Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Visiting Kane's Tomb
The next entry in my series of intriguing Pennsylvania graves (caged graves, the ticking tomb, multiple graves for Anthony Wayne) is a salute to Dr. Elisha Kane, the romantic hero of my novel, We Hear the Dead.
Located in Laurel Hill Cemetery, in the middle of Philadelphia, this mausoleum is the resting place of the most beloved adventurer of the mid-19th century, as well as a few of his relatives. I made a pilgrimage to see it when I reached the conclusion of my first draft.
When I say the middle of Philadelphia, I mean right smack in the middle of a tough neighborhood. When my husband and I wandered into the cemetery office, we were greeted by a girl behind a bullet proof window. She nodded knowledgably when we explained that we were there to see Kane’s grave, and circled the location on a map, which she slid through a crack in the glass. “You can’t get to the tomb,” she said. “You’ll have to look through the fence.” We stared at her in disbelief, disappointed and rather confused. “It’s for your own safety,” she explained. “You’ll see.”
We followed the map through the cemetery and eventually reached a tall, chain-link fence. Walking along the length of it, still confused, we eventually spotted the Kane tomb -- and yes, we could see the girl’s point. The dark stone monument is built into the side of a steep hill and partly obscured by grass covering the entire roof. A narrow stone path leads down to the entrance, but one false step and a visitor could tumble headlong down the rocky incline and onto East River Drive. A couple of bounces and – assuming he wasn’t hit by a speeding car – the unlucky visitor might roll off the highway, plummet down another few hundred feet, and plunge into the Schuykill River. It’s a precarious location for a mausoleum to say the least, although it commands a stunning view.
I had come out of curiosity and to pay my respects, but once I’d seen the tomb’s location, I knew I would have to re-write one of the scenes in my book to better match reality. According to historical record, Elisha Kane took Maggie Fox to visit his family mausoleum as part of a romantic carriage ride during their courtship. Supposedly, he pointed out the tomb as his future resting place and informed her that the future Mrs. Kane would rest there as well. He was, of course, broadly hinting she was under consideration for that choice slab of granite!
A romantic date in a graveyard. What a guy! All right, blog readers, here’s a question for you – have you ever had a romantic interlude in a cemetery? Or, alternatively, have you ever been on a date to a place stranger than this?
Astute blog readers might notice that the picture above does not look as if it were taken through a fence. I’m not going to reveal how that was done, but I will mention that if you are serious about keeping people on one side of a fence, you should spring for a padlock instead of just looping a loose chain around the bars of the gate.