Monday, July 11, 2011


I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,
Traveling through this world of woe,
Where there’s no sickness, toil or danger,
In that bright land to which I go.

Hood Family plot, Hill View Cemetery, LaGrange, Georgia.
Photograph 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

First thing first, I’m sure some of you may be scratching your heads thinking, “What the hell is a taphophile? Do they have to register with the police? Is that bad? Should I even be reading this blog?” My answers: I’ll explain in a moment, no, no and a huge YES! Ok, now to taphophiles and taphophilia. The word taphophile comes to us from the ancients; taphos, from Greek, meaning “grave” and –philus, from Latin but taken from the earlier Greek -philos, meaning “lover of.” Therefore, a taphophile or someone who loves cemeteries, graves, funerary practices, funerary art and the like. If you are just learning this word, do not fret, my spell check doesn’t even recognize it.

A hand pointing towards heaven
atop a monument to Eula H. Jackson
Ware, who died April 3, 1892,
Hill View Cemetery, LaGrange,
Georgia. Photograph 2011, by Lewis
Powell IV, all rights reserved.
I do like cemeteries. In a cemetery, so many of my passions come together in one place: my love of history, historic preservation, genealogy, art, architecture, sometimes ghosts, literature, symbolism, theatre (in the graves of those associated with it) and nature. What couldn’t I love about cemeteries? After starting my blog, Southern Spirit Guide, last year and spending time tramping through and photographing cemeteries, my appetite for these regions of the dead has been whetted. I have done some research and reading on the topic, but frankly, I’m still very much a novice. The inspiration for this blog came while exploring Atlanta’s grand Oakland Cemetery. There is so much marvelous funerary art there in combination with the garden-like landscaping that the place is truly inspirational.

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a journal of my explorations into this world; a record of my own research. It will alternately be a travel guide and a historic record. But also, it will serve as a place to back up what I have learned on this journey.

Why just the South? Well, I am a son of the South and many of my ancestors settled initially in the South or at least migrated there at a later date. I considered writing just about cemeteries in general, but with a smaller geographical region such as the South, I can more easily explore these places myself. Additionally, research on these locations is much easier to come by. While my ghost blog has a very well-defined area (basically the Southeast), the definition of what is “The South” for the purposes of this blog, will not be so well-defined and may include Texas, Missouri and Arkansas. Please note, that while I do write about ghosts in my other blog, these cemeteries and burial spots in this blog may not necessarily be haunted. Should there be folklore associated with these places, I may include it here.

Angel in the plot of the Terrell family, Greenville
City Cemetery, Greenville, Georgia. Photograph
2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

If you do visit these places, please be respectful of the dead and living. Obey all posted rules and policies and respect the wishes of any landowners. Beware that some cemeteries may be dangerous, especially the St. Louis cemeteries in New Orleans. These cemeteries may sometimes harbor criminals; therefore, it is a good idea to explore them in a group rather than alone.

Now, let us wide-awake wayfaring strangers pass into the quiet regions of the resting…

A partial view of the cemetery at Long Cane Baptist Church,
Long Cane community, Troup County, Georgia. Photograph
2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I know dark clouds will gather round me,
I know my way is rough and steep,
Yet beauteous fields lie just before me
Where gods redeem, their vigils keep.

-- “Wayfaring Stranger” traditional British/American folksong

Click here for Emmylou Harris singing this song.


  1. Awesome, Lewis! I hope you'll be visiting the cemetery in Decatur (GA). Lots of history, lots of activity. The Decatur Ghost Tour takes you through the oldest part. It's one of my favorite places. I guess that makes me a taphophile!

  2. Wonderful! I love cemeteries. There are some really lovely ones here in the South. I particularly like the old ones in Mobile and New Orleans.

  3. Dear, us southerners do love our cemeteries! I will be doing a candlelight tale soon about that subject for Friday, as well as putting up a post to promote this fantastic blog. I miss the cemeteries of the south, but I often share the ones of the west on my blog. They are quirky and interesting in their own way.