Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated with the most recent information.
A year and a day...according to local lore, that’s the amount of time that must pass before a body interred in one of New Orleans’ above-ground tombs decomposes, leaving only bones behind. At that point, the tomb—which acts like an oven in the subtropical heat, subjecting the body to a process resembling slow cremation—can be opened.
The process says as much about New Orleans’ relationship with death as it does about its climate and topography. Because the city is below sea level, interring a body six feet under is not a viable option (caskets literally float back up out of the ground). So, New Orleans has developed a unique cemetery culture of above-ground tombs.
In New Orleans, you'll find cemeteries dating back as early as 1789; a triple-x marked tomb believed to house Voodoo queen Marie Laveau; a Hurricane Katrina memorial paying tribute to the unclaimed and unidentified victims of the storm; and a relationship with the spiritual world that’s both haunting and beautiful.Read More