On the infamous Friday the 13th, which was last Friday, speaker and co-author of the Road Guide to Haunted Locations series, Chad Lewis, visited the Perry Public Library for a presentation on bizarre burial beliefs. Throughout the evening program, attendees learned about mysteries pertaining the deceased including incidents of being buried alive, customs in cemeteries, and how to avoid run-ins with vampires.
The program was the fourth for the library, Mary Murphy, Director of the Perry Public Library said.
“This is the fourth year we’ve had either Terry [Fisk] or Chad here,” Murphy said. “The first one was haunted places in Iowa and that was over the Carnegie and we probably have 50 plus people at that, then we had the UFO one, and there was one last year that was more haunting places in Iowa.”
According to Murphy, the duo have a variety of programs to chose from, and this year the theme for the talk was bizarre burial beliefs.
A Wisconsin native, Lewis has spent his time searching through newspaper headlines to build his research, all of which has led him to the evening’s topics: avoiding being buried alive, the history of body snatchers, the popularity of seances, and the idea of the living dead.
“Cemeteries really grew in popularity during the Civil War and that’s when embalming started because all of these young men needed to be shipped back to their home, so we needed something to preserve them,” Lewis said. “That’s really when burials became popular, and of course, cemeteries.”
In order to avoid being buried alive, different measurements took place with the deceased.
“For several nights after you died, your family would sit around your grave making sure that you were truly dead,” Lewis explained.
Lewis discussed alleged graveyard safety for those who wish to protect themselves from potential ‘evil entities’: refraining from breathing while walking past a cemetery, whistling to inform the dead, as well as even keeping quiet to avoid possible run-ins.
“Many people think that covering your mouth for a yawn was to keep germs out, but in fact, when it was first originated, they had no idea what germs were,” Lewis explained in his presentation. “They did it to cover their mouth so spirits and the Devil could not come inside of you - it wasn’t being courtesy to your neighbors - it was protecting yourself from demons.”
Throughout the presentation, Lewis reflected on dares he’s participated in at different locations around the Midwest.
“If you’re not scared, you’re not trying hard enough,” Lewis commented about taking on and acting out dares in real life.
Many trickled into the horror-themed presentation from both Perry and surrounding areas to listen to the talk.
“I just like the subject,” said Jenn Mcerlean, Winterset. “The last time I went to a library thing like this was for abandoned schools in Iowa, so I try to do stuff like this whenever it pops up.”
Following the presentation, Lewis signed books from his series, Road Guide to Haunted Locations. Lewis co-authored the book alongside partner, Terry Fisk.