Most people commission a bronze or granite stone that looks similar to all the others in the local cemetery when choosing a headstone or grave marker for themselves or their loved ones.
But what if you want to stand out from the crowd?
We've put together some examples of unique headstones from around the world. Some have memorable epitaphs. Others have an unusual design.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Jules Verne in Amiens, France
- 2. Tree Burial in Indonesia
- 3. Alfred Vanderwerken, Jr., in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
- 4. Eleanor Rigby in St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool, England
- 5. Davis Memorial in Mount Hope Cemetery, Hiawatha, Kansas
- 6. More Tombstones
You might consider stopping by one of these tombstone sites during your travels across the country and world. If you do, remember that burial spots are sacred and others may be visiting the cemetery to remember their loved ones.
1. Jules Verne in Amiens, France
Jules Verne was a French novelist, famous for his adventure stories. His best-known novels are "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and "Around the World in Eighty Days."
Verne died in 1905, and in 1907, a sculpture created by Albert-Dominique Roze was placed over his burial site. The sculpture shows Verne, partially covered by a burial shroud, reaching his arm up out of the grave in an attempt to leave it.
Creepy? Maybe. Unusual? Yes!
2. Tree Burial in Indonesia
Can you use a tree as a tombstone? People in Indonesia think that trees can stand in as headstones.
The Toraja people have mummy parades and place bodies into the sides of cliffs. When a child or infant dies, the Toraja sometimes place their bodies in hollow trees and cover the spot with small wooden doors. Online images show many different doors on one tree.
Death in other cultures often yields unique tombstones and burial sites.
3. Alfred Vanderwerken, Jr., in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Speaking of trees, tombstones carved to look like trees were relatively popular in the U.S. between the 1880s and the 1920s. You can see an example of one in Brooklyn but you can also learn more about other tree tombstones in Susanne Ridlen’s book, "Tree-Stump Tombstones."
4. Eleanor Rigby in St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool, England
Eleanor Rigby’s tombstone doesn’t have a unique design, and Rigby herself died in relative obscurity. However, her gravestone makes our list because of a song written and performed by a little band from her hometown.
Even though Paul McCartney doesn’t remember seeing the name on the gravestone, he admits that he may have unconsciously borrowed it when he wrote the words to one of The Beatles’ most famous songs.
5. Davis Memorial in Mount Hope Cemetery, Hiawatha, Kansas
Sarah Davis died in 1930, and her husband marked the site of her grave with a simple headstone. For reasons only known to her husband John, he began adding to his wife’s burial site over the years, installing 11 marble or granite statues that depicted Sarah throughout her life. One installation shows John sitting in his armchair next to one that is empty.
The gravesite was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
6. Charles Dummett in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
The grave of Charles Dummett is unique for its tragedy, placement, and design. Dummett was the son of a landowner and an enslaved woman. He died in 1860 in what was reported to be a hunting accident. His father was so distraught over his death that he commissioned a gravestone to mark the site of his son’s death.
Over 100 years after Dummett’s death, the gravesite caused problems for engineers whose job it was to design a street in the area. Instead of slowing down the construction process, officials decide to split the road and leave Dummett’s grave untouched.
Some photographs of Dummett’s grave show a statue of a dog lying atop the slab. An unknown person added this, and the historical society has since removed the addition.
7. Wade Andrews in Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah
Apparently, Wade Andrews loved fudge, especially fudge made by his wife, Kay. He loved it so much that when he died the family had Kay’s Fudge Recipe engraved on Andrews’ headstone. You may have read some pretty unique headstone quotes or sayings, but you probably haven’t seen too many recipes while walking through a cemetery.
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8. The Queen in Independent Order of Oddfellows Cemetery, Charleston, Missouri
Visitors to this simple cemetery in the Midwest may see a simple granite headstone with the following engraving: The Queen; October 14, 1939.
Researchers discovered that this was the burial site of Elizabeth (Stewart) Hicks, whose nickname (you guessed it) was “The Queen.” Hicks didn’t want anyone to know her age, so the family chose to include only the woman’s date of death on her tombstone.
