The Church Street Cemetery is tucked neatly away in the shadows of the lazy oaks of Mobile, Alabama. The moss drips off the trees and brushes the ancient tomb stones. The graves here are old. Some of them go back two hundred years or more. During Mardi Gras, the cemetery is almost festive and several of the tomb stones are covered in strange bright decorations. Mardi Gras beads hang off some and tiny plastic monkeys covered a grave that payed homage to someone who loved to throw a party. The bright colors are a stark contrast to what should be a somber scene. Everything seems a little out of place and visitors aren't sure whether to surrender to the sense that there are ghosts everywhere or crack open and beer and start to party. Either option would be appropriate in this setting.
In fact, this little cemetery is the starting point for the largest parades of Mardi Gras. Buried in this cemetery is Joe Cain. Joe Cain was a civil war veteran who fought for the South and is credited for the rebirth of Mardi Gras traditions that had been abandoned since the French left the Gulf. Partly to awaken a depressed and defeated city and partly to spit in the faces of triumphant union soldiers, on the first mardi gras following the civil war Joe dressed up as a Chicksaw Indian and paraded up and down Government Street. He was joined by other revelers and a tradition was born in Mobile that would take hold of the city every year that followed. In 1974, Joe Cain's Merry Widows were formed as one of the most interesting Mardi Gras Societies. Every Sunday, Joe Cain Day, before Fat Tuesday these widows dress in black and go to the Church Street Cemetery. The parade starts from the cemetery and follows the women, dressed all in black, around the parade route drinking and hurling beads. Even from the grave, Joe Cain is the life of the party.
So you have to wonder if Joe Cain's ghost is anything to fear. His ghost certainly wanders this cemetery waiting for the party to come to him again. His presence and the presence of other ghosts can be felt as soon as you stepthrough gates of the cemetery. A cold chill travels up your spine and I wasn't sure whether to shutter or laugh. My children ran through this cemetery with the EMF, which lit up like a Christmas tree. I didn't catch anything on film here nor did anything come up on the voice recorder, but the ghosts were a real presence in this cemetery. Haunted America even ranked this graveyard as one of the most haunted cemeteries in Alabama. Yet despite the ghosts, I still felt this was more of a happy place. I felt that maybe the ghosts waiting here were waiting for the next party and that their only unfinished business might be the next Mardi Gras.