Monday, July 22, 2013

Why pocket change on monuments?

Another creepy attraction is the headstone in the Salt Lake Cemetery inscribed: “Lilly E Gray - Victim of the Beast 666.” This is another noteworthy attraction recommended by sick freaks like me if you are touring this cemetery. After reading the stories and legends behind it (such as demonic consumption, or her possessed husband who was a butcher offered her as a blood sacrifice to the devil or whatever), I had to laugh. This reminds me of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play wherein some immature girls turned a comic sport to amuse themselves into a lethal superstition. The townspeople in that story were so quick to accept and judge any accusation. I feel that people are reacting too quickly to the rumors and legends of this headstone. Elmer Gray was the husband who made the funeral arrangements for his wife. Elmer was a bitter man who was rumored to have suffered from a long term illness, served a prison sentence, and hated the government for wrongfully arresting him. He chose to write that on his late wife’s headstone. (By the way, he was noted for referring to his wife as a victim of the government...but I digress.)
How I found the headstone

Anyway, after a while of searching I finally found her famous headstone. The thing I noticed most about it was that there was a large amount of pocket change (pennies nickels, and dimes) piling up on the headstone. I noticed this same peculiar offering was cluttered around Emo’s vase in his headstone. (Refer back to my story of Emo.) I also noticed this strange offering was also beginning to gather at the bust of Jesus Christ in the hallway of the Joseph Smith memorial building. Which begs the question: what’s with the pocket change on monuments?!?
When I researched it I came across three references.
1. Benjamin Franklin was famously quoted for saying “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Because of that all sorts of tourists visiting his grave in Philadelphia toss pennies over the fence on to his grave in some sort of quirky tribute. When tourists pay their respect to Benjamin Franklin, with pennies at his tombstone, as a local tradition claims that such a practice will bring the penny-tosser luck.

Benjamin Franklin's grave

2. In ancient mythology there was the story about the boatman of the underworld named Charon, for passage to the other side of the river Styx, you would need to pay him some sort of toll to cross over that is why loved ones would traditionally bury gold coins either on or with the body. By not sending a toll with your loved one you would inconsiderately condemn them to wander the shores in purgatory forever. In a way, I assume some grave visitors somewhat mimic that tradition.
3. Some people hold to the tradition of leaving a gift every time you visit a grave, so if you don’t have flowers then a coin from your pocket should suffice.
That is what I came up with what do you think? Do you know any other reason why people would place pocket change on monuments?


  1. I like the Charon mythology, it makes sense that people would continue to give coins to their deceased loved ones. Most ancient cultures buried their dead with the necessary supplies to travel to the next life. However, people place coins on graves nowadays probably out of centuries of tradition and superstition, not because they are genuinely hearkening back to their ancient religious beliefs, don't you think?

  2. I don't know but I'd appreciate it if dollar bills were left on my tombstone someday so that either I will have plenty to give to Charon or if Andrea doesn't feel I need it then she'll have some extra change to carry around with her.