Beads and Bangles, Pebbles and Pennies

Nancy Luce, Chiecken Lady

Many people pay tribute to a deceased person by placing memorabilia on their grave as a symbol of respect and support. The most common being pennies and pebbles. On a Jewish gravestone, the pebbles represent a pious visitor paying their respects. While not as popular as stones, sticks are frequently placed near a heroic dog’s statue, such as the dog that perished trying to save his boy Johnny Morehouse in Dayton, Ohio.

Beads and bangles are frequently placed on the grave of the queen of gypsies in the hope that she will come to them in their dreams and solve their problems. Beads are also popular for party goers such as the leader of the Cowbellion in Mobile, Alabama. And there are odd tributes, such as bras for John Belushi and in a nearby cemetery on Martha’s Vineyard–plastic chickens for the famed chicken lady.

Chicken Lady

Nancy Luce (1811-1890), bantam hen aficionado, poet and island eccentric, was born and raised in West Tisbury, Massachusetts on a small farm on Martha’s Vineyard.

Nancy created poetry booklets that she sold to tourists along with her pet chicken’s eggs and photos of herself with her beloved hens. Ladies living in the Gingerbread houses at the Methodist campgrounds in Oak Bluffs took a photographer to her house where she modeled with her chickens for photographs.

Nancy buried her pet chickens in her yard with poetically inscribed marble tombstones. The tombstones are now on display in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

Nancy is regularly remembered with plastic chickens, eggs, and feathers tributes to honor her memory. She practiced kindness and beseeched others to be kind through her poetry.

Gypsy Queen and King

Emil and Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies, died in 1915 while birthing her 16th child at the age of 47. Over 20,000 Romani people attended her viewing in Meridian, Mississippi. Mitchell’s gravesite is one of Meridian’s top historical landmarks to this day. Many visitors leave mementos on her grave, hoping that she will come to them in their dreams and solve their problems.

Brazil born Emil Mitchell; King of the Gypsies died in 1942 at the age of 85 years. He became King in a large ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio after his father died.  It is typical to bury a king or queen with treasures, including coins and clothing, which is why their graves are covered with slabs. Kelly’s grave shows visible signs of abuse which has been attributed to would-be grave robbers after gold, silver and jewels.

Voodoo Queen

Marie Laveau, also spelled Laveaux, is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Marie, a Creole woman, known as the Vodoo queen of New Orleans, died June 15, 1881.

Laveau’s powers reportedly included healing the sick, extending altruistic gifts to the poor, and overseeing spiritual rites.

Doggie Tributes

Five-year-old Johnny Morehouse was playing with his pet dog by the Miami and Erie Canal in Dayton, Ohio when he fell into the water. His dog leapt in after him and tried to rescue the boy, but was unsuccessful. Johnny drowned and was buried at the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton. Allegedly the dog stood by the grave for weeks, waiting for Johnny and subsisting on scraps given him by sympathetic mourners.

The sweet puppy on the right earned a pile of sticks for his vigilance guarding the grave of William Boon Redman, (1846 –1854.) The dog is holding a broken chain — symbolizing the loss of a family member. William and his grandfather , Josiah Redman, share a marker in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.



Mobile’s Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first formally organized and masked mystic society in the United States to celebrate with a parade in 1830. A mystic society is a Mardi Gras social organization in Mobile, Alabama, that presents parades and/or balls for the enjoyment of its members, guests, and the public. Michael Kraft, the one-eyed Yankee who, as a young man on New Year’s Eve 1830 overdid his celebrating and, with a few of his friends, some cowbells, rakes and hoes, proceeded to awake most of the tiny city and the Mayor as well. His “escapade” led to the founding of the first mystic society, the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, from which all others in Mobile, New Orleans, St. Louis, Tampa, Pensacola, Fairhope, Montgomery, Birmingham, Biloxi, et al have sprung.

Joseph Cain, Mardi Gras, Church Street Cemetery

Old Joe Cain

Folk Figure Joseph Stillwell Cain, Jr., also known as “Old Joe Cain”, “Chief Slacabormorinico” or “Old Slac”, is recognized as the man responsible for the Mardi Gras celebration’s rebirth in the years immediately following the Civil War in Mobile, Alabama. 

Courtesy Find A Grave

Captain Outrageous, Key West Cemetery

Captain Outrageous, Artist

Captain Outrageous (1940-2007), AKA Norman Taylor, moved to Key West in the 1970’s after a career in Finance.  Taylor’s creations “tell the quintessential Key West story” with his colorful artwork and personality.

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