ancient graveyard

Archaeological Museum of Chania:

Teracotta figurine of a woman, which preserves its bright colors and gold-plated jewelry. It was found in the ancient graveyards of Kydonia (present Chania). Early Hellenistic period. It’s probably connected to an Alexandrian workshop.

I started my tour of Hamilton’s life in reverse order, at his grave-site, in Lower Manhattan. Nestled in the modern cityscape at Broadway and Wall Street is Trinity Church and its ancient graveyard, where the dead date to the 17th century and tombstones read like a who’s who of “Hamilton” characters, on whose graves people now place rocks, coins and other mementos. A succulent houseplant was at the foot of Hamilton’s grave on the April morning of my visit.


At Trinity, Eliza’s grave is next to Hamilton’s and Angelica is thought to be in a nearby vault belonging to the influential Livingston family. Hamilton’s friend, the improbably named Hercules Mulligan, is several plots away.

“We don’t have the official numbers, but we anecdotally know that there’s more people that we see in the churchyard” since the musical opened, Trinity spokeswoman Lynn Goswick told me. Case in point: Our conversation was interrupted by a woman inquiring where Hamilton’s son Philip is buried. (He died in a duel more than two years before his father. The church doesn’t know whether he’s in an unmarked grave or plot somewhere nearby.)

My logical next stop was the ancient dueling grounds in Weehawken, N.J.

A quick Uber ride through the Lincoln Tunnel brought me to the cliff-top Hamilton Park, which stretches along the Hudson River and overlooks the bank where Hamilton was mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr. The exact spot — approximately where Philip also was shot — is lost to history. But the picnic-perfect park reveals a phenomenal Manhattan skyline and a nearby bust of Hamilton marks the rough location where the statesman fell. Placed beside the bust is a rock that, according to legend, Hamilton leaned upon after being shot. People now throw pennies on it.

I asked a man who lives in the house directly opposite the bust whether he had witnessed the same Hamilton mania I had observed at the graveyard in Manhattan. No, he said, because New Yorkers think New Jersey is impossibly far away.

“Hamilton did not die in New Jersey, thank God. That is the worst thing that can happen to a New Yorker. They got him back into a boat. He did make it across to the West Village,” said Jimmy Napoli, who leads Hamilton walking tours, including a “Hamilton’s Wall Street” walk I went on. (For the record, I, too, took a boat back across the Hudson, in a ferry named “Alexander Hamilton.”)

At $50, the walk is a fraction of the musical’s price. And unlike Miranda, who gave his final performance as Hamilton on July 9 (the role is now played by his former understudy, Javier Muñoz), Napoli isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, he has been giving Hamilton tours for decades.

“I have great vision and foresight. Twenty years ago, when I became a tour guide, I said to myself, ‘It’s just a matter of time before somebody writes a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, and I’m going to be on the ground floor when that happens,’ ” Napoli told my tour group of seven with a laugh. He then went on to pull history from the pavement for three hours, explaining where critical events happened and the founding fathers once lived, spots now mostly covered by high-rise buildings.

With his fast-paced New York gusto, Napoli’s could be the second best “Hamilton” show in town.

His favorite tour spot is Federal Hall, site of the First U.S. Congress, as well as the first Supreme Court and executive branch offices. But for me, the highlight was the room where it happens, the very location where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Hamilton held a private meeting in which the two Virginians agreed to round up congressional support for Hamilton’s plan for national assumption of state debts in return for Hamilton rounding up support to move the capital to Washington. The room, which was in Jefferson’s house, no longer exists, built over by yet another office building.

My next stop would be a house with rooms where a lot of things happened: the only home Hamilton ever owned, his Grange estate. But not before saying goodbye to my tour at Fraunces Tavern, where the nascent Treasury Department once leased rooms and both Burr and Hamilton attended a meeting one week before their duel.

Over lunch, William Carter, a dad from Fredericksburg, Va., who brought his teenage daughter, Kayla, told us how at first he had doubts: “I said ‘Rap and Hamilton? How dare you,’ ” but then was won over.

As Napoli put it, not only has Miranda “made Hamilton cool with the kids, I’ve got 80-year-old women from the South rapping in my face, which is really surreal.”

With that, I headed uptown to the Grange, Hamilton’s Federal-style house in Harlem in the shadows of what today is the City College of New York.


“Our visitation numbers have skyrocketed since the play came out and the demographics of the people have changed,” said park guide Gregory Mance, who explained that history majors and school groups have given way to “everybody.”


Balluan stone at St. Matthew’s C.O.I parish church on Woodvale road, Belfast. The stone was unearthed in 1855 at the nearby ancient Shankill graveyard. The church, designed to resemble a shamrock from the air, stands on the site of the first Christian church in Belfast (the Shankill gets its name from the Irish for ‘old church’). The stone was first thought to be used by pagan druids in pre christian times before being used by early Christians from the 5th century as a baptismal font.  A 10th century bishop’s crozier was also discovered close to the stone and is now on display in Dublin Museum.. Local folk-lore in the Shankill community has long associated the Balluan stone with healing powers. Among the beliefs is that the stone can cure warts. One would pierce the wart with a pin and then place it into the man made bowl/cavity on top of the stone. Many rusting pins were to be found there up until recent years.

