Tag Archives: Metairie Cemetery

The Flaming Tomb

Josie Arlington (1864-1914) became a prostitute as a teenager, and her great beauty made her wealthy enough to open a bordello in the notorious red light district of Storyville in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As her health deteriorated sometime around 1910, Josie Arlington purchased a cemetery plot at Metairie Cemetery which was an impressive and fashionable graveyard containing giant mausoleums and monuments. This news enraged the city’s elite of which many were regular customers of the bordello. On May 11, 1911, Josie, who had accumulated a lot of money, signed a contract with sculptor Albert Weiblen to create a magnificent final resting place. The tomb features a red granite stone with two flaming stone urns. On the threshold stands a bronze female figure carrying flowers with arm outstretched to open the door.

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Creative Commons License. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josie_Arlington

Josie died on 14 February 1914 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery and her family soon began fighting over her money and property. The tomb was eventually sold to Jose Antonio Morales, a New Orleans attorney. Cemetery officials had Josie Arlington’s remains removed to a remote, undisclosed location in the cemetery, and the name at the top of the tomb was changed to J. A. Morales. The name of his wife and four children are also engraved on the tomb.

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Source: https://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=663de6ec-af08-44d0-8c51-bed744562e1c

The site has become a curiosity and a tourist attraction. With reports of the stone urns bursting into flames, dancing lights and an eerie red glow, it soon became known as the Flaming Tomb. Rumours continue to flourish with claims that the statue bangs on the door to be let in and leaves its post at the door to walk amongst the other graves. It is thought to symbolize a virginal girl being turned away from the Arlington door, following Arlington’s claim in life that no woman’s innocence was taken on the grounds of her establishment.

The Mythical Sphinx

The sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion, protector of the dead, it is historically connected to the pyramid, the ultimate in tombs.

There are two types of sphinx; most famously the Egyptian sphinx modeled after the Great Sphinx at Giza which represents a male. The head is dressed with a neme, the striped headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt.

Occasionally a false beard is displayed. As beards were associated with the gods, Pharaohs wore false beards for ceremonies to express their importance and divine ranking.

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In March 1865 Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Jacob Bigelow proposed that the Mount Auburn Cemetery commission “a public monument in memory of the heroes who have fallen in the present war for the preservation of the Union.” When the trustees postponed making a decision he commissioned the Irish-born sculptor, Martin Milmore, to create a Sphinx to be cut from a single block of Hallowell granite, 15 feet long and about 8 feet high.

The Sphinx was chosen as it represented the strength of a lion and the beauty and benevolence of a woman. The inscription was composed by Dr. Bigelow “American Union Preserved; African Slavery Destroyed; By the Uprising of a Great People; By the Blood of Fallen Heroes.”

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The Brunswig tomb in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana was built to commemorate Lucien Napoleon Brunswig’s wife, Annie Mercer Brunswig and their son Lucien Mercer Brunswig (1882-1892) who died within a month of each other. His testament instructed his family to bury him inside the tomb with his wife and child. Brunswig is also interred with his two daughters, Henrietta Rosalie Brunswig (1879-1963), and Annie Brunswig Wellborn (1881-1982) and her husband.

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Source: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2015/04/metairie-cemetery-tombs-pyramid-statues/

In Greek tradition, the sphinx was in the form of a female who was often bare-breasted and is therefore associated with maternal love.

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Many neo-Egyptian designs in modern cemeteries feature the Greek variety which is often portrayed with the wings of a bird.

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Creative Commons License, Joachim S. Müller. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74743437@N00/8695400390

Within the Hildburghausen Cemetery in Germany a winged Sphinx sits atop the headstone belonging to the 19th century Egyptologist, Doctor Friedrich Carl Ludwig Sickler.

A pyramid marks the Schoenhofen Tomb in the Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. The entry door with a snake coiled on the handle is flanked by a sphinx and an angel. It is the final resting place of Peter Schoenhofen, a Chicago brewer.

The Drake Mausoleum contains members of the family and extended relatives. Originally at Laurel Hill Cemetery it was moved to West Laurel Hill, Philadelphia where it is guarded by a winged Sphinx at each corner of the roof. Thomas Drake Martinez Cardeza and his mother Mrs. Charlotte Drake Martinez Cardeza were surviving passengers of the Titanic shipwreck in 1912. Charlotte was a rich philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to the poor.

female winged_Drake Mausoleum
Source: https://www.mausoleums.com/portfolio/drake-mausoleum/