I'm 65 years old and have lived in the Akron-Tallmadge, Ohio area all of my life. For 10-years (1957-1967) I lived most summers at our home in Cook Forest, Pa. I'm a U.S. Army veteran (1971-1973). I collect many things such as: antique cars, antique firearms, movies, movie props, old newspapers and posters, Wyatt Earp items, Civil War items, John Wayne items, items from the old west including Native American items, just about anything historical. I've been married for 42-years. My wife and I have a son and a daughter and four granddaughters.
I have always found time capsules fasinating. We put items into a metal or plastic container and bury it or place in into a building's corner stone to be removed and opened in 50 to 100 years. Items such as newpapers, letters, posters and trinkets that are new at the time, to be inspected in a century from now. I always thought that this was a marvel concept.
I have spent the better part of my life in cemeteries doing family histories for people and do it now for websites. What dose this have to do with time capsules? Well, about ten years ago, as I stood on a grave writing down the information from a gravestone, an idea caught me. This grave, and most others are actually time capsules - Buried time capsules.
Graves that were pre 1890s don't fit this topic only because with no embalming and no burial vault and the fact that they used mostly wooden coffins at the time, the remains of anything in the grave are too disturbed by decomposition and rot. However, with the advent of metal caskets and newer burial vaults around the 1890s, and with improved embalming methods about the same time, chances of clothing and hair survival are greater.
Not all bodies wereembalmed however. Older style "wooden" coffins rotted away after several years under ground leaving clothing and other items at the bare mercy of the elements. But metal caskets had seals around the lids and gave greater protection. Ofcorse, rubber seals at the turn of the 20th century weren't that reliable. Leakage did happen in many cases. As with anything else, these problems improved as time went on.
When a person was buried, hair styles, clothing, jewelry, eye glasses and everything else that was placed in the casket was, ofcorse, of that period in time. Sometimes family members would include letters and other mememtos for their loved ones. Once the grave was filled, odds are, it would never again be opened. So these items would stay lost to the world forever. This is what makes graves the absolute perfect time capsules. Not only do they contain artifacts of a period in history, they contain an actual person from that time as well. I am aware that this may sound morbid and eerie, but it is not ment to be. I simply find it fasinating that so many historical artifacts lay in the ground under our cemeteries.
Burial vault which is put into the grave first that holds the casket
Mausoleum entombments are a differant subject. These are above ground burials and result in better preservation of artifacts.
Mausoleums are mostly styled to be spiritual places. And many feature stained glass windows in a host of designs.
Mausoleum interior vaults
So, the next time your in a cemetery and look at a tombstone, look at the death date. Whatever is in the ground under your feet was put there in that year. Interesting, isn't it?
Above ground vaults
The following article appeared as a news item on AOL Business:
From the Charging Cradle to the Grave
By JULIA L. ROGERS, AOL SMALL BUSINESS
Posted: 2010-03-23 11:35:11
More and more people are deciding they can't live -- or die -- without technology, according to the online magazine Obit. Spokesperson Noelle Berman from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles notes that as we become more attached to gadgets like BlackBerrys, iPhones and even video game consoles in life, we become less likely to part ways with them in the afterlife.
Going into the ground with favorite items from our lives is not a new ritual. Ann Brownlee, curator in charge of the Mediterranean wing at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology states that the only way we can truly see into the lives of the unburied dead centuries later is by examining the company they kept in their caskets. She reports that the third floor of the Penn museum houses artifacts from ancient Greece that seem to have been created just for burial. Archaeologists have found small pseudo-coins between the teeth of the dead; and children's tombs in ancient Greece were filled with miniature vases, dolls and other toys.
In recent decades, funeral directors admit to granting an array of libational and indulgent requests for clients, burying them with cases of beer, bottles of Jack Daniels, favorite cigars, golf clubs (especially putters), musical instruments, homemade wine, cookies, hot peppers. Philadelphia funeral director Bill O'Leary confirms that in recent years more requests are being made by clients to be interred alongside technology that connected them to the world. He says the "hottest thing" is to be buried with a TV remote.
If the bedfellows we keep in our eternal resting places are evidence to future generations of who we were in life, what will graves full of tech gadgets and toys communicate to archaeologists centuries in the future? According to associate curator of Historical Archaeology at the Penn museum, Robert Schuyler, he sees the things we bury as evidence of a shift in culture towards the secular. He is currently studying elements of the past 500 years, and he notes movement away from religious burials. He says that the modern gravestone is typically far more personalized than before and often has jokes or pictures of material possessions, such as cars engraved. As far as burial with mobile phones or video games, he says that of course certain religious sects such as Puritans and Quakers would not take technology with them, but that these items have turned up in the ground in increasing numbers in the past decade.
The reality is, once we die, we can't really control or know what is being buried with us; and inside casket jokes happen often. Obit speculates that because accepting the death of loved ones and truly letting go can be difficult, many left behind will bury something personal to carry on a conversation. An international luxury fair in Verona unveiled a particularly posh way for the deceased to stay in touch in February. A velvet-lined, touchscreen-cell-phone-equipped golden coffin was available for $381,000.Funerals that honor an individual's love for technology, gadgets or other elements that would be considered the stuff of science fiction mere decades ago are becoming more commonplace, but are not necessarily new ideas. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry requested his remains be shot into space; when he died in 1991, his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry commissioned "memorial spaceflight" company Celestis to launch his remains as well as digitized tributes from fans into space for eternity. When she passed away in 2008, plans were made for both of them to be sent into their own deep space "Final Frontier" in 2010.
In a lower-profile case, a Star Trek and computer-themed geek funeral was held for a tech lover, whose ashes were encased in a SPARCstation computer. As his brother explained, it was "a cool place to spend eternity ... after we've left for that great data bank in the sky." Loved ones got to pay their respects through Post-It notes placed on the computer.Brownlee of the Penn museum finds it "kind of terrifying" to think about how whatever we choose to put in our graves could be the contents of future museums and possibly all people know about us. Serious thoughts about the legacy we will leave behind if we decide we really have to get in that last text message may be reason enough to get selective about what we simply can't die without.
I know that after reading this, some may begin to get ideas. They may think about heading out to the garage or shed for that pick and shovel so that, late at night, they can scale the cemetery fence and start digging for that huge treasure. Well, before you get started, let me say this...
First off, grave robbing is illegal and there are harsh penalties for it. Large fines and jail time are involved.
Also, think about this, You dig all night and there's nothing there to find. Not everyone puts items in the coffin other than the body. Plus, digging a grave by hand in one night is almost impossible. And even if it's done, you would still have to get the vault open and the casket as well. In case your not aware of it, caskets have keys and locks. And the keys are not buried with them. And forget about prying it open like in the movies, that won't work ether. So, just stay home and watch an old Boris Karloff movie on the late show.
Click this link to see the true ghost story that I wrote featured in a new book