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Exceptional Resting Places from around the World

Exceptional Resting Places from around the World

“What you are now we were,
what we are now, you will be”
Inscription seen at the Crypt of the Capuchin Friars in Rome
     I saw this plaque for the first time when I was about 15 years old and visited this amazing place, it was engraved in my mind forever, not that I was not born weird 15 years before that, nonetheless it made a thrilling/pleasant impression. What can describe it better? there is something about visiting these places, wether it is out of (morbid) curiosity, a healthy taste for the macabre, or seeking introspection and meditation.
     This is my attempt to bring together some of the most exceptional resting places I have personally visited, plan to travel to or simply find fascinating. Each one has it’s own magic and it’s own story, this post in particular is dedicated to places that are unique, either by design or by accident
     When relevant, this article celebrates diversity, traditions and cultures, that’s the point. But some sites portrayed here are contemporary and current places of grief: please be respectful, especially if you go. *Warning* some of the included images can be considred to be graphic, and may be disturbing for some viewers, but this is what this website is about, you have been warned. We want no snowflakes or trolls here.
     Photo credits or origin, when known, can be seen when hovering the pointer over each photo.

1. The climbers' bodies in Mount Everest, Nepal and China

By Rdevany, via Wikicommons.
     Our famous Mount Everest also doubles as the biggest tombstone ever erected, littered with over 200 corpses of climbers and Sherpas. Most of them are out of sight, but a few became sort of a landmark for climbers over the years. Once somebody dies in one of the highest mountains in the world, it is extremely costly, difficult and dangerous to bring them back down, not to mention nearly impossible to separate them from the mountain and the ice once they have been left there for some time, and so most have been left alone until recently.
     For many decades dozens of bodies were visible for climbers to be passed by, or even stepped over, unfortunately many people were not careful or respectful enough about the way their pictures of these bodies were presented on the internet, with some bodies even earning nicknames as “Green boots” or “Sleeping beauty”, once those pictures reached their families many became understandably upset.
     Rubbish and human waste from thousands of climbers every year also became an issue, since then cleaning efforts have increased and several of the most iconic bodies have been removed, some mysteriously so. Because of these problems and the high mortality rate many travel associations are trying to strip Everest from its touristic appeal.
     The pictures are meant for information and knowledge, with respect. These are contemporary people who died doing what thy loved and will be remembered for their courage and strength.
     Read here the amazing stories (and pictures) of 12 of these souls. In addition, this is a great BBC article about the human and environmental problem with these bodies and the excess of tourism in Mt. Everest.

2. Small River Cemetery No.5, Xinjiang, China.

     Also know in Chinese as 小河墓地 (Xiǎohé mùdì) or Ördek’s Necropolis, named after the local hunter that found the place, is one of the most, if not THE most, fascinating places in this list.
Located in the middle of the desert, far away from all, this is an archeological treasure of many found in the Tarim Basin, now famous for some of the best preserved mummies in the world, but is one of the most ancient, which earliest burial has been dated to be nearly 4000 years old.
     This is a description of the site quoted from the Book Archeological Researches in Sinkiang, vol. 1 (Source)
     “The cemetery that had been so long sought for was found to be situated 4km. from the water of The Small River, on a smoothy rounded hill, rising as a well-defined landmark above the otherwise flat desert, the monotony of which is broken only by the elegantly shaped sand dunes, and a few scattered hillocks with living tamarisks. as one approaches the hill, the top of it seems to be covered by a whole forest of upright toghraq’s trunks, but standing too close together and being too straight to be dead trees. They were presently found to be erect posts with the tops splintered by the strong winds, Pl. III.
     On the surface of the hill, particularly on the slopes, there were a lot of strange, curved, heavy planks, and everywhere one stumbled accross withered human bones, scattered skeletons, remains of dismembered mummies, and rags of thick woollen materials,  Pl. IV b. Some of the mummies had long, dark hair and well preserved faces. From others a ghastly-looking skull grinned out of a partly preserved blackened skin. The burial site made a most macabre and strange impression.”
     Each body, now perfectly preserved mummies, was covered by an upside down boat and cowhide. Every boat ‘crowned’ with a 13 feet pole, as seen in the picture, or blade like wooden structures, since the poles belonged to the female graves and the blades to the male counterparts, it is believed that they were fertility symbols. The archeologist recount that they excavated through 5 layers of burials and found some 200 of these poles.
     There is much more that is fascinating about this story, and the whole article by the NY times is I well worth a good reading. And here a short fun fact about glue. To think that this is one site of possibly many, is exiting to think what else will be discovered. I’ll be covering the mummies themselves and other sites in a future Mummies post.

