Swamp Monsters And Cemetery Playgrounds

When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Randy and I were discussing blog posts that explore a neighborhood or a hiking trail or restaurant and agreed that they can be very entertaining to read. We also agreed that the quirkier the place, the better the read.

It occurred to me that the greater Cincinnati area has a fuck ton of quirky and dark places. It might be fun to write about them. Also, it will get our asses out of the house. Way too often, we answer the question “What do you want to do this weekend”? with “Not a fucking thing”.

Last weekend, we came up with a list of places we could go photograph and I could write about. I wanted to start with my childhood playground.

I grew up in front of Linden Grove cemetery in Covington, Ky.

When I say ‘grew up’, I mean that I lived there between the ages of 5 and 11, which until this very year, is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. So when I think of childhood, this is the home I think of.

I spent most of my outdoor time in the alley way between my house and the cemetery and the cemetery itself. I stepped over drunks in that alley way and learned how to smoke cigarettes there. Once, we coated our cigarettes with toothpaste because we  heard it could get you high. It didn’t.

This picture was taken today, I am looking at the house I lived in. Today was the first time I had been in that cemetery in 39 years. I was amazed by how much I remembered. DSC_0023-001

I remembered the mausoleums, some of the markers, and one of the trees.

I don’t remember the headless lady, but she’s kind of cool.

It’s strange to see the cemetery all cleaned up. When I was a kid, it was overrun with brush and was swampy. Many of the headstones were knocked over. They had a caretaker who lived in a house just inside the gates. Mr. Overbay.

One of our favorite games was to get his attention, then run and hide. He’d come out with an air rifle filled with rock salt and tool through the cemetery in his powder blue station wagon, looking for little kids to shoot at.

DSC_0063-001In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the BEST game in the world…but it’s one we played often.

When I was a kid, I told Middle Sister that her real parents lived in the cemetery swamp and that when she turned 12, she would turn into a swamp monster like her real mom and dad. I even showed her official looking papers and told her that they were her adoption papers. Actually, it  wasn’t hard to fool her because she couldn’t read yet and I was, apparently, a little shit.

Randy and I didn’t spend a lot of time at Linden Grove. It is cold as fuck out today and the cemetery is in a pretty shitty neighborhood. We’ve grown soft in our old age.

I don’t know why I wanted to go back there. Maybe it’s because I’m working through issues that were born in my childhood and I wanted to connect with the place again.

Or maybe I just wanted to go to a cemetery because it’s nearly Halloween.

Tell me about a quirky place that you remember from childhood. DSC_0036-001


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  • You have moved around a LOT. And isn’t it funny when you look back at the (annoying) things you did as a kid and realize that if the roles were now reversed you would totally shoot a kid with an air rifle? Hmm.

    A creek ran behind the house I grew up in and you could skirt along the creek bed for miles behind other houses. A few streets down the creek went below an interstate overpass and my neighborhood friends and I would sneak over there to hide and listen to the roar of traffic. There were always piles of cigarette butts and the makings of homeless squats. It was pretty thrilling in my 9 year old opinion.

    • I have tried to count the number of places I’ve lived and I keep getting messed up. I think it’s around 28 places. And yes…there are some kids I would totally shoot with rock salt.

  • My sister is 4 years younger than me. I used to tell her that I hated her all the time when we were kids. Your thing with your sister seems practically Machiavellian in comparison. I don’t have a real quirky place from my childhood but I do have a bit of a story. When I was 4 1/2 I lived in an old Victorian house with my mother, my older brother, my infant sister and her father. I don’t remember much about the house except the sun porch, the cherry tree in the back yard, the grand staircase in the foyer and the darkness of the house. One afternoon I found myself alone. The house was eerily quiet. I wandered from room to room but I didn’t see anyone. I finally came to the basement door. It was the last place to look. I opened the door and peered down. The light was too far for me to reach but the basement wasn’t completely dark as a dim light came in through the window well. The stairs were open in the back and they had a groove in the middle worn by the passage of countless foot steps. I listened again but here nothing. I quietly stepped onto the first stair, then the second and then the third. I was on the fourth step when two hands shot out from the space behind the stairs and grabbed my ankles. I still remember exactly how they felt. Huge hands that engulfed me. I was terrified. I froze. Looking down through the stairs I could see…my sister’s dad. Did I mention he was a complete dick? Because he was a total ass. Really who thinks it’s funny to do that to a 4 year old? He’s lucky I didn’t piss myself as it would have run down over his hands. Actually I’m lucky I didn’t as he really was a douche and I would have gotten in trouble.

