Saturday, July 12, 2014

The ABC Cemetery - Bedford, Virginia - Truth or Fiction?

The "ABC" Cemetery 

Off of Rt. 122 near Bedford, one can find a most unusual cemetery. 

Officially known as the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, most locals refer to it as the "ABC Cemetery," not because of its name, but because of the obsessive-compulsive nature of its former and long-time owner and caretaker, Thomas Aadland. Aadland's sickness compelled him to continuously re-order the graves to keep them in strict alphabetical order. Local residents would find Aadland at any time of day or night following a new burial, digging up graves and shuffling caskets and headstones from plot to plot to maintain the alphabetic burial sequence. 

Aadland required all plot owners to sign a form acknowledging the "floating" nature of their burial plot and allowing him to change the assigned plot and move each body as needed. As bizarre as it sounds, family members didn't mind the arrangement, since it allowed them to easily find the grave sites of their loved ones on return visits, even years later, without having to remember the location between visits.

In 1992, Aadland found himself near death, and he realized that he would no longer be able to maintain the cemetery, much less continue to shuffle the grave sites. Because of this, he decided to close the cemetery, but to his horror, he realized that the graves would have to be shuffled one more time so that he himself could be buried in proper sequence (and an "A" shuffle to boot...the worst kind). Too weak to shuffle the graves once more, Aadland placed a newspaper ad seeking laborers, but he had no takers.

If you visit the ABC Cemetery today, you can observe firsthand how Aadland solved his dilemma. Look for the very last grave in the cemetery...the grave of Thomas Zuckerman... formerly known as Thomas Aadland.

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