Thursday, December 17, 2009

Make Your Life Extraordinary!





Join Corin White, The Gravestomper, on a mini tour of the rather unusual Queen of Heaven Mausoleum In Hillside, Illinois. The mausoleum houses 20,000 corpses and is three stories. The space is filled with a strange collection of images relating to punishment and suffering--a reminder that life is short, and that we needen't make ourselves suffer any more than we already do.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Be open to Surprise



Adventure through this wonderful little cemetery in Lake County, IL with Gravestomper, Corin White, who encounters a surprise when he arrives...





Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Halloween...Face your fear....

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in the neighborhood of Rosehill cemetery. Since I had my camera, I just had to do an impromptu stomp thru this largest mausoleum in Chicago. In 1914 construction began on this massive mall of death. It houses one of the largest collections of TIffany glass anywhere and has some wonderful haunting history attached to it. Notabale Chicagoans John G. Shed, Aaron Montgomery Ward, Richard Warren Sears, Jack Brickhouse et all are buried here.

Part 1 of this stomp starts in a dark, black corner of the crypt's basement which brings up the subject of facing your fears. Some very interesting glass windows are illuminated in this dark crypt. I filmed it this way for a reason...it's only dark for a minute or two before the halls are very visible. Parts II and III follow. While in the mausoleum I noticed that the camera batteries were drained very quickly or I would have filmed at least three more parts. Happy Halloween: Enjoy!








Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vision



Why let excuses stop you? Why not think bigger?


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seek Adventure!



Join Corin White, The Gravestomper, as he explores a Lake Villa, IL graveyard that looks like something straight from a fairytale and considers the importance of seeking out adventure .


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seize the Day


Join Corin White, The Gravestomper, as he takes you through a most remarkable little cemetery in Lake county, IL. Small and secluded yet so full of atmosphere. The cemetery inspires the question: why don't we seize the day then get out of our own way?


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life is Short




Here's a little excercise to remind yourself why it's important to value your life and the opportunities you have here. Find a tombstone with your name on it and take a picture of yourself sitting next to it. Put the photo somewhere where you can see it all the time. It's a potent reminder that life is short and there is no reason to ever let fear stop you from doing anything that you want to do. For a close-up of my gristly reminder, click on the photo.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Entitlement Mindset




A small family Graveyard inspires the question: What are we entitled to?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clan Mentality: a Gravestomp Through Long Grove




A fall afternoon, a Harley, a camera: sounds like the recipe for a visit to a small churchyard cemetery that felt a bit unwelcoming.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Video Gravestomp St Joseph's Lake County, IL




Like what you see? Leave a comment here. Have questions or know a space that's haunted that you'd like to see me visit, or know any stories about these cemeteries that need to be told? Please, email me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Orb at Millburn Cemetery.




I took this picture two years ago at Millburn Cemetery in Wadsworth, IL. This orb (in front of the pine tree; NOT the bright reflection on the tombstone, but up and to the right of it. Click on the picture to see it more clearly.) appeared after I stuck my phurba in the ground. Milburn is one of the next cemeteries I will be shooting a video stomp for.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Time I Met John Wayne Gacy (No Foolin')

It was summer at my neighborhood block party on the northwest side of Chicago. I had to have been seven because he was arrested in December of '78. We lived a mile or two from the house where he killed all those young men. The neighbors who organized the block party hired him as a clown to amuse us kids. I heard he was making balloon animals at the end of my block, over by the bouncy house. I was fascinated by balloons when I was a little kid and I'd never had a balloon animal. It sounded cool.

He didn't really look like a clown and he didn't carry himself like one. He looked like some tired, fat dude sitting on the street in an old metal folding chair.

I stood in line while he twisted balloons into the shapes of horses, dogs, ponies and giraffes. (Catching the trend here?) But my favorite animal was the monkey.

When it was my turn I stepped up to him. I remember thinking there was something about his make-up that was weird. His mouth looked strange. Everyone always talks about how he painted this big gaping mouth on his face and how it accentuated the fact that he was such a monster. But that's not how I remember it. His make-up actually made his real mouth stand out and look smaller. I remembered clowns from the circus with these big, silly mouths, but his didn't seem like theirs. It wasn't really “clownish” if that makes any sense. Like I said: he just looked like some tired, fat guy in some messed-up red and white face paint. He didn't talk like a clown either. In Chicago we grew up with the Bozo Show: we were used to quirky clowns with crazy voices. He sounded like: well, like some tired, fat guy.