  • We used to have to walk through this walkway on our way to school and back each day – there were a heap of steps down and then more going up the other side of the valley – it was always overgrown and every morning I would take a huge breath (not sure why as it didn’t smell) before running down the steps as fast as I could and up the other side. I HATED that pathway but it was heaps quicker than walking the whole way around !
    I moved countries 14 years ago – I wish I had gone back to that pathway before we left – to reassure me that nobody actually lived at the bottom and wanted to eat me on the way past !!! I reckon my older brother probably put that idea in my head and so the first three years of school I spent every day, running the gauntlet twice !
    Have the best day !

  • When I was about five we lived on 5 acres at the foot of Humboldt Hill, which is just south of Eureka, Ca. My brother, who was ten years older than I, used to scare my sister and I by taking us through the adjoining woods and showing us this old-as-hell looking wooden cross stuck in a sandbar of a creek bed. He always called it Ferdinand’s grave. It never occurred to me at the time that it couldn’t actually be old, because the ’64 flood had only been two years previous and had no doubt created the sand bar. My brother used to try to blackmail us by saying NO ONE WAS SUPPOSED TO KNOW where Ferdinand was buried, and if anyone found out that we knew, we’d be in trouble. It pretty much worked, as I kept my mouth shut about it for years. I did finally find out what was up about ten years later, after we no longer lived there and my brother no longer lived with us. I asked my dad about it and he told me that Ferdinand was a calf that the neighbor’s milk cow had and for some reason they had to kill and bury far enough away that she (the cow) couldn’t smell him. I’m not sure that has ever made sense to me, but it did allow me to call bullshit on my brother.

  • Growing up we spent a lot of time during the summer at my MamMaw’s (my southern grandmother – I had a northern one too, which is why my accent doesn’t know which way to go) house. When she wasn’t forcing us to spend the long hot summer days in her cellar helping her can the vegetables from the garden (which was a pretty damn creepy place) we were at “The Buildin'” The Buildin’ was an abandoned warehouse type thing about 1/2 an acre behind my MamMaw’s house. It was rusty with the doors falling off, broken windows and I’m sure tetanus everywhere. Behind it was a large concrete slab that my cousins and I would roller skate on, turning it into our own skating rink. I can’t tell you how many scars I have on my arms and legs from falling down and cutting myself on the various rocks, pieces of glass or metal pipe that were laying around out there. Thinking back now, it was such a creepy place but being out in the country, we never thought anything of it. I haven’t thought about that place in ages.

  • Um, so, the ghosts from the neighborhood cemetery that haunt my house and leave the creepy window condensation faces on my door that I mentioned in my blog? Guess what cemetery they’re from…

      • Way. My street dead ends at the south end of Linden Grove. I’ve lived here for four years now, but I’ve lived in the area most of my life. Small world.

        • I lived at the 1400th block of Holman street. I went to St Augustine, so I probably walked by your house a million times. You’re right..small fucking world. We had some strange going ons in my house when I was a kid too. Mostly noises, though.

  • Maybe that’s why puberty hit me so hard. It’s tough to make the first steps to becoming an adult while you’re also transforming into a swamp monster.

    Also, you would sit on one side of the hall and hit your paddle ball into the other to make a barrier so that I couldn’t get to the bathroom.

  • We use to hold our breath whenever we drove by a cemetery sure that the ghosts would invade our bodies if we breathed. My parents would of course stop the car and see how long we could last – because they were nice like that. When I was in high school we had graduated to drinking in the woods right next to the cemetery. Ahhh…memories.

    • HAHAHHA…we did the same thing..well, in retrospect, it seems dumb that I used to do that in a car, but I didn’t hold my breath all day every day when we lived in front of a cemetery. haha.

By Michelle


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