This past Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my friend Tom and I made a return trip to the Mount Wood Cemetery and Overlook in Wheeling, West Virginia. We left Carlisle at 6:00AM and arrived at the overlook at 9:30AM. We photographed at the overlook and then the cemetery until about 2:00PM. On the return trip we visited Bellaire, Ohio, home to several old bridges that have appeared in recent movies and then on to Pittsburgh to photograph the city skyline. We arrived back in Carlisle at about 10:00PM. It was a long day for sure, but the weather was beautiful and we got some unusual, controversial, and perhaps once in a lifetime photographs.
Here are a few of my photographs from the Mount Wood Overlook.
Unlike my first trip to the cemetery, thankfully, we were not accosted by any of the toothless locals posing as cemetery caretakers. While at the overlook however, a little 87 year old man walked up from behind and surprised us. Tom asked him if he had a gun. The old guy said no but he had some pepper spray. We just let him through..!
As I blogged before, the Mount Wood Cemetery is a very old, very neglected and very vandalised cemetery. It is truly in a sad state. Here are some of my photos from the cemetery. You can see some of the tumbled headstones and destruction of the mausoleums.
There also appears to have been a fire in the cemetery at some point. There are remains of several trees that have their tops burned off and more than one of the mausoleums looked like the roofs were burned.
Scattered throughout the cemetery are the graves of some civil war veterans. A prominent one that we came across was the grave of Sergent George P. Wilson, a member of the Shriver Grays Company “G” 27 th Virginia Infantry C.S.A. He was killed in Manassas in 1861. A very interesting article on the Shriver Grays by Paul Burig can be found here: The Shriver Grays, Company “G” 27 Virginia Infantry .
Tom and I photographed in the cemetery for almost three hours. We made it to the top of the hill and down around part of the backside. There were many more tumbled down, broken gravestones and several more neglected mausoleums. At about 2:00PM we had decided that we had seen enough of the cemetery and we decided to head off to Bellaire, Ohio, just across the Ohio River and about 5 miles south.
Leaving the cemetery we descended the hill on a walkway near the front of the property. When we got down near the front gate we came across a mausoleum dated 1889 with a large split in the gable roof and a gaping hole in the end where several of the wall stones had been removed. We both had witnessed the dilapidated state of this cemetery but I don’t think that either of us was prepared for this.
The image below is the inside of the 1889 mausoleum, photographed from the large hole in the side. I was able to shoot a hand-held HDR sequence but this image is from a single photograph. Right or wrong I felt it too compelling to pass up. It appears that at one time there were four caskets in this mausoleum and that the two top boxes have been pried open and there contents laid bare. Contained in the debris are several cans, including a Budweiser can and a Sprite can, a Styrofoam cup and some plastic food containers. There appears to be a bone laying on the casket on the right hand side. Considering the date of the mausoleum, I don’t think that it is from one of the original inhabitants but I don’t know for sure.
Recently I took part in a digital image competition where the judge, critiquing one of the images of a captive animal, put forth the notion that the image bordered on exploitation. I don’t know if this is exploiting the dead or not but I know for sure that the conditions that I have photographed here are deplorable. How do we get to the point where we are peering into a 122 year old tomb complete with shattered caskets, bones and Budweiser cans..?
I wonder what you think of this image..? All comments are welcome. How I got the photograph.
Coming soon, the rest of the trip, bridges in Bellaire, Ohio and the Pittsburgh skyline.