GateHouse — Despite their reputation for being lively and fun, cemeteries are really rather spooky. This is because they’re generally solemn and sprawling and “respectful” or whatever, but I think it’s also because the ground beneath them is stuffed full of dead people? Like, everywhere? Like, you can’t really walk or jog or lay a picnic blanket down without running probably into someone’s “final resting place?” (They also have headstones everywhere, some very large and ornate, that make them extremely inconvenient for baseball games and water balloon fights, but that’s for another time.
I mention this because I’ve spent the better part of a weekend in a cemetery, as I’m staying with relatives in a small town in upstate New York filled with very old and deceased people. The house I’m staying in is a very old house at the foot of a very old cemetery, and its backyard is basically all gravestones, which means the place is almost certainly haunted, but it’s not like you have to worry about the neighbors in the back having parties or anything. (Seriously, to park at the house you need to pass through the cemetery’s very old gate. It’d be a fun story, if I wasn’t too busy jumping four feet in the air at every single last creak and pop while simultaneously, and this is the only word that makes sense here, whorlping.)
The cemetery is very old — the earliest birt date my 8-year-old son and I tracked down was 1771 (“You kids think you have it rough? In my day we had to walk uphill both ways and WE DIDN’T HAVE AN AMERICA you ungrateful hippies”). And it is very large, and there are tiered rises topping its many exhausting hills. And finally — and this is the part that surprised me a little bit — it is AMAZING for hide-and-seek. Like, I will never play hide-and-seek anywhere else again. When my 11-month-old wants to play hide-and-seek in a few years around the house, I will be like “ABSOLUTELY NOT” unless we can get to a nearby cemetery, which will be an entertaining detail he can bring up to the therapist later.
But we didn’t stop at hide-and-seek. We also had occasion to play Ghost in the Graveyard, a variation on hide-and-seek that we played in an ACTUAL GRAVEYARD which, for me, was a total bucket-list thing. Here is how Ghost In The Graveyard works, at least this version with my 8-year-old, who has been known to entirely make up rules to games for his own benefit (for instance, Connect One, Mouse Trap I Built Already, and Guess Which Number I’m Thinking Of And Changing Constantly): One person hides, everyone else seeks, but the catch is if a seeker catches the hider, the seeker stays with the hider, and so on and so forth until there’s only one person left seeking. The net effect is that you start a game with six people, and then five, and then four, until you’re wandering a large graveyard at nightfall wondering where everybody went and why it’s suddenly so quiet and whether or not it would just be preferable to submit to the inevitable zombie attack, since it’s not like the zombies are ever going to stop coming after you anyway.
But here’s the thing about playing in a graveyard at night: Most nights, it gets progressively darker, which makes you progressively realize you’re in a graveyard, which makes you progressively more aware of what exactly you’re running on around on, especially when you happen to step into a slightly squishy or mossy spot of land, which is REALLY SUPER DISCONCERTING.
Related, sort of
- How I risked death in a plummeting glass shoebox of death for my son
- Well sure, what 8-year-old wouldn’t want his very own tuba?
But then there’s also a time when you think you see movement behind a headstone, and you realize it’s a hedgehog or a gopher or some sort of local varmint, and you wish there was less unexpected movement happening in the unfamiliar gloaming. And then you look down at one point and you see that one of these animals has dug a hole in the ground, about 12 or 18 inches deep, abutting a short, old, weatherbeaten headstone whose name has been rubbed away, and it looks for all the world that something underground was trying to dig its way out, and that is when you retire inside for a beer and decide that video games are really much safer.