Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


2.2 Square Miles, Most of It 6 Feet Deep.
December 7, 2007 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Colma, CA is a necropolis created when San Francisco banned burials within the city limits in the late 1800's because of space and public health concerns. A town of 2.2 square miles, 73% is devoted to cemetaries and the dead outnumber the living thousands to one. Buckethead named an album after it. There's a musical about it (sort of). Other necropolises around the world.
posted by rollbiz (22 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Colma is a beautiful place, and the current resting ground of Emperor Norton.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:55 PM on December 7, 2007


What do you mean, sort of? I've been singing the praises of Colma: The Musical to anyone who'd listen -- it's almost as good as Once and a lot more fun than Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. Here's an all-too-short clip from Colma.
posted by muckster at 2:56 PM on December 7, 2007


"It's great to be alive in Colma!"

hurf.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2007


I bought my stereo there, and then carried it a mile and a half to the BART station.

Also, I like Buckethead.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:19 PM on December 7, 2007


I've been to Norton's grave. One of my most cherished memories.
posted by the dief at 3:35 PM on December 7, 2007


If you'd like a history walking tour of the cemetery I suggest contacting the Colma Historical Association.

My favorite cemetery tour is the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Wonderful history lies buried there. I've taken the tour and then snuck in at night and did a recap with friends.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:45 PM on December 7, 2007


a little further up the peninsula from colma is a college of mortuary science which once had a dean named claude grimm.
posted by bruce at 3:54 PM on December 7, 2007


I never notice "new" cemeteries. Not that I'm really looking, but still. How long until one fills up? How often do new ones get created? What happens after there's no more space in one - is there money set aside to take care of it indefinitely, or does it just go to seed after the money runs out after a generation (or whatever), or what?
posted by Flunkie at 3:59 PM on December 7, 2007


Wow, when you look at the map of the city you can really see what they mean.
posted by sambosambo at 4:35 PM on December 7, 2007


Fascinating—thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on December 7, 2007


This is great rollbiz, thanks. Despite living in the bay area for a while and having driven past those cemeteries on the 280 many times, I never thought / heard about this.

And finding out about this Emperor Norton guy is also doubleplus good.
posted by switchsonic at 5:15 PM on December 7, 2007


There would be no Bay Bridge were it not for that crazy dude eccentric fellow.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:41 PM on December 7, 2007


What do you mean, sort of?

I meant sort of in that, from the uninformed perspective of someone who has not seen the film, it didn't seem from the trailer or description that it primarily focused on the elements of the town I was posting about. Like I said, I haven't seen it, so...If someone has, I for one would be interested to hear more.

If you happened to like the post, thank Buckethead. His album was the inspiration that caused me to look into the whole thing more closely. I like his work, but a lot of it is stuff I wouldn't normally listen to. Colma is the biggest exception to that, if you haven't heard the album you probably should. He made this album for his mother while she was ill, he wanted to create something she would find comforting to listen to during her recovery. Yet he named it after a city of dead people. Go figure.
posted by rollbiz at 11:29 PM on December 7, 2007


Huh. I always thought the city's motto was "A nice place to live, a better place to die." I guess not.
posted by lou at 11:29 PM on December 7, 2007


Gotcha, rollbiz. I thought you were referring to the "musical" part, which I thought was sufficiently indicated by the title: Colma: The Musical. It does focus quite a bit on the necropolis aspect too though -- the story's about three teenagers who feel stuck in Colma, and they frequently refer to the fact that the dead outnumber the living etc. There's the traditional setting-the-scene opening song that describes the town in just these terms (sorry, I don't have any quotes handy), and later there are tunes sung wandering through the gravestones. It's really worth checking out... and maybe I'll look for that Buckethead album. Thanks for the post.
posted by muckster at 8:19 AM on December 8, 2007


When I lived in the Bay Area, I made many trips to Colma. Thankfully, my destination was a poker table at Lucky Chances and not a grave.
posted by mullacc at 3:00 PM on December 8, 2007


By chance, I got Colma, The Musical from Netflix the day before this post, so I waited to reserve comment until I had seen it. Muckster is right. You have to see this movie.

The singing is pitchy, the acting is stagey, the whole thing looks like it was made for a buck and a quarter... but this little musical has more heart than a dozen Hollywood blockbusters. Love it!

And now I'm really angry because I went to San Francisco for my honeymoon and I missed going to Colma. Yes, I'm the kind of person who would go to a town full of cemeteries on my honeymoon.
posted by ColdChef at 11:10 AM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I never notice "new" cemeteries. Not that I'm really looking, but still. How long until one fills up? How often do new ones get created? What happens after there's no more space in one - is there money set aside to take care of it indefinitely, or does it just go to seed after the money runs out after a generation (or whatever), or what?

New cemeteries are created fairly often. Usually, out in the country or places where land is cheaper. The cost of a plot usually includes "perpetual care". That's why graves are so expensive. (we often call it "the most expensive real estate you'll ever buy.") Some cemeteries are kept up by the towns they're in, some by churches.

Cemeteries often become overgrown with neglect and disappear. Every so often, we have to bushhog a trail out to a small family cemetery way out in the woods and dig the grave by hand.
posted by ColdChef at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2007


And then there's the rare cemetery that falls into severe neglect but then gets bought by people who not only fix it up to be a major tourist attraction but turn also a fun hangout for movie night.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:21 AM on December 10, 2007


Um, either delete word "turn" or fix that to be "but also turn it into." Thanks.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:24 AM on December 10, 2007


Emperor Norton and Henry Miller both.

In the same cemetary even!
posted by davros42 at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2007


WOW.

Great post. Can't believe I missed this. Thanks rollbiz.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:30 PM on December 10, 2007


« Older Food and Beauty...  |  The Baltimore Block... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments