19807 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48203
Bella Morte Rating: 1 Tombstone
Evergreen shares a border with Detroit gem, Woodlawn Cemetery and this makes a visit for those who are already in the area a "must"...if, that is, one happens to enjoy a mausoleum that could be used to shoot a low-budget horror film!
After a short drive through the front grounds of Evergreen, we parked outside the mausoleum. A red outdoor carpet, heavily stained and weathered, guided us up the stairs and to the doors. It's always a tense moment...wondering whether or not a mausoleum will be locked or not...but, on this day, one tug allayed our fears. Upon pulling open the weighty bronze doors and stepping inside, we were immediately enveloped by feelings of desolation, abandonment and a general sense of unease. The fact that the air conditioning was turned to "high" (even on such a cool day) brought to mind images of barely-checked decay and corruption. Quite creepy in a morbid sort of way, actually! Although future travellers may not be so fortunate, we found ourselves practically tripping over a metal casket bier which had presumably been left at the door to receive a "new arrival." The dusty red skirting on the apparatus fluttered in the breeze that resulted from our entrance. To either side of us, recessed private crypt rooms beckoned. Festooned with silver cobwebs, we thought they might contain something truly interesting but, sadly, they were wholly uninteresting. As we moved to the center of the chapel that loomed before us, we noticed something quite odd. Each of the four main corridors of the building to our left and right were closed off with regular sliding glass doors…the sort one would expect to find in a family dwelling, not a mausoleum. Their presence amidst the old marble and art deco chandeliers was doubly strange. We selected a corridor, practically dislocated a shoulder pulling the slider open, and soon found ourselves surrounded by neglected crypts and a columbarium room which featured niches with six or seven names on each marble frontispiece. The floor was covered with a sticky, brown residue which seemed to have no point of origin. Since there were no crypts in the area, it surely wasn’t “gore,” and there didn’t appear to be a leak in the ceiling or anywhere else. This "puddle" added to the air of neglect.
This next area we encountered was roped off and featured a sign instructing visitors not to go beyond that point. It seemed a strange command since there were plenty of crypts behind the "cut-off point" and family members surely could not be refused passage. We (literally) crossed the line and continued our explorations. Our tenacity was quickly rewarded as we discovered a “prize” in the form of a blue, fabric-covered casket resting on a bier! Although we felt fairly certain it was unoccupied, out of respect, we resisted the urge to find out. At one point, an employee emerged from a narrow, twisting stairway that led up to a private office. He made no mention of our trespass and, instead, was gracious enough to switch a light on before leaving us, once again, blissfully alone.
Next, we wandered down a connecting corridor and spotted two acoustic panels—the sort one would find in a room full of office cubicles. Curious, we glanced behind…and hit pay dirt! An old wooden casket rested a few feet below us. We carefully moved behind the panels and scrutinized the coffin. It had a metal crucifix attached to the lid and the wood itself was secured in several places by screws. We did gently lift a corner to determine whether or not it was occupied and, based on what we felt, it seems it was! We snapped a few pictures and then moved on.
It seemed each corridor was more desolate and even colder than its predecessor. There were other niche banks with a surprising number of names on each panel, and several of the private crypts had a marble statue or dusty vase of artificial flowers inside, but, again, nothing was of particular interest and we finally stepped out into the relative warmth of the morning sun, happy to escape the chill but still delighted in a sort of late-October sort of way.
The cemetery itself is hardly worth much comment. Here and there, a religious statue punctuates the nondescript stone landscape, but this is hardly a place worth visiting for aesthetic delights. On the way out, we did notice a tacky fountain by the entrance sign. Somehow, the sorry little display (though intended to convey elegance) just added to the general sense of loneliness. Do not trouble yourself to visit unless you have thoroughly enjoyed Woodlawn and still have some time on your hands.