Tombstone tourist

Tombstone tourist (otherwise known as a "cemetery enthusiast", cemetery tourists, "grave hunter", "graver", or "taphophile") describes an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths. [1] The term has been most notably used by author and biographer Scott Stanton as the title of his former website and book, The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians (2003), about the lives and gravesites of famous musicians.[2]

Some cemetery tourists are particularly interested in the historical aspects of cemeteries or the historical relevance of their inhabitants. La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Vienna, Austria carry a large array of famous inhabitants and their tombs, that make the cemeteries significant tourist destinations.

Genealogy tourists make considerable effort to search out cemeteries and their records, to verify grave records and ancestral burial locations.


For centuries, people have made pilgrimages to the burial sites of religious icons and leaders. In fact, such was common during medieval times when people went to gravesites or to shrines to venerate saints.[3] In China, the ancient tradition of Ancestor Worship[4] also involved a veneration of dead relatives with visitations to shrines and gravesites.

During the 19th century, garden cemeteries[5] began to appear that encouraged visitors to stay and visit in the cemetery. Famous among these is the Père Lachaise cemetery[6] in Paris, France, which continues to invite tourists to visit and see elaborate memorials not only to the world famous, but to lesser known individuals as well.

Cemetery records have also been a way of verifying genealogical data. Making gravestone rubbings was in practice for centuries as a way of providing this documentation and appreciating the carvings on the tombstones. Among genealogists, scouring cemeteries looking for the graves of dead ancestors is a common and longstanding practice with individuals often relying on limited and outdated information to find burial sites.[7]


The appreciation of cemeteries has evolved along with science and technology. The Internet allows enthusiasts to visit cemeteries (and in some cases the gravesites of their own ancestors) on websites such as Find a Grave. There are also many websites and books devoted to people's personal explorations into cemeteries, particularly ones that contain the remains of famous individuals. There are also tour companies that organize and plan tours to famous cemeteries.

The hunting of graves has become digital as many cemetery transcribers and ancestor hunters have begun using GPS equipment to locate the area where a graveyard or gravesite is reputed to be.[8]

See also


  1. Rogak, Lisa (2004). Stones and Bones of New England: A guide to unusual, historic, and otherwise notable cemeteries. Globe Pequat. ISBN 0-7627-3000-5.
  2. Stanton, Scott & Stanton, Robin W. (2003). The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians. ISBN 9780965996693.
  3. Simkin, John. "Pilgrimage". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  4. "Ancestor Worship". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  5. "London's Victorian Garden Cemeteries". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  6. "Cimetière du Père Lachaise -Visite virtuelle - Cemetery's virtual tour - Jim Morrison - Edith Piaf". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  7. "City of the Silent - Tombstone Rubbings". Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  8. Guerrero, Russell. "Plotting a Grave Project". Trinity University. Retrieved 24 July 2016.

Further reading

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Cemeteries.
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