Another Vampire Exhumed In Bulgaria

The body of a vampire has been excavated in Bulgaria, the Sofia Globe reports.

Archaeologists excavating at the historic site of Perperikon uncovered the grave of a man weighed down with a ploughshare over his chest. This was a common folk practice to keep a body from rising from its grave as a vampire. The individual was a man aged about 35-40 and he was carrying coins dated to the 13th and 14th century.

The discovery is part of ongoing excavations at Perperikon, an important city in eastern Bulgaria that was occupied from at least 5000 BC through the Middle Ages.

Last year archaeologists found several vampire graves in another part of the country. And these aren’t the first to have been discovered. Usually they have iron stakes or nails through their hearts. Only one other has been found with the ploughshare treatment.

Photo Of The Day: Sarajevo Suburbs

The peaks of the Dinaric Alps form the lip of a bowl, at the bottom of which Sarajevo sits like a social science experiment. Three of the four Abrahamic religions and numerous ethnic groups grind against each other and have for centuries, the strain of external and internal conflict sometimes violently exploding upon the hapless Sarajevans. The best view of this crucible of culture (and war) is from the green-shaded hillsides that surround the city, which can be reached after only a half-hour walk from the center – a remarkable thing for any capital. While the city is great to look at, the hillsides when viewed from the city are just as pleasing to the eye, their stacked dwellings and wild valleys evoking a certain bygone mountain charm. In the foreground, though, the snow white headstones of war cemeteries carpet barren expanses, a reminder that the city is always a catalyst away from another violent reaction.

Do you have a great photo you’d like to share? Add it to the Gadling Flickr pool, and we might use it as our Photo of the Day.

Green-Wood Cemetery: I Know Why The Free Bird Sings

After spending two years in Austin, I moved back to New York City in October and into the relatively elusive neighborhood of Green-Wood Heights Brooklyn, directly across from the Green-Wood Cemetery. My first thought was, “At least the neighbors are quiet.”

I spent my days walking past the cemetery and looked onto a sparkling pond beyond the iron gates nearly every day. I admired the Gothic Revival style gates at the main entrance every time that they were in view. During Hurricane Sandy, I took some comfort in the fact that the highest point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill, is within this cemetery. I suppose I thought I would simply sit atop the hill if my street flooded and wait for the waters to recede. I listened to stories about an urban colony of parakeets that live within the cemetery. I once lived in an apartment in Brooklyn alongside an industrious little parakeet named Handsome who flew away one late summer morning. I awoke to an odd silence that prompted me out of bed and wandered sleepily through the halls until I discovered an open window and an empty cage. Although I thought the stories of born again birds to be folklore, I privately hoped them to be true. I sometimes catch myself wondering how Handsome adjusted to his first outdoor winter when he found a permanent home within the immortal gates of Green-Wood Cemetery.

%Gallery-187199%This designated netherworld was a major tourist attraction in the 1850s. Many affluent and famous New Yorkers who passed during this time are buried here. Green-Wood’s eternal guest list includes Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, William Livingston, Samuel Morse, Henry Steinway and many members of the Roosevelt family. Inventors buried there brought contraptions like the safety pin and sewing machine to fruition. Unidentified victims of the 1876 Brooklyn Theater Fire, 103 in total, are buried together in the cemetery. The Wizard from “The Wizard of Oz,” Frank Morgan, rests here and I can’t help but wonder if his visitors ever utter pleas for advice beneath their breath at his tomb. The cemetery’s rich history, remarkable architecture and scenery snowballed into one massively compelling landmark of a neighbor for me.

It was gray and drizzling on Easter Sunday, but I decided to finally explore the grounds. As I climbed the hill that leads to the ornate, umbrella entrance gate, I heard the parakeets before I saw them.

“Aren’t the birds just lovely?” an older woman who was on her way out asked me.

I looked around for an image of the birds she referenced.

“You’re taking pictures of them, right?”

