An epitaph is an interesting thing. The final words one chooses to memorialize a loved one, or even themselves as the case may be, on a grave marker or tombstone range from messages of hope to laugh out loud humorous to downright creepy.
Some of these have become so famous for their eerie or strange sentiments that they’ve worked their way into the collective unconscious.
Anyone ever heard some variation of this one?
“Remember me as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you shall be. Prepare for death and follow me.”
This particular epitaph has been used since the mid-17th century and though many have searched, without success, to find its exact origins, its particular sentiments have haunted cemetery visitors for centuries.
Death, after all, is inevitable.
With that verse in mind, I decided to put together a list of those epitaphs that stuck out most to me in my research. Some are humorous, some eerie, and some just might haunt you for years to come.
#1 The Bard’s Final Admonition
It is believed, though not confirmed, that William Shakespeare wrote the quatrain carved in stone atop his grave in TrinityChurch on the banks of the Avon in England. It certainly sounds like something the Bard would pen, and unfortunately, his apparent fears were correct.
According to the Hudson Review, Shakespeare’s bones no longer lie beneath the stone in TrinityChurch. Few were ever given permanent tenure there, but in Shakespeare’s case it is not known whether pesky grave robbers stole the man’s body or if the Avon’s flooding eventually washed them away.
Whatever the case, his final words are haunting:
“GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTe BE Ye MAN Yt SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE Yt MOVES MY BONES”
#2 Killed by the Beast
One of the strangest epitaphs I’ve ever seen came from the gravestone of Lilly E. Gray. Along with her name, birth and death dates, Lilly’s epitaph reads: “Killed by the Beast 666.”
For years, many thought this had something to do with Satan and Demons, but as it turns out, Lilly’s husband Elmer was a rather paranoid conspiracy theorist who blamed the government for many things over the span of his lifetime. He was even sure that they had something to do with his wife’s death.
It is entirely possible that he was referring to the government, then, when he chose the final words for his wife’s grave. It’s also interesting to note that he refused to be buried alongside her.
The State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery is an inactive cemetery located among a group of formerly used government buildings in Franklin County, Ohio.
The cemetery was used predominantly for indigent patients of the hospital whose family did not claim them upon death. While this is sad enough in itself, what’s more troubling is that only about one quarter of the cemetery’s headstones contain names. Many are merely marked with an “M” or “F” followed by a number to denote the gender of the patient buried there and the corresponding chronological order of their deaths.
And then there’s a stone marked simply “Specimens.” In a sea of anonymous death, this is particularly disturbing as no one has ever disturbed the ground to determine who or what is buried there.
Human remains? Organs? Tissue samples? Or something even darker? We don’t know, but that headstone is certainly creepy in its anonymity and its verbiage.
#4 The Product Complaint
Some people, upon death, choose to leave words of wisdom or humor for those who pass by.
The family of Ellen Shannon, however, took the opportunity to leave a little passive aggressive customer feedback on her tombstone.
Shannon was born in Ireland and as a young wife, moved with her husband to Pennsylvania according to Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.
Found in Girard Cemetery in Erie County, PA, Ellen’s epitaph reads: In Memory of Ellen Shannon Age 26 years who was fatally burned March 21, 1870 by the explosion of a lamp filled with R.E. Danforth’s Non-Explosive Burning Fluid.
She wasn’t the only victim of Danforth’s product, but as far as I can find, hers was the only headstone who chose to point it out!
#5 The Angel of Death
The headstone of textile manufacture Joseph Llaudet Soler in the Poblenou Cemetery in Barcelona is almost as unsettling as his epitaph which reads:
“The blood in his veins grows cold. And all strength has gone. Faith has been extolled by his fall into the arms of death. Amen.”
#6 Beyond coincidence?
Found on a grave marker in Whitby, this particular epitaph tells the story of Francis and Mary Huntroods.
They were both born on the same day in 1600, were married on their birthday, had 12 children together and died on their shared birthday within five hours having just turned 80.
It’s the final two lines of their epitaphs that are most striking, however. “So fit a match, surely never could be; both in their lives, and in their deaths agree.”
#7 A sweet treat
Many have seen this particular epitaph over the years online with the accompanying line, “You’ll get my cookie recipe over my dead body.”
The truth is much sweeter, however.
When Maxine Menster died, her daughter and husband were trying to think of the perfect way to remember their woman who had impacted both of their lives and at the same time memorialize her generosity.
Her daughter finally decided the best way to remember the generous and giving spirit of her mom was to share her famous Christmas Cookie recipe with anyone who happened up her grave.
#8 Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc voiced 1000s of characters in his career with Warner Bros. cartoons.
He brought to life Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester the Cat, Wile E. Coyote, and so many more making his work universally recognizable while the man himself might not be.
His epitaph reflects the “Man of 1000 voices” with the simple “That’s All Folks!”
#9 One last insult
I thought this was a joke when I first came across this particular stone, but upon researching I found that John McCaffrey’s tombstone in Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges Cemetery in Montreal, does indeed throw a middle finger at passersby.
I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny or if this guy was just particularly ornery, but his epitaph definitely sticks out once the acrostic is revealed.
#10 A practical outlook
I like to think that Edith Christine “Tina” Barlow was the practical sort who had a healthy outlook on life and death.
Her headstone in the Forest City Cemetery in South Portland, Maine certainly seems to point to that.
#11 Find the lie
Francis Eileen Diedrich Thatcher only really had one thing to say about being dead, and we’re pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about.
Fran is interred at the Prairie Mound Cemetery in Oregon, Wisconsin.
#12 Direct Communication
The life of Elijah Bond was, indeed, fascinating. Among other things he did in his life, he was the first person to patent the Ouija board as a mass marketed “game.”
Despite the board’s popularity, Bond disappeared into the obscurity of history and upon his death was interred in an unmarked grave. It stayed that way until about 12 years ago when paranormal research and spirit board collector Robert Murch was finally able to locate Bond’s burial site.
He set to work designing the perfect headstone for Bond and after taking in donations and fundraising, Murch erected a large headstone with a full Ouija board carved into its face.
Creepy? Yes…though I suppose it does make sense. One has to wonder if Bond is the talkative sort, now.
#13 A horrible end
Martha Jane “Mary” McCune is buried in Cedar City Cemetery in Cedar City, Utah, and her epitaph recounts the final days of her life like something out of a horror movie.
It seems that Mary, who was pregnant at the time, was attacked by a rabid coyote. She began to show symptoms of the disease herself within a month, and well, you can read the rest right on her headstone.