The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Calvary Cemetery

atavistical menace

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Welcome to the darker side of the year.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Call it what you will. There’s Samhain, and Calan Gaeaf, and we’ve also got All Hallows’ Eve – but it’s just Halloween here at Newtown Pentacle HQ. 2013 has been a slow one for the occult and magick beat, I’m afraid. Haven’t been able to bring you much more than a few headless chickens found on the rail tracks in Maspeth, actually. It’s not that I haven’t been looking, mind you, but I just keep on finding singular shoes divorced from their mated pair. Try and convince me that there isn’t some serial killer at work behind this phenomena, I dare you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A lurking fear of mine is the sure knowledge that there are rats in the walls. Just beyond the reach of station lights, they squirm and breed and hunger. Remember last year- directly following the storm- when concerns about this rodent army leaving the flooded tunnel system to try their luck above ground, in the darkened streets of lower Manhattan, were openly debated? Who can guess all there is, that might be down there?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan terrifies. Its teeming masses yearn to breathe free, but are forced to congregate in the great human hive in the name of industry. The atmosphere hosts a thriving variety of bacterial and viral specie, which float along on gusts of contaminant laden air from host to host. Pandemic is inevitable, and it would not be the first time either. First Cholera, then Typhus, Tuberculosis, and Influenza have historically cut great swaths of the population down on this crowded island. Always there are those who cannot afford to be sick, and are forced to go about their business with the affect and manner of the walking dead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Halloween though, isn’t about some mad serial killer operating in Queens, or an army of starving rats emerging from the Subways to feast, nor some plague that renders its victims with a virulent visage reminiscent of the living dead. Instead, it’s about spectral menaces rising from graveyards to wander the land in search of living souls to take back to hell with them, silly. The Danse Macabre is underway, so watch out Newtownicans, for evil of the most vile sort is afoot.

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distant hills

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So, what were you up to a year ago?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As has been and will be repeated to you all day by everyone, today is the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy blowing in and kicking New York City’s ass, and the start of an era in which discussion of the environment became a politically expedient and quite mainstream issue. A twelve to fourteen foot high wall of water suddenly surging through the neighborhood can do that. A lot of swell planning, plotting, and intentions “to armor up” has been going on in the intervening year. Stout terms like “resiliency” and “soft edges” have been wielded by pundit and potential contractor alike, and offered to a shaken public. Whether this plan is palliative or prophylactic, only time will tell.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dozens of people have volunteered the stories of their trials that night to me over the last year, and others proudly talk about their time with Occupy Sandy and other relief efforts. The storm kicked New York City’s ass- that’s for sure- but New Yorkers are quite used to a swift kick in the butt, periodically. Personally speaking, your humble narrator counts his lucky stars that HQ was largely untouched by the storm’s deleterious effects (although, to be fair, HQ was hit by lightning the previous spring which destroyed a small fortune in electronics). We suffered no ill effect other than the difficulties encountered by Our Lady of the Pentacle in her quest to return from the west coast. Astoria, at least my part of it, was unscathed and largely open for business by the next morning.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My thoughts, however, remain centered on the sorrow of it all. Images abound- loss, and death, and fire, and storm tossed terror. Scared kids and barking dogs, firemen in boats, all that stuff. That’s the public side of it. Anecdotes and off the record statements offered to me by those who serve the public in a variety of official roles describe a city laid low and nearly sunk. For those who died during or because of this storm, and the multitudes whose lives were inextricably altered by it, condolences are offered. It is hoped that the images of Sandy, and those of Katrina, will similarly not be forgotten.

