Deck of Death: Old Durham Cemetery

October 25, 2020 — It rose like the humped back of a massive beast, its hide shaggy with fallen leaves and barnacled with reddish-brown tombstones. Old Durham Cemetery has populated that hill in Durham, Connecticut, with the dirt of the dead since sometime around 1700.

It’s one of the more unique old cemeteries I’ve seen in New England. First, most of its stones are sculpted from sandstone of that pleasant auburn hue as opposed to the usual slate (it only has one slate tombstone). And the images sculpted are variations on royal figures, faces wearing crowns and surrounded by ornate touches that I assume have something to do with reigning in Heaven but could be deeply, embarrassingly wrong. But I’m not wrong in that all of those gravestones look like face cards from a deck of death. Some were illegible, the soft sandstone that made those carvings possible flaking and wearing away, but many had survived time and weather.

There were historical figures, too. Soldiers from the Lexington Alarm (the first battle of the Revolutionary War), politicians, a 19-year-old “Indian girl.” Each of the historic remains had a QR code on a metal stand beside it.

For those who want to see it, the cemetery is at the intersection of Old Cemetery Road and Main Street. We went to the wrong cemetery at first, finding ourselves at Durham Cemetery behind the Town Hall on Town House Road, but realized fast that it was wrong when we found the age, but not the atmosphere.

Here are some photos from Lindsey, as always capturing the atmosphere better than anybody could.

And then here are a few from me, capturing the facts of a place like Lindsey hates.

And then a rare panorama from Lindsey of the massive, shaggy, barnacled beast.