Rest in peace? Sorry, Teddy.


Matt Hufman

A teddy bear sits on a grave in the St. Thomas Cemetery outside of Overton in July 2013.

A Tour of St. Thomas

Steve Daron, Lake Mead National Recreation Area cultural resource manager, stands at the remains of the schoolhouse at the town of St. Thomas Monday, July 22, 2013. The town started as a farming settlement in 1865 but was covered by the rising waters of Lake Mead in the 1930's after the construction of Hoover Dam. Launch slideshow »

ST. THOMAS CEMETERY — After a full morning at the ruins of St. Thomas earlier this summer, photographer Steve Marcus and I decided to visit the town’s cemetery. Founded in 1865, the cemetery was moved to a bluff near Overton before the waves swallowed St. Thomas in 1938.

Cemeteries aren’t my favorite destination, but they offer unique insight into a place and its people, so Marcus followed the signs pointing to the cemetery. He turned his snazzy new Subaru Outback off the highway onto a soft dirt road. We crossed a railroad track and quickly entered a small community that was shady in all senses of the term.

A large grove of leafy trees protected a smattering of trailers, and we wondered if we took the wrong turn.

There were signs of life, but I didn’t see anyone. Perhaps I was too busy looking straight ahead, trying not to become a witness to something I didn’t want to see. Except I spotted that table saw idling next to one of the more colorful “no trespassing” signs that blossomed there. The saw looked like it could handle anything – lumber, trespassers, Subaru Outbacks – and no one would be the wiser.

The scene triggered my memory of similar places I’d been – most were crime scenes in rural areas with names like “The Grove” or the Spahn Movie Ranch. But never mind that.

And I mean no offense to anyone who lives there. Really. I love what you’ve done with the place. The creepy chic thing works brilliantly. Seriously. You are connoisseurs of the “No trespassing” sign. When Architectural Digest documents such things, you’ll own the cover. What a wonderful mix of colors and shapes, and your design made a statement – loud and clear. Trust me. I won’t be back. At least at night.

Shortly after we passed the saw (was that something red on the blade?), we emerged from the grove, and the cemetery appeared on a nearby bluff. It’s a peaceful spot, and we wandered around and took pictures.

One grave was covered with a thick concrete slab the size of a door. A serious gray headstone rested on top, indicating a 9-year-old was buried there. Sitting in front of the grave was a small tan Teddy bear.

The child died in 1915, yet nearly 100 years later, someone remembered. How sweet. How thoughtful.

Then a double take: The bear was headless, and it was held down by wire, which was secured by three wooden stakes.


That horror movie music, you know, the track with the screeching violins that escalates right before the camera captures the glint of a knife or something worse, started playing in my head. Then I thought I heard the roar of a saw.

The saw? In the grove? A headless Teddy bear?


Wait, wait. I was losing it, right? We had been going since early, and I hadn’t eaten much. It was way past lunch. A good cheeseburger would cure this. But getting to lunch meant another trip through … The Grove.

Cue the horror music.

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