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always susceptible

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In today’s post, a familiar path.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The triple lobed eye of that thing which cannot possibly exist at the cupola of the sapphire tower, a structure in Long Island City’s Court Square area often referred to as “The Megalith” at this – your Newtown Pentacle – must enjoy one heck of a view. Norse God Odin is meant to have sat upon a “hildskalf” or high seat from which he could see the entire world, he also had two ravens which were sort of like unmanned drones that he sent off on espionage missions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I may have read too much popular literature of the Science Fiction genre, probably, but the notion of armed robots flying, swimming, and tunneling around the world makes me a bit more nervous than two magical ravens serving a one eyed god. Saying that, I for one welcome our new robot (or raven) overlords, and look forward to the glorious efficiencies they will bring. Also- just in case- Hail Ming. Pictured above, the gates of Calvary in late afternoon sun.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels as if he is in a bit of a rut at the moment, overly familiar with certain corridors connecting familiar destinations. Wanderlust is at the forefront of my ambitions, and I wonder what new frontier there might be out there which I’m not learning about. If you’re not actively learning something new, you’re actively dying inside. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been dead inside for a long time… can’t you smell it?

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 21, 2013
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

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carnivorous organisms

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Today’s post visits DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An angle between neighborhoods, this spot is in Maspeth and Sunnyside and Blissville and Laurel Hill all at the same time. It’s alongside the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Queens leg of the 1.1 mile long Kosciuszko Bridge Complex and the Long Island Expressway. To the west lies Calvary Cemetery and its tomb legions, and it is known to all simply and aptly as Laurel Hill Blvd.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the spots where Europeans originally settled in Queens, as early as the 1680’s there were farms and houses here, it is nevertheless a forgotten and desolate place seldom traveled to but rather through. In actuality, if you were to count all the humans who travelled by on any given day, the number would suggest one of the most crowded spots on the planet.

Luckily, local artisans have inscribed the spot.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast graffiti has been installed, decrying the clarion call of the outer boroughs upon the titan masonry of the bridge’s approach ramp. Epic wit emblazoned with such panache surely indicates the presence of a latter day bard here in this angle between neighborhoods.

Pithy expression, and the freedom to pursue it, indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily, everything in Queens faces Manhattan these days, and on a clear day one might be able to discern this delicate missive from the Shining City if atmospheric and lighting conditions are just right. Also, the thought paid by the artist to those visiting the interred at Calvary must be heeded.

Imagine the joy of describing to your grandchild what the word “Scumbag” means as he stands in front of a loved ones grave.

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Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

intently and shudderingly

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dissonant, the mad cacophonies of Western Queens often drive one such as myself beyond the brink of madness, and solace from this unending assault can only be found deep within the grounds of Calvary Cemetery. First Calvary, that is. To me, the name of the neighborhood which hosts the burial grounds of the Roman Catholics is aptly named, and Blissville is where one retreats to commune with the relative silence of the polyandrion.

Now, over the last few years, I have seen many strange and wonderful things, and witnessed places in New York City that only a select would even suspect to exist. I have seen dead animals of all sorts littering the streets, a few killed in rituals, but mostly from accidents. I have never seen a dead human being floating by in the rivers or the creeks, nor have I found some dude lying on the side of the road- I’m lucky like that.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine how excited I was, then, when this seeming casualty appeared on my jaunty stroll through First Calvary on a sunny March afternoon. Finally. That’s when the terror set in.

A question which a humble narrator often asks himself, when confronted with situations that require moral, legal, and philosophical contemplations is simply “How would I explain this to Judge Judy?.”

In the case of photographing a possibly deceased human (pondered as I shot these pictures so quite obviously one wasn’t exactly impaled on the horns of dilemma) do you photograph first and then call the cops? What exactly do you tell the cops? “Yeah… I do this blog… Yes sir, I walked here… No sir, nothing like that… Yes sir, Waxman with an x”… and so on?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As your humble narrator processed an answer which might be acceptable to both televised jurist and hard boiled gendarme, the corpse suddenly animated, its mouth parts bleating out a long and phlegmatic tone which reminded one most of snoring.

Deductive reason suggests that instead of dead, this fellow was merely asleep. A lovely place for a nap, despite the shocking suggestions offered by a prone positioned human laying stock still on the ground in a cemetery, as the sun was warm and bright, soft grass welcomes, and there is plentiful company. Below, three million lie.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ground at Calvary is sown with “all too soon’s,” “should have been me instead’s,” and “why’s.” The soil is composed of the “they’ll never get to’s” and “cut down in their prime’s,” along with the good who died young and the bad who died old. If there is any place in New York City where one can sense that there very well might be a whole other side to existence that extends beyond the meat, it’s at Calvary.

