The History of Tales of the Crypt

Susan Taylor Barham taught English at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet and was the original teacher contacted by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) to start the “Tales of the Crypt” program at Mount Holly.

Knowing that Ms. Barham brought her students to Mount Holly Cemetery to read the poems from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, the sexton told the AHPP officials that they might want to contact her about the idea.

Barham enlisted the support of Judy Goss, a creative writing teacher and theatre specialist at Parkview, and Fred Bussey to assist in the project. Thinking we would be doing this as a one-time activity at first we plotted out twelve sites and solicited student performer-writers to assist. Leigh contacted the Arkansas Arts Center.

The costumer at the Arkansas Arts Center loaned us costumes which were placed across a bench. The performers were told to find something that would fit.

The three hundred people that were expected turned into over twelve hundred and the evening lasted until about eleven o’clock rather than the eight-thirty expected finish time. The City of Little Rock accepted the project and it has now continued eighteen years and this past year was to be the first that Susan was not physically present. Even in 2012, when she was fighting cancer, she made an appearance at the program she helped give birth to and loved dearly.

Tales of the Crypt continues to be Mount Holly’s most popular event. It is a wonderful legacy to Susan Taylor Barham’s creativity and commitment to education.

School Tours

It has been said that Mount Holly Cemetery is a city park for both the living and the dead. One of many great aspects of life in the cemetery include the school tours given throughout the year by our volunteer tour guides. This clever excerpt, about these tours, is taken from our cookbook, Recipes in Perpetuity: Timeless Tastes and Tales from Residents and Future Residents of Mount Holly.

One of the most joyous events at Mount Holly is a tour of the cemetery by a group of school children. This happens throughout the school year with classes coming from all over the state. Students receive lessons in history, art, and respect for those who have gone before; and they often write thank you notes to the Mount Holly volunteer who has guided them through the cemetery. They find the mausoleum “cool,” David O. Dodd’s grave interesting, and are fascinated by the story of the statues representing the two young sisters. Sometimes their comments and the pictures they draw on their notes bring a smile to our faces.

“I never knew that there were so many ways to bury a dead body.” “The mausoleum was also very cool. I enjoyed walking in it and looking at how old people were when they died.” “I have always enjoyed

“The mausoleum was also very cool. I enjoyed walking in it and looking at how old people were when they died.” “I have always enjoyed

“I have always enjoyed cemeteries, but Mount Holly has been the best I’ve been to by far. I mostly enjoyed the story of the two daughters who were made into statues.”

“I learned about the cremations buried under the water fountain. It really makes me think about doing the same thing when I die.”

And finally: “Knowing that some important Arkansans are buried there makes Arkansas seem less lame.”