3. The Hanging Coffins from Sagada, Philippines; Sulawesi, Indonesia; and several locations in China


By Andrewhaimerl (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

     The location in Sagada takes us to the lands of the Igorot tribe, the tradition is estimated to have been around for about two thousand years, and it continues to be performed, although not as often and intricately as before.
     There are several beliefs behind this practice, one is that the body would be closer to the sky and the ancestral spirits, to protect the bodies from decaying to quickly due to the earth and water, and to protect the corpses from dogs and headhunting enemy tribes.
     The funerary rites required animal sacrifices, then the corpse is smoked to delay decomposition, sat in a chair facing the door at home, and covered with a blanket to receive final farewells, before being carried to the burial place, where is forced, bones broken and all, into a fetal position before being placed into the coffin, secured shut with vines and hauled to its final resting place in Lumiang Burial Cave.
By Jungarcia888 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commonsby Ironchefbalara, via Flickr
     You can see more details about this place and culture in this article from RoughGuides.


By Cahyo Ramadhani (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

     This tradition's counterpart in Indonesia belongs to the Sa`dan-Toraja ethnic group in the island of Sulawesi. The Toraja are special when it comes to their dead, having one of the most elaborate traditions regarding Death and the dead that I know about: the funerary rites are the most important of all festivities, and the pomposity of the event is directly proportional to how wealthy the deceased was, there is dancing and music, water buffalos are slaughtered, cockfights are held, blood spilled in the ground, and very public and audible demonstrations of grief. The corpses are taken to and hanged in cliff sides, or in the case of the wealthy, their own niches carved in caves, sometimes a family can claim an entire cave, they are buried with all the objects that they may need in the afterlife. Wood-carved effigies called Tau Tau are placed on a high and visible point above the graves to house the spirit of the deceased and look over the land.

     This article by Ancient Origins contains more information on the funerary rites.

by Arian Zwegers via Flickrby Arian Zwegers via Flickrby Arian Zwegers via Flickr

     To add to the magic of this culture, the death of a family member is never the end here, once a year, the corpses/mummies are exhumed, washed, groomed, dressed in new clothes, and paraded around the village, before being sent back to sleep, I don’t believe that there is other culture that takes care of their dead with such devotion.
     These wonderful articles with pictures and more details, from the Sydney Morning Herald and National Geographic.

     The hanging coffin traditions in China were more common in a sense, as they were practiced in an almost continual string of provinces that runs from East to West: Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Sichuan, and Yunnan, primarily attributed to the extinct Bo ethnic group, among others, the age of these sites vary from two thousands to about 400 years ago, which is when it’s believed the Bo disappeared, there is much of their history that has been lost, making it very difficult to know their traditions and beliefs. 
     The Bo coffins are not really hanging, but rest in wooden posts that have been drilled into the walls of cliffs and caves, and some of them are in the highest (im)possible places, making me think that they indeed were accomplished rock-climbers. The most accessible sites appear to be in the famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze river in Yunnan
By Peter Tritthart (Own work) via Wikimedia Commonsblog.yangtze-river-cruises.com
     More on this wonderful Historic Mysteries post, and this very academic but still fun article.

4. Neptune Memorial Reef, Florida

By Elkman (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
     Also known as the Atlantis Reed Project, is a modern underwater cemetery, or more accurately an underwater cremation memorial located in a man-made reef off the coast of Florida, very much close to Miami. Beyond a human memorial, is also and entire ecological project often visited by marine biologists and ecologists, every feature, surface and texture designed to support marine life.
The idea was originally conceived by Gary Levine and and designed by artist Kim Bradell, dedicated to divers and people in love with the sea. Once the person dies s/he is cremated, the ashes mixed with cement and incorporated into the features that make up the place, then a memorial plaque is put in place.

By Todd Murray from Bloomington, MN, USA (Dive-42  Uploaded by Sinuhe20) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBy Todd Murray from Bloomington, MN, USA (Dive-39  Uploaded by Sinuhe20) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBy Todd Murray from Bloomington, MN, USA (Dive-12  Uploaded by Sinuhe20) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

     Anyone is welcome to visit, to learn more please visit the official website: http://www.nmreef.com/

5. Sunken Cemetery, Camiguin Island, Philippines

By Shubert Ciencia from Nueva Ecija, Philippines (Sunken Cemetery (Catarman, Camiguin)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

     Now this is a story, this cemetery and part of the town of Catarman were gradually sunken under sea level during a string of eruptions from Mt, Vulcan, the island’s volcano, over the years from 1871 to 1875, back then areas of the town and cemetery were still visible during low tide, until a final eruption in 1948, which sank the area another 20 feet.
In 1948 to a cross was erected above water to signal the (for now) final resting place. (Source)
     Today corals and marine life have taken up the area, and it can be visited snorkelling off the coast of the island. According to this traveller, a tour guide is mandatory, as well as a small environmental fee, the equipment can be rented.
by PacificKlaus via FlickrPhoto credit: Atlasobscura.com

