Copyright 2009 by Gary L. Pullman
The greening of America promises to alter the appearance of future cemeteries. Tomorrow’s burial grounds won’t be anything like the ones which feature the crypts and graves that were popular in many of yesterday’s horror books and films, nor will they look much like the park-like cemeteries, with their flat headstones, which, in recent years, have replaced the more traditional necropolises. Instead, they will look much like young forests. Footpaths will lead through stands of trees, and the markers of those who are buried therein will be set among vegetation indigenous to the region.
Here is the cemetery of tomorrow, as described by Earth Artist Cemetery and Planning’s website:
One of the most dramatic changes in cemetery design is the growing trend of “Green Burial.” These modern cemeteries use native plants over the grave, with footpaths connecting memorial structures located within the emerging forest. Green Burial Grounds help establish and protect natural habitat while providing a spiritually fulfilling burial ritual.
Likewise, the markers will undergo, if not a sea change, a significant transformation as well, according to the same site:
Small intimate memorial areas located throughout the developing forest facilitate outdoor funeral ceremonies and provide a quiet respectful place to visit.
Based upon the photographs and illustrations that accompany these articles, the headstone of the future will resemble wall plaques in which the decedent’s name and the dates of his or her birth and death are carved, in rustic letters befitting the “emergent forest” in which he or she is to find eternal repose, and decorated with acorns, vines, and other images appropriate to the natural, woodland surroundings.
Horror writers need to keep up with such changes. A reader’s willing suspension of disbelief can stretch only so far, after all, and a writer who persists, too long into the green revolution, in depicting the types of graveyards in which there are—well, graves—and tombs—is one who will be called, if the reader is feeling charitable, “old-fashioned” or, if the reader is not, simply out of touch.
Meanwhile, perhaps the makers of markers can create, for the cremated, receptacles which resemble benches rather than urns, that they may be placed at intervals along the footpath that leads through the “emerging forest” that the cemetery has become, as all that walking through the woods and searching among the underbrush for the final resting place of one’s dearly departed could be rather tiring after a mile or two.
They also better start thinking about how they can make such cemeteries seem scary, both on film and on the page. It seems unlikely that a little artificial fog and spooky music will be enough, not when, at any moment, Bambi or Thumper might step out from behind a majestic oak or pine to graze upon the “native plants over the grave” of one’s Aunty Em or Uncle Henry.