Dear Santa...

7 more days until Christmas, and I've finally figured out what I want from you. If you check your lists, you will most assuredly find me on the "Nice" list this year, as I tried not to terrify too many children this year at the Cemetery, I obeyed my parents and I always ate my vegetables. So if you could find it in your jolly heart, I only want one thing under my tree this year...

I REALLY want the book, Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses, by Paul Koudounaris.

Thank you, Santa!

Love, Highbury


From bone fetishism in the ancient world to painted skulls in Austria and Bavaria: an unusual and compelling work of cultural history.

It is sometimes said that death is the last taboo, but it was not always so. For centuries, religious establishments constructed decorated ossuaries and charnel houses that stand as masterpieces of art created from human bone. These unique structures have been pushed into the footnotes of history; they were part of a dialogue with death that is now silent.

The sites in this specially photographed and brilliantly original study range from the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Palermo, where the living would visit mummified or skeletal remains and lovingly dress them; to the Paris catacombs; to fantastic bone-encrusted creations in Austria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and elsewhere.

Paul Koudounaris photographed more than seventy sites for this book. He analyzes the role of these remarkable memorials within the cultures that created them, as well as the mythology and folklore that developed around them, and skillfully traces a remarkable human endeavor. 290 photographs, 260 in color.

I could think of no greater gift to a Halloween haunter like myself than a book such as this, just chock full of incredible information and absolutely beautiful photography. This would be a centerpiece of reference material sure to take Highbury Cemetery to the next level in 2012.

As an added bonus, you too can see the incredible collection of photographs at the book's accompanying website, Empire de la Mort. I visit this site regularly, perusing the beautiful photography and each time my mind races, planning to replicate every shot in next year's home haunt. All photos below are from Empire de la Mort. Do yourself a big favor and take a few minutes to check it out.



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