Spending too much time here can be dangerous, a little over three hours usually does it, when a hypnagogic spell begins to infiltrate the mind of the visitor.

Lethargy and somnolence exert a pull inexorable, and afflicted day trippers experience a desire to just lay down on the ground… and nap.

“Just for a little while,” they will say. I always answer this with a single question.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What would one dream of, if they were to fall sleep in First Calvary Cemetery?

impersonal investigator

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Often does a certain conflict arise within me regarding Calvary Cemetery and the various tales unearthed there which are then presented at this, your Newtown Pentacle. On the one hand, vainglory states that by speaking about the departed, and telling some part of their story, the interred are in some way kept alive.

In other cases, and this is typified by a soul chilling email received around a year ago which had the subject line “why is my grandmother’s grave featured in your blog?,” offer credence to my fears that a certain line is often crossed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator subscribes to the bardic viewpoint which believes that a hero or villain is only dead when people stop talking about them, which is why Ghenghis Khan, Alexander Magnus, and Adolph Hitler are immortal.

There is another point of view, of course, which dictates that what happens at the cemetery stays at the cemetery. While researching the Early family, in whom my interest was sparked merely by the centuried integrity of their monument, this waters of this conflict bubbled forth.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not much is out there about the Early’s, not an obituary nor a requiem or even a trail of legal bread crumbs. Specialists in Irish genealogy might be able to reveal more than I, but that’s not really the point. From a moral and ethical point of view, should the dead just be allowed to just keep their secrets?

Attempts have always been made, around NP HQ, to present historical necrologies in the best of all possible lights, as much out of respect for heirs and descendants as for the desire to not speak ill of the dead. One attempts to remain cold, clinical, and impersonal when constructing these narratives.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Conflicted, one nevertheless forges on in the attempt to create some sort of visual record of Calvary Cemetery, the great polyandrion of the Roman Catholics in New York City. All that can said of the Early clan is what is inscribed upon the stone- that it acknowledges the memory of the matron Ellen Mc Collough who died at 75 in December of 1893, a 21 year old woman named Rose who died in 1872, and finally the presence of the earthly remains of Mary Early who left the mortal coil in March of 1902.

The monument is a fine piece of carving, which has robustly weathered a century of exposure to the elements.

potent interest

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A carven forest of infinite sorrow and cosmic loss, Calvary Cemetery here in Queens often brightens the mood of one such as myself.

Deeply jaundiced by the acts and betrayals of the living, a humble narrator has little choice but to reacquaint himself constantly with an era when honor and the keeping of ones word was the masculine ideal. Unfortunately we live in a debased age, wherein petty monsters are allowed to terrorize the townsfolk freely. Such creatures stalk every century of course, but in ours, the acts of vengeance one may enact against an opponent are considerably circumscribed by custom and law.

You just can’t punch a guy in the nose and be done with it anymore.

from wikipedia

The first burial in Calvary Cemetery took place on July 31, 1848. The name of the deceased was Esther Ennis, having reportedly “died of a broken heart.” By 1852, there were 50 burials a day, half of them were poor Irish under seven years of age.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moral conundrums such as the one described above were less important than finding a meal for most of the 19th century Catholics who were buried here. They mostly died young, they died poor, and they most often died from avoidable diseases brought on by bad water, poor sanitation, and chronic malnutrition. Most were illiterate, violent, and alcoholics (by modern standards), and the only people looking out for them were their priests.

That “50 burials a day” number in the wiki quotation above represents an interesting organizational question to me. Around the beginning of the Civil War, the technological resources that the Roman Catholic Church would have had access to in performing these interments is easily explained as the sort of gear you’d see in a Cowboy movie- horses and wagon, pick ax, shovels and spades.

That’s a lot of digging, better than eighteen thousand graves a year, which would require a lot of cheap labor.