He asked me what kind of animal I wanted.

“A monkey,” I said.

And like every other adult I'd ever met, he gave me fifteen reasons why what I wanted just couldn't be done. Then after telling me how it couldn't be done, he told me about some guy on the other side of Chicago who could make a balloon monkey for me.

On a stick!” he added, gesturing like he was dangling a monkey from a stick. As though this was somehow suppose to make everything better.

Yeah, I thought, I'll run and ask my dad to set down his beer and drive me across town to buy me a balloon monkey. “On a stick!” I'd add and gesture the way Gacy had. Surely that would motivate him.

“Then make me a frog,” I said. And he gave me fifteen more reasons why frogs and monkeys where not in his ken.

I tried one more time, but this time I don't remember what I asked for. All I remember was he yelled at me and told me to, “Get out of the line and see how it's done!”

He pointed at the kid behind me who dutifully stepped up and asked for a horse. He blew the balloon up, tied it then started twisting it into the only shape he knew how to make. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away, the sound of rubber squeaking behind me. I'd heard someone on the other side of the block party was handing out helium balloons. It seemed like it would be a lot less trouble. Screw this guy and his dog-horses.

At that moment when he yelled at me, Gacy had 27 bodies buried under his house (Or close to it, considering that was what they'd dig up four months later in December). Every night when he went to sleep and the heat kicked on in his house he could smell them through the vents. One of the cops who finally found them said he could smell it when he went into Gacy's house to use the bathroom.

I could take this moment to say that looking back I knew there was something seriously wrong with that clown. That something seemed “off” about him. That he was a fiend who gnashed his teeth at me and that I was afraid of that terrible red grin on his face. But that's not how it was. He was just like every other adult I met back then: tired, impatient, tense, angry, boring, gruff and completely devoid of imagination. As far as I was concerned he was no different from my father, my teachers, the Corner Tap owners, the librarians, or the pastor of the Catholic church my parents dragged me too every Sunday. (Who, by the way, is currently in jail for molesting young boys.) They all seemed the same to me. All of them had horrible problems they wore like messed-up face paint that made some part of them look "off".

We found out about Gacy that winter. It was all anyone talked about. All that was on the TV and radio. They were all so shocked but I don't know that I really understood it one way or another. So, the guy who yelled at me about a balloon monkey had killed at least 27 young men and turned his crawl space into a graveyard. I heard them. I understood what they were saying. But I didn't get that it was unusual. Adults seemed so crazy. I figured it was just the sort of thing they all might do.

When I was a kid I swore I'd never stop playing, never stop having adventures and I've never let go of that vow. It bothered me too much that adults grew up to be killers.

When You Meet a Zombie on the Street

Last night, around eight, I walked a few blocks down from my house to buy some cookies at the corner store. It was dark, overcast and in the 60's. It had been raining all day and it was misty and cool. Not really sticky-humid either, the way this time of year usually is. August 7th and 60 degrees. Could've worn my leather but I was in shirt sleeves. I don't ever remember an August like this in Chicago before but I can't say I dislike it. It was like late September. Gray and Halloweenish.

In the store there was Halloween candy and autumn decor. Apple and pumpkin scented candles. Cheap scarecrows. Back to school notebooks, rulers, pencils and pens. I bought my cookies just before a crowd assembled at the register. Cramming together to buy their junk. Carts full of cheap junk. Crap that won't be buried with them, but might bury them.

On the way back, walking down Cedar Lake road, just across from the Funeral home, I saw this older guy decked out in a black suit stumbling towards me. Red tie matching the red carnation in his button hole. Not something you see walking down Cedar Lake road. On Cedar Lake Road you see kids with baggy pants and backwards baseball caps, ears plugged with headphones. Or Chicas in flip flops and tight jeans throwin' it out there for the boys who drive past. Or people on bikes carrying crinkly plastic bags. Or mothers pushing carriages. Not red carnations in button holes. Not middle-aged gentlemen in three-piece black suits.