9. Viking Tombstone in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England
Perhaps the oldest tombstone on our list, the Viking Tombstone, can be found in the Museum of London. The stone slab is covered with elaborate patterns that may have originated in medieval Norway. The slab features engravings of serpents, dragons, and wolves and has been dated to the early 11th century.
10. Jane Griffith in Brooklyn, New York
While you can certainly learn a bit about a person based on the design and inscription on their gravestone, Jane Griffith’s stone shows a scene from the day of her death, August 3, 1857.
On that date, Charles Griffith said goodbye to his wife Jane on the steps of their brownstone. When he returned home that evening, he found his wife dead from heart failure. This scene is recorded on the face of Jane’s headstone.
Even though many people think about the last time they saw their loved one alive, few record the moment in stone on their loved one’s grave.
11. Joseph Palmer in Leominster, Massachusetts
Joseph Palmer’s tombstone features a relief of his face. Oddly enough, Palmer’s beard was his most defining feature.
Palmer, who died in 1865, was criticized by the members of his town for wearing a full beard. The townspeople were so offended by the beard that several men attacked Palmer and attempted to shave him by force. Palmer defended himself with a pocketknife, which led to his arrest. He was jailed for 15 months, which would have been avoided if Palmer would have apologized and paid a fine.
After he was released from jail, Palmer, who was friends with author Louisa May Alcott, joined a utopian community and lived out his life with his glorious facial hair. It was even featured on the man’s tombstone after his death.
12. Fernand Arbelot in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
Little is known about French actor Fernand Arbelot’s life, but people flock to visit his grave in France. Arbelot was so in love with his wife that he wished to gaze upon her face for eternity. His gravestone shows him doing that very thing.
The stone depicts a man lying on his back, holding the head of a woman above him. While some people may find the unique image romantic, others might feel that the gravestone is a bit creepy.
13. Steve Marsh in Manor Park Cemetery, East London, England
Steve Marsh was in love with BMWs. He chose to have a life-sized BMW M3 replicated at the site of his grave.
14. Tomas Jimoteo Chinchilla in Mexico
Unfortunately, Tomas Jimoteo Chinchilla did not have a very long life. We learn that from his birth and death dates printed on his gravestone: 1967-1989. We also know that the man had a family with a unique sense of humor. The epitaph on his stone translates to “Rest in Peace; Now You are In the Lord’s Arms; Lord, Watch Your Wallet.”
15. New Lucky Restaurant in India
The owner of New Lucky restaurant in India purchased the land for his restaurant without realizing that there was a cemetery on the site. Instead of moving the graves, the owner simply built his restaurant around the cemetery. The simple graves can be seen on the floor inside the restaurant, sitting behind a small, white fence.
16. Mel Blanc in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California
Cartoon lovers will recognize the name Mel Blanc because he was undoubtedly the man of 1,000 voices. Most notably, Mel Blanc was the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the stuttering Porky Pig. On Mel Blanc’s headstone, you’ll find the most appropriate epitaph of all: “That’s all, folks!”
17. Florence Irene Ford in Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez, Mississippi
There’s nothing funny about the headstone of Florence Irene Ford. In fact, the story behind her headstone is exceptionally touching. Florence died at the tender age of 10. Her mother requested that her daughter’s coffin have a small window. She also arranged for stairs leading down to the burial site.
Florence’s mother had a good reason for making these odd arrangements. During her life, Florence was afraid of storms. Her mother would spend hours comforting the child during storms, and she wanted to do the same after her daughter’s death.
The stairs on Florence’s graveside led down to a small space next to the head of the coffin. After her daughter’s death, the mother would comfort her daughter during storms by going down the stairs and visiting the grave.
The epitaph on Florence’s stone reads: “As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest.”
What Kind of Headstone Do You Want?
Some families are hesitant to commission "weird tombstones" because they don’t want to seem callous or unfeeling. If you wish to have your burial site marked with something special, you need to make the arrangements yourself.
Cake can help you leave explicit instructions for your funeral and share them with your family members. You’ll rest easy knowing that your headstone will earn attention years after your death.