6. Skeleton Lake in Roopkund, Uttarakhand State, India

By Schwiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

     Perched at 5 thousand meters above sea level, in a remote location in the Himalayan Mountains, there is a lake circled by hundreds of human bones, the very specifics remain a mystery, but a scientific study on the remains on the estimated 200 individuals determined that they died around 850 AD, and belonged to two different groups of people, possibly families or tribes, a relatively tall group, and a relatively shorter one. They had jewelry and weapons with them and it is suggested that they were travelling or pilgrimaging.
     All remains appear to have fractures in the skulls and the upper bones, suggesting that the only culprit may have been a very severe hailstorm, with hail the size of baseballs.
Interestingly a local Himalayan folk tale may have preserved the exact story: a king and wife from Kannauj along with their entourage were on a pilgrimage, and decided to pass through an area that the local custom specifically forbade to pass. The Goddess of the land, Nanda Devi, was so upset that she assailed the pilgrims and killed them with a hailstorm as punishment.
     This place is covered in snow for almost 11 months out of a year, and having no roads or towns nearby, it requires a 3-4 day trek to get there, unfortunately a source mentioned that there are fewer and fewer bones due to tourists stealing them….

By Schwiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBy Ashokyadav739 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


7. Sunken Graveyard, Tryweryn, Wales

     An honourable mention to the man-caused sinking of Tryweryn Valley in Wales during 1956, that against the wishes of the local people left a whole town, chapel and graveyard underwater.
Read the full story here.

8. Aokigahara, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan

by www78 via Flickr

     This place is different from the others as is not really a final resting place, not for the body at least, people come to this place to die, because of this it has been dubbed as the Suicide Forest.
     The forest of Aokigahara grows on the old lava from Mt. Fuji, just northwest from Japan’s trademark volcano and to the West of one of the most famous hiking starts, the city of Kawaguchiko. It apparently always had an appeal as a departure gate for people who were looking to leave this life earlier, but it was popularized by a novel released in 1960 by Seicho Matsumoto, where the heartbroken protagonist retreats to Aokigahara to die. Then it was even more popularized by another book: The Complete Suicide Manual. Go figure.
     One among a million things I like about Japan, is that suicide doesn’t have the same stigma as in other countries, is  a choice devoid of the religious taboo that other countries attribute to it, that is of course not to say that there is no grief and trauma caused to the loved ones you leave behind, or the people that have to pick up after your mortal remains. Signs reminding people to value their lives have been added around the entrances to the forests, yet every month, an organization of volunteers heads into the forest to collect the bodies.
     The forest is notoriously silent, my knowledge of Ecology is very superficial, but I’m willing to bet that it has to do with the composition of the soil (old lava), which supports very few species of vegetation, which in turn support even less species of animals. I would love hearing a professional’s opinion in this matter. 
     Many people believe in energies, and bad energies at that, especially from a place like this. I don’t, really, so when years back I visited this place for a nice walk I could only admire the beauty, the silence, and the peace. The terrain is wavy and full of strange holes, even 10.000 year old small caves with ice and bats, which are a bit of a touristic attraction in the area. The place is magical, if I wanted to go earlier, I can understand why this forest would be a choice.
     For more details please visit this great post "15 Eerie Things About Japans Suicide Forest", this story and proper pictures.

By PutridusCorBy PutridusCorBy PutridusCor


9. The Body casts of Pompeii, Naples, Italy 

By Shabbychef (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

     Of all disasters in history, this is one that still brings nightmares on me as if I had lived it myself. One of the most terrifying and despairing, just dwelling for a few minutes into what it would have been to be in Pompeii that day in 79 C.E. is enough to bring tears to my eyes.
     I had the honour to live through the 7.1 earthquake that hit Mexico City and other areas in Mexico in September 19th 2017, on a 5th floor, the violence of the shake almost making it impossible to move. Considering that the scale is exponential, I can’t comprehend the strength of the earthquake of 1985 in the same city, which was 8.0M, destroyed about 400 buildings, seriously damaged more than 3000, killed more than 5 thousand people, and seriously traumatized many of the ones who survived it.
     With this in mind I can much less comprehend the earthquakes, raining rocks, ash and chaos of that day in Pompeii, with all this horror considered I believe is a mercy that the pyroclastic surge ended everything relatively quickly for everybody.
     If there is anything like hell on earth other than a nuclear explosion or witnessing/suffering a massacre, this was it.
     See this article detailing how these corpses were found, how the body casts where made, and other informative details.
Scruff Monkey via FlickrAndrew & Suzanne via FlickrMy own pic

  I hope you enjoyed this article, please contact me if you know of some other place that counts as unique!