Hair impeccably combed. Graying temples and mustache. He was staggering when he walked. Looked like he'd been dressed for his own burial. For a minute I thought This is it, someone's actually raised the dead the way the old Tibetans used to. I thought he might be blaming me for it because he was stumbling towards me. I laughed a little because it was a wondrous sight. He just kept getting closer, zig-zagging down the sidewalk.

He staggered past me, smelling like a Catholic wake: no shit, that's the only way I can say it. He smelled like flowers and embalming fluid. I guess he was drunk. I said, 'Hi,' to him. He stared at me like he was trying to focus, slurred a greeting, then stumbled on.

Keep in mind the sky was dark, overcast and the air was cool. The light was all inverted: everything looked weird. Like black-lit death, you know, the way it is in Autumn. Light that makes the colors garish and wild: like green and purple. And black. Like the guy's suit. Black. With just that bright red carnation, that splash of bloody red in the middle of all that dark.

I stopped for a while, looked back, and watched him stagger down the street until he was just a black smudge in all that gray mist. Was one of the creepiest things I ever saw.

I went home and popped Night of the Living Dead into my little portable DVD player lay down on my bed and wondered if the zombies would rise up soon...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Birth of a Gravestomper...

This is Corin White, The Gravestomper, and I’m going to take you on an adventure…





Maybe it all started that afternoon when I was wandering through the St Francis Borgia grammar school library looking for something to read. Those days reading bored the hell outta me. I preferred being outside: running, biking, lying under the hundred-year-old silver maples in my front yard making up adventures. There was life outside in the open air and things were so stagnant in that Catholic school. There was little of interest to me within it’s beige walls and filthy asbestos ceilings. So much so that in second grade I asked one of the nuns to let me go to the bathroom and I simply walked out of the school and ran away. It took my father throwing me to the ground, beating me and kicking me to make me agree not to leave it again.



But anyway: back to the library. I was looking for something that would excite me. I’d already read the only book the school had on Greek mythology about fifty times. I loved the stories of the Gods. They were so much more interesting than the battered crucified curse we had to face above the chalkboards every day. That was a constant reminder that there was no way to win. If the Catholics didn’t lobotomize me with their our fathers and hail mary’s, then someone else would sling me up on a tree and nail me in. Their philosophy sucked. A point I reiterated years later in Catholic high school to a gym teacher who then dragged me into his office and beat me up. Another curse. They were all about curses, these people. But the old Greeks knew the Gods weren’t infallible. They were like us only bigger and more powerful. This seemed important to me. But there was only one book about them in that Catholic library. Looking back now, I admit, I’m surprised there was even the one; but there was, and I’d read it; and I was looking for something else; and that’s when I saw it.



It was the cover that caught my eye. It was black. On it was was a black and green winged figure pointing at a couple of tombstones. Behind the figure a purple sky was split by a lightning bolt and above this was the title, Here Lies the Body by Scott Corbett.



I checked it out and immediately started reading it. It was about a New England boy and his little brother, who was may age, who got a summer job cutting grass in ‘Hemlock Hill Burial Ground’. The elder brother wanted to be a writer and spent his time making up poems about the names on the tombstones. Turns out there was a mystery surrounding the two old men who owned the cemetery. It was a great read that left an indelible mark on my imagination. I read the book maybe a dozen times after that.



As it happed, my house in Chicago was walking and biking distance from at least six cemeteries. I decided to have some adventures like my heroes from the book and started spending my days—and when I was older, some nights—in Acacia, Westlawn, Mount Olivet, St Joseph’s and Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove where John Belushi was originally buried before they moved his body to Massachusetts. In my teens I discovered Graceland and Rosehill on the North side where the first communal mausoleum was built. I fully explored the famous Mount Carmel: notorious for all of the gangsters like Al Capone who are buried there and where all of my Irish/Italian family is buried. I was looking for something. I didn’t know what.



When my mother found out I spent so much time in cemeteries she was horrified and said: “How can you do that?”



Why” I said to her. “It’s not the dead I’m worried about. It’s the living.” Which tells me now that even then I understood one of the principles central to the Tibetan Bon process: a realization that this life is characterized by suffering. But what no one seem to be able to answer was: How do we go beyond that suffering?