She was pointing toward the points of the gate. I had been taking pictures of them, but I hadn’t noticed them in my frame. The rumors were true and the evidence was before my eyes: a colony of parakeets do inhabit this cemetery and several nests lie within the crevices of the gate itself. These birds are said to have descended from monk parakeets that once escaped during transit. Of course, as my imagination would have it, the current colony warmly embraces any newcomers to their community, including rather ordinary, escaped apartment birds. Like an orchestra comprised entirely of flutes and piccolos, their soprano notes sound like hurried footsteps or bouncing raindrops. I envision them swooping down to me in unison and adorning me with ribbons. What I mean is: walking through a towering gate like this one all while the sonic wave of a wild parakeet choir crashes over me is a surreal experience in and of itself, but in the context of New York, it seems like an acid trip.

Now on the other side of the gate, I head toward the direction of Battle Hill, eager to see whatever elevated sights there are to see from such a height. At the top I see the Manhattan skyline from an unfamiliar vantage point. I continue walking and see tombs far more elaborate and likely expensive than any home I could ever hope to afford. One is shaped like an Egyptian pyramid. Another is accented with Roman columns. I pass a gravestone topped with a statue of a dog whose skeleton I presume to be buried beneath. Immaculately landscaped, each winding path in the cemetery seems like a shaded and enchanted trail toward a secret garden. Even in the midst of bare-boned and fruitless trees, I feel as though I am in a forest.

This is my 10th year living in this city and yet I never noted the existence of the cemetery until moving into an apartment on a street beside it. I wonder how this happened, how a site like this slipped beneath my radar. But it’s just as well, I think. Part of the charm of a place like this in New York City is that it isn’t overflowing with crowds. The sky is open and there’s room to breathe. The quiet that accompanies respect for the dead blankets the grounds and the only voices raised belong to the birds and I think I know why the free bird sings. Its song is a carol of joy and glee in a place where endings are engraved and for that, life is all the more sweet.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Video Tour Of Historic New England Graveyards

Cemeteries can be inspiring. I know a lot of people who will go to great lengths to avoid visiting hospitals, nursing homes, cemeteries and anyplace else that reminds them that one day they’re going to die. I won’t admit to being a fan of hospitals and nursing homes, but I like visiting old cemeteries.

They give us a glimpse into history and remind us of our own mortality. If you’re caught up in your day-to-day life and need to be reminded of the big picture, visit a cemetery and you’ll be reminded that life is short and we all end up six feet under at one point or another, rich or poor, black, white or yellow.

New England has some of the country’s oldest and most interesting cemeteries. My favorite is Old Burial Hill in Marblehead, Massachusetts, one of America’s most beautiful and oldest settlements. The cemetery was founded in 1638, some nine years after the town was first settled, and it offers a glimpse at the history of the town, plus a view of the historic center and the sea. There are more than 600 revolutionary soldiers buried at Old Burial Hill but most aren’t marked.

Many of the oldest tombstones have ghoulish likenesses of crude winged skulls, which tells me that our forefathers weren’t as squeamish about death as we are. Take a look around Old Burial Hill and you’ll understand why – life in Colonial America was precarious and health care was nonexistent – there are scores of babies and young adults buried here.

If you’re in the Boston area and you like visiting old cemeteries, definitely check out the circa 1659 Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which is right down the street from the Old North Church in the North End, and the city’s oldest cemetery, King’s Chapel, founded in 1630 right in the hear of the city.

[Photos and Videos by Dave Seminara]

Woodlawn Cemetery named National Historic Landmark

New Yorkers have always known that Woodlawn Cemetery was someplace special. This Bronx burial ground is the final home for many of the rich and famous. It’s beautiful too, a parklike setting with 400 acres of ornate headstones and mausoleums, such as this one for Frank Winfield Woolworth. Yes, that Woolworth.

Founded in 1863 in an age when wealthy families vied with each other to have the most elaborate mausoleum, it attracts thousands of visitors a year who don’t even know anyone buried there. The public certainly knows of many of them: Harry Carey, David Farragut, Duke Ellington, Fiorello La Guardia, Frank Belknap Long, Herman Melville, Bat Masterson, and Joseph Pulitzer to name a few.

Now the cemetery has been named a national Historic Landmark, the highest honor that can be given to a U.S. historic site. Visiting Woodlawn makes a soothing and contemplative break from the high-powered vibe of New York City. If you like cemetery art, check out our picks of creepy and beautiful cemeteries around the world.

[Image courtesy Woodlawn Cemetery]