18,000 funerals a year also indicates a lot of clerical work, performing ceremonial functions for the cemetery itself and organizing the ritual schedules of mass and other votive tasks for funeral goers at the cemetery chapel.

from fordham.edu

In the 1840’s a massive number of Irish-Catholics immigrated to the United States. By 1855, there were over 200,000 Irish in New York City. British land policies, which sought to sweep the Irish peasants off their land, were compounded by the devastating potato famine of 1845 to 1847. A rot attacked the potato crop, on which the Irish population had become dependent. About 2 million people perished. The Irish often arrived in America with few material possessions and were forced to live in squalor.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in the past, the first service conducted here, for Esther Ennis in 1848, was conducted by the legendary Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes.

Hughes was a charismatic firebrand who turned the Archdiocese of New York into a powerhouse player in education, real estate, finance, and politics within a single generation. Based in Manhattan, Hughes’s Archdiocese appointed the official chaplains of the Calvary Cemetery, once a prestigious position to hold. No evidence of a modern chaplain, although there must be some modern prelate who oversees the place, was discovered upon casual inspections.

The monument in today’s posting is that of one such chaplain of Calvary Cemetery.

from wikipedia

On April 8, 1808, the Holy See raised Baltimore to the status of an Archdiocese. At the same time, the dioceses of Philadelphia, Boston, Bardstown and New York were created. At the time of its establishment, the Diocese of New York covered all of the state of New York, as well as the New Jersey counties of Sussex, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Somerset, Middlesex, and Monmouth.

Since the first appointed bishop could not set sail from Italy due to the Napoleonic blockade, Fr. Kohlman was appointed administrator. He was instrumental in organizing the diocese and preparing for the Cathedral of St. Patrick to be built on Mulberry Street. Among the difficulties faced by Catholics at the time was anti-Catholic bigotry in general and in the New York school system. A strong Nativist movement sought to keep Catholics out of the country and to prevent those already present from advancing.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Lords and Ladies, gaze upon the inscription marking this marble as the monument of the First Chaplain of Calvary Cemetery, Rev. Patrick Hennessy.

This column, decorated and inscribed with iconography denoting the burial place of a Roman Catholic Priest, has stood here in section 3 since 1861. It adjoins two other monuments recently described at this, your Newtown Pentacle- the Connell obelisk from “whispered warnings,” and what turned out to be the Jeanne Du Lux and John P. Ferrie monument from “anxious band” and “doubly glad.”

from 1876’s “The visitor’s guide to Calvary cemetery, with map and illustrations” by J. J. Foster, courtesy archive.org

REV. PATRICK HENNESSY, Late Chaplain of the Cemetery, on which are the usual priestly insignia.

In the rear of the monument are statues representing ” Faith,” ” Hope,” and ” Charity,” angels in kneeling posture, and many others. Marble vases containing blooming flowers are scattered around, somewhat relieving the bare aspect of the ground, which is paved with small square-cut flagging, in which is a door leading to the vaults beneath. The whole plot is surrounded with substantial rails of marble.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the quotation above, there is a subterranean vault which lies forgotten below the very spot upon which I stood while shooting the closer in photos which appear above.

Such occluded knowledge and latent danger is nepenthe, of course, for one such as myself. References gleaned from study of ancient tomes indicates that Rev. Hennessy actually lived within the gates of the cemetery itself, but that comes from a single source and is therefore not 100% reliable. If accurate, however, the structure would have been found at the foot of the hill which Section 9 sits upon.

One suspects that unlike myself, who is a vast physical and psychological coward known for his fits of shrieking laughter and terrifying pauses, an Irish priest from the New York of 1861 would have found little problem with straightening his back up and punching some rogue right square in the nose.

an obituary published on January 28 of 1861, found at the NYTimes archive, discusses the passing of Rev. Hennessy

HENNESSY. — At his residence, on Long Island, on Saturday, Jan. 26, Rev. PATRICK HENNESSY, in the 51st year of his age.

His funeral will take place from the Church at Calvary Cemetery, at 10 o’clock A.M., this day, (Monday.) 28th inst. His friends, and the reverend clergy, are respectfully invited to attend.

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