By MARK OKRANT, NH Travel Guru
Two weeks have passed since we learned of the passing of our 41st US President, George Herbert Walker Bush.
Days following that great man’s passing, his remains will join those of his late wife Barbara at the Bush Library, on the campus of Texas A&M University. A very short time later, the flow of thousands of curiosity seekers to College Station will begin . . . a new tourism destination in the making.
How can we be certain of this? It’s a simple fact that visiting the gravesites of famous people has been engendering travel since the beginning of recorded history. Some of these travelers are engaging in a form of tribute to cultural icons and historic figures. Others are simply curious. Sadly, a very few choose to make their mark in less civil ways.
How many people travel to burial sites of the famous? While reliable figures are unavailable, visits total in the millions each year. Like others, your guru has participated in this seemingly macabre behavior; but more about that later.
In case you doubt what you are reading, allow me to list several of the ten sites that Funeralzone refers to as “beautiful and fascinating celebrity graves.” Doubtlessly, you will recognize the names of the interred.
- Princess Diana, at Althrop, Northamptonshire. The royal family was so concerned about the possibility of visitor degradation or vandalism, they selected a final resting place on an island in a lake.
- Elvis Presley is buried on the property at Graceland. Approximately 600,000 fans visit the site in Memphis annually. I’m told strict crowd control measures are in place.
- Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison’s graves are in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Both of these sites have been vandalized repeatedly by “fans,” necessitating site hardening measures by officials.
- Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb in Westminister Abbey, is a tribute to the great scientist’s contributions. Newton is in good company, as the Abbey is also the final resting place of Elizabeth I, Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and others.
- The graves of Bruce Lee and his son, at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle, attract approximately 10,000 visitors annually. To exemplify the dedication of some of these travelers, three men walked 3,700 miles over seven months to visit the site.
- William Shakespeare is buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. So popular are the village and burial site that numerous services and attractions have been spawned there.
As indicated above, your guru is in no position to point fingers at those attracted to burial sites. My collection of famous ones’ final resting places includes four US Presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Hoover, and Kennedy), one religious leader (Brigham Young), a frontier lawman and his admirer (Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane), and two celebrities (Lucille Ball and character actor George Petrie).
These sites range from the magnificent to the surprisingly modest. Lincoln’s tomb sits beneath an obelisk measuring 117 feet in height, while the burial room contains a seven-ton block of red marble. At the other end of the spectrum is the gravesite of Brigham Young. Despite the fact that Young impacted the lives of millions of LDS members, his burial site lacks elaborate vegetative cover and is situated inside a wrought iron fence that bears a simple bronze plaque.
Given the attraction of these places, one wonders how popular the Bush burial site will be. One can only hope that visitors will treat this and all final resting places with the respect they deserve, from this day forward.
In April 2017, after forty years as an educator, researcher, consultant, and mystery writer, Mark Okrant joined IndepthNH.org. Mark shares his insight about the travel and tourism industry, focusing upon its importance to New Hampshire. From time to time, he’ll spin a humorous story or two, always looking to educate us about the industry he loves.
Learn more about Mark’s tourism-based Kary Turnell murder mystery series by visiting www.markokrant.com.
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