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Ghosts in the Graveyard
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Ghosts in the Graveyard
Texas Cemetery Tales

by Olyve Hallmark Abbott


Republic of Texas Press, 2001

Reviewed by Raoul Hashimoto

An Asian adage states: "If you go to the mountain often enough - you'll see the tiger." Like most Asian adages, it took us a while to figure out what was meant. We thought it might have been the Asian equivalent of the West Texas proverb: "Never ask a barber if you need a haircut." But one thing we all agree on: "If you go to the barber often enough, you'll get a haircut."

Oyvle Abbott, who is one of our favorite people in Fort Worth that we've never met, noticed that among the plethora of books on Texas ghosts and ghost stories - the most logical place to look for ghosts had been overlooked. Books with titles like Ghosts in the Barbecue and Haunted Muffler Shops of East Texas abound. Olyve knew without being told - If you go to the cemetery often enough - you'll find ghost stories.

We don't know how long it took to do her research, but by reading the result - we know it was thorough. From Spanish Fort to Benavides and from Mineola to Balmorhea she covers Texas cemeteries like six feet of topsoil. She braved uneven terrain, plagues of insects, prickly cactus, poison oak and dehydrating Texas heat. And that was just getting to her car.

She touches on a few familiar stories - but only a few and her take is an improvement.

At one graveyard she furnishes you with personal details about the spirit in question and at the next she may describe the cemetery itself. She's very convincing when it comes to describing the things that you see from the corner of your eye on cemetery visits.

Some of her investigations were conducted at dusk or after the sun had set completely - the better to investigate glowing tombstones and luminescent phenomena. Better she than we.

Included are photos of tombstones, expressing the good taste (or lack thereof) of the decedent or the ones paying for the monument. She thoughtfully gives detailed directions in case you want to investigate on your own. There is a convenient glossary with a brief explanation of funereal motifs and a few epitaphs are included for their poignancy or pithiness.

We would guess that it was Ms. Abbott's genealogical interests that piqued her interest in cemeteries, and let us say as eloquently as we can, that we hope that she'll consider doing more of this cemetery stuff. Besides her slightly tongue-in-cheek approach (and some pretty good puns) there's a quiet underlying word said for cemetery preservation

Whispering bridges, crying dogs, armstones, orbs, writhing marble women and ghosts skipping rope - there should be something here for everyone.

Olyve Abbott's volume satisfies both the reader who wants simple ghost stories - and the person who regularly visits cemeteries for the communion it provides with past generations and with kindred spirits we never got to know.

October 2002
John Troesser


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