Grave Robbers

January 31, 2011

Saturday was a nice spring-like day here in Atlanta. I wanted to show my girlfriend Westview Cemetery. It is a historical place and the largest cemetery in the southeast United States. Westview has a lot of interesting elements:  one of the oldest standing structures in Atlanta, Confederate civil war trenches, famous people’s graves, and a very picturesque european-styled mausoleum. We arrived about 4:30 p.m. I showed her a few things I have seen there before. We saw Asa Candler’s grave. We walked around the stone and stained glass mausoleum building. I took some photos. Then we stumbled upon some civil war hand-dug trenches; a long semi-circle of earthen mounds atop a hill.  Part of the battle of Ezra Church took place on the cemetery grounds. We even saw a few deer.

It was now about 5:45 p.m.

The sun was setting so we started toward the exit. As we pulled up to the gate I felt a knot grow in my stomach. The iron gate was closed. Locked. We were trapped.

“What do we do now?”, I asked. We went over a few ideas. No one was in that giant grave yard besides us and about 100,000 skeletons. It was now 6:00 p.m. and dark.  As I looked over the locked gate and down the other side I saw a sign that said,” Open from 8:30 – 5:30.”  We called the local police station.

My girlfriend decided that she would call. She figured a lady-in distress would get a better result than some country talking guy in a less than friendly section of town. The officer said they had no key but they would call the “key-holder”. Great I thought. One hour passed and it was getting cold out. I had no coat. We chewed some gum and called a few friends to pass the time.

At 7 p.m. I said that we should call the police back. I figured we were really stuck and would have to climb the old stone and iron fence and get a ride back home. He let us know that they were awaiting a call from the Westview phone number and they would let us know shortly. A few minutes later the police called again and said someone was on the way.

In a little while a white Chevy truck rolled up and turned their bright lights on in our eyes. I walked to our side of the gate and waited. I could see something bad happening but hoped it wouldn’t. In a minute and slowly, an older man resembling Uncle Remus showed his face. (On a side note… Joel Chandler Harris, author of Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus fame, is buried in Westview.) The man had a white beard and a blue worker-man outfit on. He also had a under bite that showed his lower teeth and made him look a little like a bulldog. He was no happy. He yelled out in the night, “Hey, what are you doing in there?” I said,” I am waiting on you. We are locked in.” He told me the cops were on the way. I let him know that was fine and that we had already called them 3 times. He would get no closer to the gate.

After some more less-than-friendy comments and conversation, the “key-holder” walked up a little closer. He told me that there had been robberies and thefts in the cemetery. He then exclaimed that we were grave robbers and the police were going to want to talk to me. He said we were in trouble. I almost wanted to laugh. I though to myself,” Do I really look like a grave robber?” I didn’t even have a shovel! I wish I had that whole conversation recorded. It would have been funny later.

The bulldog-toothed man never smiled. I told him I would give him $20 for having to come out and helps us. He told me, “I don’t want your money.” Ok then. He opened the lock slowly and told us to roll past the gate. I parked the truck after rolling forward. I thought for a minute about taking off but if the police were on the way I wanted to explain myself. I look back and the man was writing down my tag number on a scrap of paper. Good grief.

He told me I needed to give him my driver’s license. I said that he had my tag number and the police had my girlfriend’s name and phone number. I said that was enough. He just angrily glared at me.

“Looks like the police aren’t coming.”, he said. I told him I was leaving and we quickly did. My girlfriend called the officer back at the police station. She told him what the Westview employee had said and how he had acted. The police officer asked if he was holding us hostage. He said he had not heard of any grave robbers as of late. He told her that we had nothing to worry about. I couldn’t believe all of that had happened.

A few minutes later we were almost back to my place. Looking back it seems like a weird dream. I did get a few nice photos out of the whole thing. No one was hurt or injured. I saw some really great Civil War history. Deer are nice. I did not have to spend any money. These are good things.

Westview Cemetery is a nice place. Just remember, the gates close at 5:30.

– kyle