[for hell is empty, and all the devils are here]

this was inspired by a walk through the ancient graveyard on lindisfarne on all souls day, and general angsty killian/underworld/tomb related things, so yes don’t throw things at me

The low, cold late-autumn sun slants through the leafless trees, her breath showing in short silver puffs in the silent air. Her heeled boots crunch through the bracken, deliberate strides, as she passes each of the stones, worn and illegible from decades of storms and rain and wind, shallow etchings bearing little resemblance to names. The churchyard is still consecrated, but barely anyone is buried here anymore, save for a few islanders with special connections to the place. Flowers lie in tidy bundles on those ones, the fresher ones, with those loved ones left to remember them, but the rest are old and overgrown, tilting and tumbled. Relics, now. Grief no longer fresh, no longer remembered. Just a monument. Just the passing time.

Except for hers.

Except for his.

Emma Swan comes to a halt in the corner of the churchyard, where the one grave remains meticulously cared for, cleaned and trimmed. She puts flowers here sometimes, but only when she is sure of not being noticed. The local authorities think she’s just an eccentric historian with an interest in the legend of the Jones family, eighteenth-century Royal Navy captains and in one notorious case, pirate, and that’s why she tends the grave. But flowers too often would raise even their suspicions. Even though she feels as if most of her sleeps here, on the cold earth, on every other day of the year.

She kneels in front of the stone. Her fingers trace the words, a pattern so burned into them so that she can recreate it in her sleep.

Killian Bartholomew Jones
Beloved brother, beloved husband
“For the Light shone into the darkness, and the Darkness did not comprehend it.”

Emma’s throat is thick as she sits back on her heels, the freezing salt breeze tousling her hair; she can hear the seagulls calling. There is a small shrine in the ancient parish church nearby, for all the men who have gone to sea and never returned, and he’s on the registers somewhere. That’s the story of his death, at least. That he drowned. That it was almost three hundred years ago. That it’s just a fable.

There is no telling the real one. That she was a noble daughter fleeing an unwanted marriage, that he was the pirate who rescued her at sea, that there grew up an unexpected bond between them that turned first to respect, then liking, then love. That they fought the times and tides and tempests together, that they married in secret on a rocking ship’s deck beneath the lucent stars of the Caribbean. Pirate king and his pirate bride, the pair of them. Nothing to stop them.

Nothing but the wrath of her spurned would-be husband and his father. Nothing but the dark arts they traded and trafficked in, seeking to punish her. Nothing but the demon they called from hell itself, to claim her, and how Killian sacrificed his life to save her soul. How he took his last breath in her arms as she wept, and how she wanted nothing more than to follow him through the gates of hell, to the end of the world or time, because life was nothing without him.

But she couldn’t. She never could. The demon was out of her, but she had been left unchanging, undying. Immortal. Has watched these three centuries pass and turn away, a flicker of a moth’s wing to her, a leaf on the wind of all hallows. All these short-lived people with their short-lived existences, coming and going, the world in a blur as it speeds on toward the future. All this time she has lived without him.

All except for this one day, every year.

The sun is going down. Emma’s breath catches. She sits tensely, fearing as she always does that it will have stopped. That this will be the year no more. That he will not come, or if he does, he will not remember. That it is just a dream, and over.

But the air grows dark and chill. The moon rises, splashes of silver over the white-curled waves. And then she turns, and in the shadows, sees him.

Killian!” She can never run to him fast enough, throw herself into his arms – which still feel almost as substantial as they did in life. Crush their hungry mouths together, taste the salt of their tears, as they clutch and sway and kiss and gasp through the pain of another year apart, one living and one dead, allowed only to meet on the night of All Souls here at his grave, until dawn, when he must return to the underworld and her to this empty phantasm called life. She fists her hands into him, pressing him into every line and sinew of her body, the hardness and warmth of him (only a dream, only a shadow, but enough, since it is all they have been left). They go to their knees, entwined in the leaves, desperate and raw and clumsy as they join together. It is never enough. It is never, never enough.

After, he lies with his head on her breast, and his weight on her, and her arms around him, as the night passes soft as a thief. They must fit as much as they can into it, as she tells him of what she’s done that year, what she’s learned, reminding him, binding him. This existence is a hell itself, a place of penance far worse than open torment. He never speaks of what takes place down there. She doesn’t know if he remembers, when he’s allowed to make his journey to the living world for one night. The dead have no tongues, nothing to speak of, no way to prepare the mortal mind for the immense incomprehensibility of the void. The cessation. The end.

Yet still, after all this time, after all this grief, their love is the one thing it has not yet been able to take. The one thing that survives eternity.

Emma tightens her grip on him, as his dark head buries kisses in her throat. Sometimes she wonders if this is a curse of itself, a price, a payment. That one day, one day soon perhaps, they will have paid it. That they will prove they are bonded beyond all breaking, and so the tariff is settled. That they can go, now. Be released. Blow on the four winds, and to the corners of the earth. That the limbo will end, and all they will see, in the end, is light.


The keepers of the graveyard (and the church that it belongs to) have heard stories for years about a mystical, ghostly couple that only reunites on All Souls night. That if you go there and watch and listen, you will hear them, see them, loving each other until the daylight separates them, and they vanish. As usual, they don’t put much stock in it, but there have been enough odd happenings that they don’t discount it out of hand; a good tragic, romantic, haunting tale is an asset for a historical place like this. As usual, they go out the next morning to look. Just in case.

There are no footprints. There are no signs of forced entry. Just the cold sun rising, and oddly flattened grass, and dew that drips like a maiden’s tears. And then, there, the one thing they have never seen before:

Two pink roses, stems crossed, lying on the grave.