My time in cemeteries instilled a habit in me. One that lead me to search through the dark of this city for something even though I didn’t know I was looking for. I know now I was looking for the way to go beyond death. I knew there had to be a way and it wasn’t though the crucified curse. I’d read about Easterners who meditated in cemeteries and I was intrigued. Where did the practice come from? I wanted to know. Later I would find out: Tibet.



In my late teens I began to explore dark Chicago nights, clubs, smoky bars and glistening city streets the way I’d searched those cemeteries in my youth. Still looking for the answer to what was behind that dark. On the way home I’d drive into Acacia cemetery, which was open all night back then, and I’d sit on the gravestones and stare up at the stars. One those nights I always knew: the answer would eventually come.



One night in the late 80’s I was in club Berlin, staring at a New Order video on the screen. The place was packed--the music loud and thumping through my chest. There was smoke everywhere and I was a little drunk. I slammed my glass down on the bar and said aloud to no one: “I’m not coming back! This is it for me.”

Evidently I’d made a decision, but about what I didn’t know. By the time I hit 30 I’d fully explored the ‘New Age’ and found it to be to be no different from the religion I’d been raised on. There were no answers to what I’d been looking for in those cemeteries, or on those dark streets. Just a lot of entitlement attitude and an endless string of opinions.



By the time I was in my mid thirties I’d was researching Tibet. I uncovered a reference to these incredible Tibetans who were called called Bön. They were in Tibet long before the Buddhists ever came from India and, indeed, the Buddhists tried to rewrite Bön to make it their own. I couldn’t believe some of the legends about these incredible Bön. Could they be true? According to the book they were all but extinct.



“Now, where the hell am I going to find one of these Bön?” I said to myself.



But I didn’t have to find one. Two weeks later one found me. I was up in Wisconsin doing readings at a Spring festival. He was a Bönku or “seed of Bön”. That is, a Bön master. He gave me a meditation to try and I did it. When I’d mastered it he gave me another exercise. Unlike all the religions I’d grown up around he never asked me to trust him or believe him or follow him or to just "have faith". He simply gave me these experiments and said, “Try them. See what happens.”


See, now, if I was a New-Ager, this is the part of the story where I'd tell you that this Bönku told me I had a special gift, great spiritual power and that I was chosen to lead people. That sort of thing is pure bullshit. He didn't tell me I was 'special' or that I was 'chosen'. In fact he basically showed me how ignorant I was, and I how I was a prisoner of my own life and habits the way all of us humans are. If anyone had told me I was very powerful I would have known it was bullshit because I felt totally powerless back then. Power was the one thing I wanted because I was tired of having any and all power taken from me by others. I'm astonished so few are willing to admit the fact that they want power. They’re so afraid of it. But just because they pretend not to want it, doesn't mean they’re fooling anyone. It could lead them to great things if they’d just admit it. But he did tell me that if I worked my ass off I could have great power and reach enlightenment: the way all humans can. It's just that most humans already think they are already enlightened and so they can't even be bothered to try and grow further. 

By midsummer that year I had taken vows of refuge. Meaning, I committed 11 years of my life to Bön training. That first year I learned all about the famous “cemetery work” of the Bön. (Some of it is chronicled in Alexandra David-Neel’s wonderful book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet.) And I realized why I had always been drawn to cemeteries. Lets just say that cemetery practices and all of the practices we Bön do are aimed at ending suffering: our own and the suffering of others. And we’ve dedicated our time here to managing our minds and ending suffering.



Now, cemeteries hold a great deal of magic for me. And I, as a Bön “Gomchen” as we are called, spend my time stomping the grounds with a great deal of appreciation and respect not only for the energies present in those places, but in the power of those places to relieve us of suffering, fears and limitations. For me, every trip to a cemetery is another adventure; it reminds me that we are more than mere dust and bones. We are energy.



But as my Bönku said to me the first day I met him: “If you’re not managing your energy, who is?”

And that my grave stomping friends, is the key to it all…

May your health and wealth grow and may you be liberated from suffering.

Video Graveyard Stomp: White Cemetery