Unearthed skulls, slow burning candles dripping molten wax over the rough stone crypts, echoes through the hallowed corridors of chants in unison which called forth the god Bondyè.
Peeking around one of the crypts, my stomach retreated into my ribcage like a scared pup cowering in its doghouse as I saw women and men swaying, shaking, and chanting.
A goat, eyes glazed over with fear from the commotion, was pulled forward to a priestess adorned with a gold. Firelight dancing over the hammered metals she wore, and in her hand reflected the bright silver light from a curved blade.
I held my breath, so not to disturb the ritual, and so wouldn’t be next to have my head laid on that fire charred stone mantle. Or should I say chopping block.
Then it happened. Swift and clean like a knife through warm butter. No “Shing!” noise was made like you might hear in movies when a sword cuts into a foe. No, this sound was much more nightmarish.
Have you ever heard a goat cry?
If not, I never wish it upon you.
As blood burst over the white matted fur and the goat collapsed, a wail like the one from a crying baby rang out through the stone labyrinth of crypts, and as the goat’s twitched its screams turned to a whimper, then a gurgle, then silence.
And I wanted to vomit.
And that was a fictional travel horror story…
Gotcha! Hopefully I didn’t give you the heebie-jeebies too much, but I told this very Horror movie-esque tale because this is what I expected to see when I first explored a Haitian above ground crypt.
I already have a fascination with cemeteries, but growing up on ‘The Crypt Keeper’ and hearing very terrifying stories of Haitian Voodoo ceremonies, I expected to be trapped in my own Hollywood horror story.
As usual though, it ended up not being like I expected. So come with me through a tour of a haunting, yet beautiful Haitian Cemetery.
It kind of happened by accident. We had never planned on exploring one, but we happened to stumble into the old marketplace director who was fascinated by our project.
When I found out we were going to be getting a tour of one of the cemeteries, usually gated and locked, I became über giddy.
I don’t know what it is, but I always find myself drawn to the age old stone markers of lives that once were wherever I tend to travel to.
Up until this point I had seen tons of them, small and large, lining the roads we drove through or dotting city blocks. Always walled and locked.
When we first entered through the rusted wrought iron gate following a priest, I felt the need to hold my breath like I did as a little boy whenever you would pass a cemetery in a car.
It was silent, except for the others echoing voices as they had already walked far ahead. I was just 10ft in and already felt lost in a labyrinth.
I couldn’t help but walk slowly though. Even though I’ve been in PLENTY of beautiful old cemeteries, I hadn’t been into on like a Haitian cemetery.
Personal mausoleums towered over me like a bustling city of the dead, all brightly colored and stacked upon each other like a small Haitian city of its own.
Some were cracked or crumbled from time and the natural disasters that have plagued the country.
Yet, in the presence of the dead amongst the crumbling skyscrapers of passed loved ones, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of these memorials.
And there was a pit in my stomach as I walked through the corridors thinking about my mother, and how she does not have one.
A bucket list item of my own.
When we came to this iron topped blackened crypt with a small stone box connected to its base was when thought up that elaborate and creepy story at the beginning of this article.
The priest told us that this was a very special stone, one in which individuals come in the twilight hours to give trinkets, burn herbs, and offer vodou prayers. And MAYBE even sacrifices.
*cue the suspenseful music*
Whether or not that is true, or to scare some gullible American like myself that believes everything explodes or is haunted, it was still intriguing.
I feel like I could have wandered, and probably gotten lost, for hours in that cemetery, but the priest also turned out to be the ex-head of the marketplace in Cap-Haitian and was taking us on a VIP tour of that as well.
But one thing was for certain as we walked back through those snaking colorful corridors – Haitian cemeteries are not bloody voodoo ritual grounds, but beautiful memorials to their loved ones.
P.s. I have actually heard a baby goat cry, and it is just as terrifying as I described.
What do you feel about cemeteries, and where is your favorite?