Taphophile Corner - roadside memorials

 A white cross with a message inscribed on the front, a soggy teddy bear, artificial spring flowers covered in dirty snow.  At an intersection, in a median, along a section of interstate. A death has happened here, and a family wants you to know about it and share in their grief.

When did the cemetery move to the roadside and when did we start mourning so publicly?

You may be surprised at the answer.

I recently spoke to a couple who told me that the first time they could remember seeing this type of popular memorial, was on a vacation to Belize.

 The Spanish have a long tradition of memorializing the exact spot where a person died. These sites are known as Descansos. In Spanish descansos translates to "place of rest".  A white cross can also mark a descansos associated with a long funeral procession leading from a church to the graveyard. At each place where coffin bearers stopped and took a rest, the ground would be marked with a cross as sacred.

In the southwestern United States they are also common at historic parajes on old long distance trails, they marked the graves of people who died while traveling. It is thought that Spanish Conquistadors may have brought this tradition to North America.

Some descansos can become rather elaborate, the state of California requires a $1000 fee to allow this type of shrine to remain standing. Many families will  decorate the memorials with each passing holiday.

There's another reason why people mark the point of one's death and it is much more spiritual in nature. In fact, in one evening, I witnessed two of my interests colliding together in a horrific manner.

If it is true that a spirit lingers in a place where life was cut short in a violent manner, then I guarantee that two spirits can be found right here where this picture was taken. Take a good look.

A speeding car in excess of 100 mph, three broken phone poles, twisted wreckage and the lives of two children extinguished. I cannot convey to the reader what it feels like to be standing there just moments after a tragic death listening to the unsettling silence.  As an emergency medical technician I looked at the scene and knew there was nothing I could do. As a paranormal investigator, my hair stood on end and my mind raced. I could feel something absolutely unexplainable there that night. It has driven me to delve much more into this topic.


I can understand why people are drawn to these locations hoping to connect one last time with their loved one. But does the place of death trap spiritual energy? Does a scarred tree have the same power as a magnet in the paranormal world? Are lives cut short trapped in these exact spots? How many stories are there of people walking down a road at night only to vanish once a driver stops. One location that has seen a spike in paranormal activity is Shanksville, PA, on site where United Flight 93 crashed. http://www.norcrossparanormal.com/apps/blog/show/2224773-haunted-united-flight-93-crash-site-

Security guards who watch over this sacred ground have some fascinating stories to tell about what working the overnight hours is like. Are the victims of this plane crash still trying to make their way home?

Everyone knows how dangerous it is to be a part of the state police. Maybe that's why the first roadside memorials were simple white crosses placed by the Arizona Highway Patrol in the 1940's. When law enforcement officers are killed it is a tradegy beyond words. To die doing one's job. Today some of these roadside memorials are extra special, having benches and even parks built up around them. But are officers still doing their jobs on these lonely stretches of road? Can victims of car chases still elude authorities? Watch this video and see what you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF0M912DyMk

A clip worthy of Fact or Faked. Was there a hole in the fence? If so why didn't police pursue? What is your opinion?


Public displays of mourning have exploded in popularity in the last two decades. It is also an international phenomenon who's roots may have begun with the death of Princess Dianna. That single event lead to massive shrines in both Paris and London. Today there is a permanent memorial at the mouth of the tunnel where so many lives were lost the night the princess died. In Australia approximately 1 in 5 fatal car accidents are marked with memorials even if the person died at the hospital.

But not everyone is a fan of the roadside shrine. The states of Colorado, Massachusettes, and Wisconsin have all banned the roadside memorial. Alabama does not allow them on any interstates. With good reason. There have been people hit by cars just trying to get to memorials on such high speed roads.

This is where I weigh in with my opinion. Being a taphophile I would naturally be drawn to these sites, right? With so much energy and tragedy connected to these locations, how could a fan of the graveyard resist?

Well, again this may surprise you, I can't stand these memorials. Just a personal opinion. I believe they cheapen the final resting place. The items left behind rot and become an eyesore, even worse they blow around the sites becoming litter. Drivers look at them and take their eyes of the road. People get hurt maintaining them. I could go on and on.

While I'm on the subject, I also don't care for the rolling obituary. I was horrified not very long ago to see an obituary decal that included an image of the deceased, right there on the window. This photo was taken in a grocery store parking lot. You can make out 3 different stickers, two on one car alone. In total there were 14 of these rolling memorials, and I didn't even check the back parking lot.

I suppose everyone grieves in a different way. But it seems odd to me that we somehow feel a balloon, a stuffed animal or an empty can of beer is a fitting tribute on someone's lawn. I say this so cynically because I have also seen the negative impact that public mourning has on those who simply owned property that tragedy occurred on. The shrine at the top of this blog is located about 10 feet from the end of a driveway where two very young children wait for a bus. (Under the age of 7) Their mother spoke to me and told me her fear of how her children would process all of this.

Since teenagers where involved, many from the high school have come to add to the site, notes and flowers, solar lights, even a cairn has been built. The site has grown increasingly larger.

All of the memorials featured here are from a single stretch of road, U.S. Rt. 2. Before Interstate 95 was built, this route was once known as one of the deadliest stretches of road in Maine. I spoke with an older gentleman who told me that at one time the state put up signs where fatal accidents occurred to warn drivers about driving safely.  After a while there where so many they clogged up the sides of the road and the state couldn't keep it up. Hearing a fact like that makes me think, thank goodness for modern cars and air bags.

Love them, or hate them they are here to stay unless legislated away. So pay attention to your driving and buckle up! Hopefully this is as close to a roadside memorial as you will ever get.

Footnote:  I took these photos just hours before I wrote this blog. As I was writing, I had the familiar sensation of "cobwebs" drag across my right hand. At another time, I had the image on my computer screen completely rotate 360 degrees. I have never seen this happen before and I'm hoping it's… explainable…?

FYI – There are even companies who market just these types of makers.



http:// www.victorystore.com






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