Happy Halloween, everyone! Today, in observation of just about everyone’s favorite holiday, we’ll take a look at a very special architectural form.

People have long interred the dead above ground, and for a variety of reasons. Some locations with high water tables are simply not suited to conventional burials. Some people don’t like the idea of spending eternity in the ground. Still others might want to make a statement after death, just as a house makes a statement in life.

We’ve all got to go sometime, and those with money have often done it in style. Here are just a few of the many ways in which people have decided to deal with eternity while still drawing a breath.

All of them are creepy in their own special way…

A house, or mausoleum in this case, should ideally reflect something of its inhabitant(s). Here, a stained glass dome above the resting place of astronomer Percival Lowell resembles an observatory from the exterior and the night sky from the interior. The outer dome is a recent addition designed to protect the original dome. It is located near the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Photo credit: Michael-Rainabba Richardson

Begun in 1917, the Miller Mausoleum near Holden, Missouri, bears more than a slight resemblance to a house. Here is a link to a story about the interesting structure. Photo by Sue Sterling.

As a sort of “open air” mausoleum, the Davis Memorial in Hiawatha, Kansas, draws tourists from near and far. Statues surrounding the memorial show Mr. and Mrs. John Davis at various stages in their lives. Whether built as a true tribute to his late wife or as an act of spite remains a mystery! Photo credit: Livin’ Life with Lori (where more information can be found about the Davis Memorial).

Another Kansas eccentric, S.P. Dinsmoor, built this pyramidal tomb of native limestone (curiously cut to resemble logs) and reinforced concrete, similar to his adjacent house (previously posted about). One may enter the crypt during tours and view the decomposing Mr. Dinsmoor through a small glass window in his casket. Photo courtesy of Google Street View.

The eternal resting place of New York hotelier Harry Helmsley and his wife, Leona (a.k.a. the Queen of Mean). The neo-Greek Revival structure is suitably icy. Photo source: Gravely Speaking

This is the sort of mausoleum that is common to most larger cemeteries. Comprised of enormous slabs of stone, typically granite, they provide dignity on a modest scale. The iron gates convey a sombre stature. Similar designs are still built with frequency today.

Not surprisingly, many mausoleums have embraced a pyramidal form. This one is in California and has a delightful Egyptian Revival entry. Photo credit: Devon Apple

Probably the world’s most famous mausoleum, India’s Taj Mahal was built for the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and was commissioned in 1632, taking about twenty years to complete.

And, finally, a modest mausoleum which is bermed and built with rubble stone and mortar. Not far from the elementary school I attended as a kid, this mausoleum was well-known in town. My friends and I would dare each other to approach the iron gate. I finally did, and saw a dank interior which was filled with leaves. It appears that not much has changed since then. Designed to “sleep” six, there are three vaults on each side of the entry. It was way spooky, even in the daytime! Photo credit: Dixie Stephenson

%d bloggers like this: