20 Great Headstones You Need to Take a Look at

Some people – okay, maybe most people – don’t seem to have much of a sense of humor when it comes to the topic of their own death and what may or may not come afterward. Which is totally fair, considering the seriousness of the topic. If, however, you can manage to look past the, you know, finality of the whole thing, it turns out there is room for some pretty awesome…let’s call them statements.

#20. The Tomb of Enrique Torres Belón (Lampa, Peru)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

The mausoleum of Enrique Torres Belón, a tower of bones topped by a shiny replica of Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta,’ is undeniably creepy. There’s no doubt it stands out among the small, provincial charms of Lampa, a Peruvian town that still possesses a ton of 16th century charm.

The tomb, which holds both Belón and his wife, is lined with human skeletons and skulls exhumed from the town’s cemetery. At its base is a black marble cross that casts eerie shadows cast by the strange wall hangings. The strange result is that all of Lampa’s founding citizens seems to be gazing down on the couple for all eternity.

#19. Joseph Palmer (Leominster, Massachusetts)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Apparently, there was a time when a man wearing a beard was a point of contention – so much so, in fact, that when Joseph Palmer continued to wear one into the 1820s, long after they went out of fashion, he was criticized for being slovenly, ungodly, and even communing with the devil. Things got out of hand when Palmer was attacked outside of a hotel in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1830, a fight that ended with two men stabbed and Palmer in jail on assault charges.

He spent 15 months in jail, maintaining both his innocence and his facial hair the entire time.

When he died in 1865, he made sure that the likeness displayed on this tombstone wore – of course – a beard, making him the winner for all eternity.

#18. The Grave of Tom Thumb (Tattershall, England)

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Tom Thumb stood, according to legend, just about 18 inches high and lived to the age of 101. When he passed away in 1620, the people of Tatterhsall, a village in the quaint Lincolnshire countryside, buried him inside the town’s church.

Or so they say. Traditionally, Tom Thumb is considered a fictional character – a cunning boy who used his size to trick people, much like the leprachaun legends of Ireland – and the person buried in Tattershall supposedly was a favorite of the King’s Court. Regardless of its truth, it is quite a charming English tale.

#17. Merchant Ball (Marion, Ohio)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

This is a strange one, and it begins with the Merchant family, prominent industrialists in Ohio who chose a huge sphere to go atop the grave of Charles Merchant in 1896. The ball was polished until it shone, and for a time, stood proudly still – until the day it began to mysteriously rotate on its pedestal.

The ball, which weighs 5,200 pounds, had not been properly secured because it was thought that the weight of it would hold it in place. Even though the Merchant descendants have tried securing the sphere with tar and other implements, it continues to rotate slowly for a reason no one can determine.

#16. John Paul Jones (Annapolis, Maryland)

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The father of the American Navy is commonly remembered for his statement, “I have not yet begun to fight” during the Revolutionary War. After America won her independence from Britain, Jones went to work for a time in the Russian Imperial Navy before retiring in France and, somehow, ending up in a cemetery belonging to the French royal family.

His remains were forgotten for a time before being discovered by an American ambassador in 1905 and returned to the States, where they’re now on display below the chapel of the United States Naval Academy. The impressive sarcophagus is sculpted out of black and white marble that makes it look as though it has been weathered by deep waters, and covered in barnacles. Bronzed dolphins bear it up from the base.

Talk about a statement.

#15. Nicolas Cage (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Photo Credit: Flickr

The 19th century gave us no lack of tombs in the shape of pyramids, but this one is different: it was built in the modern era…and it’s empty.

Nicolas Cage purchased a plot in the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans (also home to the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau), and promptly decorated his space with a stark, nine-foot stone pyramid. The actor hasn’t spoken about his reason for erecting the tomb, and speculation runs the gamut from his association with the Illuminati to an homage to his part in the National Treasure films.

Whatever the truth, many New Orleans locals aren’t happy about the actor’s ability to get space in the already cramped, historic cemetery.

#14. Jesus in Cowboy Boots (Paris, Texas)

Image Credit: LOC.gov

Photo Credit: LOC.gov

Before a successful furniture and casket maker named Willet Babcock died in 1881, he asked master-stonecutter Gustave Klein to create an impressive memorial for his grave – there’s the typical carved wreaths, a cross, and an angelic figure in robes…that is sporting cowboy boots.

There has been some debate as to whether the figure is Jesus at all (some think it’s too effeminate, and sans beard), but either way, the good people of Paris, Texas refer to the monstrosity as “Jesus in Cowboy Boots.”

Because Texas, presumably.

#13. Afterglow Vista (Friday Harbor, Washington)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

The memorial, officially known as the McMillin Mausoleum, was named for Freemason John S. McMillin. It’s not, in fact, a mausoleum at all but an open air rotunda that features a huge, limestone table at its center, complete with a set of chairs – meant to represent the family’s dinner table at home.

The chairs each contain the ashes of family members, with one left empty for the son who turned away from God.

#12. Mrs. Chippy Monument (Wellington, New Zealand)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition to Antarctica was as long and miserable as every other polar exploration, save for one thing – Mrs. Chippy, the ship’s cat. Once the ship and the team became stuck in the ice, both Mrs. Chippy and the sled dogs were shot for food.

To honor the brave kitty, the New Zealand Antarctic Society added a bronze likeness to her caretaker’s grave in 2004.

#11. Colonel Buck (Bucksport, Maine)

Delco Ghosts

Photo Credit: Delco Ghosts

Colonel Jonathan Buck, the founder of Bucksport, Maine, executed a witch in the early days of the town. She cursed him (obviously) and swore he would always bear the mark of his dastardly deed – and the legend tells that her leg fell from her body as it was being burned, and the stain on his grave is there as a reminder.

It looks like a macabre stocking on a fireplace, so I suppose in this scenario, it’s the witch who got the last word.

#10. William G. Bruce (Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire)

Image Credit: Atlas Obscura

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Who can resist man’s best friend? No one is the answer, and after William G. Bruce died in a hunting accident, his wife Augusta spent a pretty penny to commission noted headstone carver Peter Brennan. He crafted headstones for both her and her husband, with a granite dog who watches over them in the afterlife.