Tomb Trippin' is a web series hosted by Jim Hanks that focuses on "reanimating" some of the forgotten stories of American history that can be found buried in graveyards across the country. Come with us as we delve into the past and bring to history to life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Understanding what it means to be a U.S. veteran, part 2

Our photo of Louis Van Iersel's cenotaph.
This day on our  “Tomb Trippin’“ blog, we honor one veteran attributed with saving over 1,000 lives ! His name is Louis Van Iersel, and he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his wife, but has a cenotaph (a grave marker for someone who is not buried there) in the beautiful, small Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, in Sierra Madre, Calif., right near where I live. My husband, Dan, and I have included some pictures of this lovely cemetery, as well as a grave of a Vietnam veteran we happened to notice as we were driving away. The flag by his tombstone and flowers were left as an early tribute. 

Visit his page on Find A Grave to learn about Van Iersel's incredible bravery and swift thinking. Think of the impact he and so many men and women like him have made. Enjoy the pictures, and we hope you enjoyed your day off yesterday (if you had one). Hopefully you found time for a quiet salute in your heart for all the fallen. 

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! I know I said you would meet the producers this month, but we wanted to dedicate our blog to our country's heroes. You'll meet everybody next month. Please join us again.

Dig it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Understanding what it means to be a U.S. veteran, part 1

My dad
The ending lines of one of Emerson’s most famous quotes on living reads, “... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

This Veterans Day we should all try to find some moments to thank all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to change so many lives of the living and loved here in America. Maybe you have relatives who fought in past wars or are currently enrolled in the armed forces. We honor them on this special day.

I grew up in Warren, Ohio, a working -class, industrial town. I didn’t understand or care too much about history as a kid, just was always wondering what was next for me in my young life. But, when I got a little older and the Vietnam War was going on, so many young men from my town were killed or came back wounded that I, like the rest of the youth in this country, could no longer ignore the realities of losing those you knew and loved.

Uncle Traian
One day, I asked my sweet, sweet father about his experiences in WWII. He was on a submarine doing search and rescue in Pacific waters. He didn’t choose to talk too much about it but did tell of pulling sailors out of the sea to save them. How many lives of men he didn’t even know he must have touched and changed while in service !

His brother, my Uncle Traian, fought in both WWII and the Korean war. My mother’s brother, my Uncle Chuck, also fought in WWII. I miss them all. And now that I am older and wiser as to the contributions they made on this day, I honor them each year.

Whether they were saving lives in battle or simply helping me down from the tree I climbed too high into, they are all everyday heroes to me.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of our tribute to our veterans. We'd like to introduce you to Louis Van Iersel ....


My dad in his sailor uniform
My mom and her brother, Traian

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Day of the Dead!

All Souls' Day at Campo Santo (10/29/07). Photo by Ute on Flickr from Creative Commons.
Happy Día de los Muertos from all of us at Tomb Trippin'!
Here's a little information about this fascinating and beautiful celebration.
According to the Huffington Post, "Día de Muertos (or Day of the Dead) originated 3,000 years ago with the Aztecs, who had annual ceremonies, not to mourn, but to honor the deceased and to welcome the temporary return of their spirits .... When the Spanish conquistadors conquered the Aztec Empire in the early 1500's, they brought with them Catholicism, hence All Souls and All Saints Day, which were their own answers to honoring the dead. The result, the Día de Muertos we know today." 
Facts about the Day of the Dead (from
  • The Day of the Dead is actually two days--Nov. 1 and 2 (coinciding with the Catholic All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day)
  • The spirits of children come back to their families  on Nov. 1
  •  The spirits of adults return on Nov. 2
  • Day of the Dead altars made in honor of deceased relatives are called offrendas.
  • It's believed that "happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families."
Are you celebrating the Day of the Dead? Let us know and share your photos in the comment section or email us at

 The team at Tomb Trippin' wishes you and your ancestors the best.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween from Tomb Trippin'

So many cultures for so many centuries have celebrated this magical eve in a myriad of ways.
Halloween goes by the names:
  • All Hallowe’en 
  • All Hallows Eve 
  • All Saints Eve
It is the eve of  the Western Christian church's feast of All Hallows Day and the eve of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)  in Latin culture (more on this tomorrow). Years ago, in France, Christians believed that one night a year the dead rose from all the church yards for what was called “the Dance Macabre, a wild and hideous carnival. In agricultural societies, it is celebrated as the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the long cold winter.  

With all of its names and rituals, one common denominator remains––that Halloween is an evening set aside for the honoring of the dead.

• All Hallow’s Eve "is about humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. ... "Because some Western Christian denominations encouraged the abstinence from meat on All Hallows Eve, the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes and soul cakes."
• "In 19th century Ireland, candles would be lit and prayers offered for the souls of the dead . After this, eating, drinking, and games would begin. Throughout the Gaelic and Welsh regions the festivities including fortune telling games, mostly regarding death and marriage."
"Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons.

"Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises." (
"The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits." (Traditions of Halloween

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Welcome to Tomb Trippin’!

Here at Tomb Trippin’ we like to celebrate the dead. (It's a fitting time of year, don't ya think?) What exactly is Tomb Trippin'? It's a brand new web series coming soon to YouTube! Soon we'll be launching our website and posting all sorts of great stuff about cemeteries and the history inside them.
Each day we “dig up” through our research long-forgotten, fascinating tales of the folks who came before us, giving new life to those asleep in the graves. Some are epic-size heroes who changed the course of history forever. Some are the most despicable of scoundrels who raised hell on earth wherever they went. Still others led quiet, unassuming lives but made a contribution of such grace or import that they should never be forgotten.

Jimmy Hanks
Each episode, host Jimmy Hanks––our “man in black”––rides his motorcycle to hidden corners of America, interviews the local folks living there, always samples the diner pie and house-brewed joe, and finds the most fantastical story buried in each town's graveyard.

Our resident expert, Minda Powers-Douglas, delivers all the facts you would ever want to know about the grave sites we visit. She provides in-depth knowledge of tombstone and grave structures and symbols, as well as "taphophile tidbits" that make our stories even more tantalizing.

Today marks the first day of our blog. We encourage you to follow our stories and tell us about your own local graveyard heroes or scoundrels! We're very eager to hear from all taphophiles (cemetery fans) with your favorite photos , facts and local legends. Maybe Tomb Trippin’ can come to your town to film an episode ... and, of course, have a slice of pie.

Check back later in November to meet our producers and read our mission statement for the video series with a different legend brought to you each episode .

This Veterans Day on our blog, we will visit the Sierra Madre Cemetery here in California to bring you the story of a single veteran responsible for saving over 1,000 lives! As Minda says, ”All lives matter.“ And as the veteran we highlight proves, we all make a difference in the way we touch each others' lives.

Please join us as we continue to grow, building our website and expanding our connections to other sites we know will excite you. For now, enjoy this haunted eve, dance your best harvest dance, honor those you love who came before you, score some great candy, and maybe even do some Tomb Trippin’ of your own. Dig It !