cryptic gave stone that I have never seen the likes of in all the places we have been. This particular marker was sculpted in the shape of a “tree”, which is rare enough, but throughout all its nooks and crannies we discovered hidden animals, plants, insects, and undecipherable epitaphs blended and hidden into the sculpture . There are squirrels, lizards, dragonflys, single leaves, human hands and climbing plants that made this particular monument the most intriguing grave stone I have ever come across. We spent an hour just trying to find the secrets hidden within the cement tree.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (45)

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (52)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (42)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (50)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (47)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (49)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (51)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (46)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (48)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (43)

 

This tribute to several generations of the same family was an absolute puzzle and the eye could not be drawn away from all its intricasies.

Being a bright sunny day [HINT: ghosts DO come out during the day and are not relagated to the night] the cemetery had a naturally conent and peaceful feel to it,well most of it, we decided to take a look at its only mausoleum. The mausoleum had a decidedly different feel to it even in the sunshine. Not one of menace but more akin to emptiness and a sad longing.We were able to get our cameras inside to take a look.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (60)

The feeling of loss and confusion were apparent, as if someone or something had been abandoned and ripped from its final resting place.The building was in a state of disrepair which was out of sync with the other parts of the cemetery. Doors barred,even a hint of a window boarded up and locked down. We did however manage to open the heavy doors just wide enough, by stretching the chain to its limit. [HINT: be careful sticking your arm into a building that is locked and barred not only can you lose your camera but your arm as well]

To our astonishment the inside of the crypt was barren. Benches along the wall where once rested the coffins of its occupants were torn out and the inside was cold, forboding, and stripped of any momento. This doesn’t mean that it was an empty shell, for as you see the energies and the spirits of those once entomed here lingered in the space giving it at the same time a lonliness and an inhabited space.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (26)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (27)

Orbs flowed and danced within the empty sapce…no air flow the day was still and settled…

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (28)St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (29)

It seemd two people, who look to be a man and a woman, have left a impression upon its walls. Above is the only unsecured window slit facing the west. You be the judge…

The other odd [HINT: things are more common than they seem sometimes] thing about this area was that it fronted a (sevearl acres) large open field which was bound on the far side by residential homes. Most people would assume this expanse was reserved for future guests but we have found that it is more commonly either a potters field or a lost part of the cemetery where the gravestones have fallen, sunk into the earth or have been vandalized, but people were still buried there, identities unknown. This was the case here as well behind the crypt. We were fooled at first [HINT: when the sign at the entrance says “space avaiable”don’t take it to heart] until we decided to walk down into that particular area. The uneven depressions in the earth, as well as a scattering of still standing and sunken stones clearly marked this space as ocuppied. These areas are the forgotten, oldest part of the cemetery. Common practice was to bury bodies on top of one another or in mass graves in times of disease (we had a cholera epidemic occur in this area of Cincinnati). We hope they are not planning on putting their new customers there, “condos” of the dead.

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (31)

A great day to roam and observe, in the hot summer heat, the wonders of the past that most rarely take the time visit. [HINT: take the time]

I am learning to make time for the people and things about our life I love. The urge to explore and write has come back to me and I think its important to record what we observe, think and feel..as a good friend of mine loves to say “here We Go!”

St John's German Catholic Cemetery St Bernard OH (14)

 

 

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Haunting Saint John’s German Catholic Cemetery

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