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Tree Stump Tombstones

Why are some gravestones shaped like tree stumps? Admit it, you’ve always wanted to know the answer to that question. I know I did.

Actually, that’s a lie. Truth is, I never noticed that there were a lot of headstones shaped like tree stumps. If I ever noticed one in that form at all, I’m sure I just attributed it to a little creative inclination on the part of the sculptor, maybe erected as a way to honor the departed, who was probably big into arboriculture or something. Or maybe they had some kind of poetic meaning, a stump symbolizing something that had once been alive, now cut down or cut short. The real explanation is more interesting. (No offense to any arboriculturists or poets out there.)

According to Atlas Obscura, most tree stump tombstones were fashioned between 1880 to the 1920s, and many had a connection to a secret society. You’ve heard of the “Woodmen of the World,” right? I thought they were an insurance agency or something. Oh, wait. They ARE an insurance company. One of the first, formed at a time (the late 1800s) when working class men were sorely in need of such a thing. The whole working with wood thing was mostly symbolic, though. Being a member of the organization at the time earned you a free tombstone when you died.

Okay, two things: first, how does this qualify as a “secret” society? And secondarily, why wouldn’t they just plant a REAL tree as a grave marker, maybe with a plaque on it?

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (,, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase here:


TheCheezman • July 31, 2018

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