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Tombstone Tuesday: Egyptomania in Huntington's Spring Hill Cemetery

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Huntington’s Spring Hill Cemetery

I’m an all-around spooky kinda person. In addition to cruising cemeteries for potential ghosts, I also just love visiting these locations for a glimpse into the art, history, and culture of a particular location! There’s so much beauty to observe and so many secrets to uncover, simply by taking the time to look closely at the clues hidden within the tombstones themselves.

A few weeks ago, Spectral Research and Investigations had an investigation that was rescheduled at the last minute, due to an emergency on the part of the client. As several members had already taken off work or otherwise cleared their schedules in anticipation, we were left with a free evening and nothing to do.  As tempting as it was just to sit at home and relax for once, I decided that I wanted to take the opportunity to once again participate in a fun little Halloween season activity, Remnant Stew’s annual Cemetery Crawl!
Remnant Stew is a paranormal podcast that I love listening to, and each year, they hold a lil’ contest. Participants are urged to visit local cemeteries and take selfies from a guided list of things to look for while in the cemetery, such as tombstone symbolism and types of epitaphs. This year, prompts included an anchor, an obelisk, a death date after 2021, a soldier’s grave, and quite a few other things.  Beth, another member of SRI, met me at Huntington’s historic and sprawling Spring Hill Cemetery, and armed with our cameras and list of prompts, we set out to explore.
I’ll be posting more about our adventures in a separate blog, but it was a lot of fun, and we found quite a few, but not all, of the prompts on our list. We also discovered a few extra little gems that were not included on our list…
Two-Headed Snake with Orb
Close-up of Glick Monument
Spring Hill Cemetery, Huntington, WV

Perusing the Jewish section of the cemetery we found a really neat carving on the Glick Family monument, featuring an orb and two snake heads (or a double-headed snake?) peering out from behind it. It definitely stood out among the normal (and somewhat mundane) funerary art that we kept coming across. You can only photograph so many praying hands and heavenly gates before something like this would cause you to stop in your tracks…which it did! And, I immediately pulled out my phone to start searching for what such fascinating tombstone symbolism could possibly mean.
The first article I came across was a really fascinating piece on the Web Urbanist called The Language of Death: 15 Gravestone Symbols Explained. It was written by SA Rogers and had some great information on a variety of things commonly (and not so commonly) found on tombstones, complete with pictures. There was even an example photograph of an orb flanked by a two-headed snake that was very similar to the Glick monument. But, just like with dream symbolism, tombstone symbolism is rarely black and white, and the snake, while overall meaning everlasting life, can mean different things in different contexts, none of which really seemed to make any sense in this case. The snake wasn’t wrapped around a cross, so it probably didn’t mean our deceased was a high-ranking Mason. It wasn’t wrapped around a staff, so our deceased probably wasn’t a member of the medical field (later confirmed by research). So what did it mean? 
Admittedly, I got really excited when I read that the serpent could be seen as an occult symbol, and that a serpent around an egg, called the Orphic Egg (this symbol ISN’T an Orphic Egg, however) is the occult symbol of the personification of light, the Greek deity Phanes! My mind started racing, and probably influenced by recently watched shows such as Archive 81 and The Midnight Club, I was envisioning some cult or secret society of occultists operating right here in the city during the early part of the 20th century. 
Glick Monument
Spring Hill Cemetery
Huntington, WV

The second article I came across, however brought me back to reality. I was overreacting; there probably wasn’t a secret occult symbol hidden in plain view in a popular Huntington, WV cemetery. Rather, we had found a beautiful example of 1920′s Egypto-mania!  So what does that mean? Well, back in the 1920′s, the United States was especially obsessed with anything having to do with Egypt. King Tut’s tomb had been discovered and opened, leading the western world into a period of fashion, jewelry, architecture, and yes…even tombstone design…being heavily influenced by the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Cathy Wallace wrote a great blog post for the Billion Graves site, called Egyptian Gravestone Symbols.   In it, she explains that Egyptian symbols on tombstones are actually pretty common here in the United States, including the image of a winged sun-disk with two serpent heads, as seen on the Glick monument. According to history, Pharaohs would wear the image of a cobra on their crowns as protection against their enemies, and what is the greatest enemy of all, but death? 
Now that I had a better understanding of the symbolism, I wanted to find out as much as I could about the people who would choose that symbolism to adorn their final resting place.  As it turns out, the monument stands over the graves of Samuel J. Glick and his wife, Sara Lewis Glick, a prominent Jewish couple living in Huntington, WV.
Samuel was a furniture merchant, born in Russia on January 15, 1872 to parents Abraham and Sarah Lewis (yeah, same name as wife, lol). The couple married on December 31, 1907 and had a daughter ten years later named Babette Samara. They were active in the B’Nai Israel Synagogue and lived in a very nice home on Washington Boulevard. From what I can gather, the Samuel was closely related to the Glicks who operated Star Furniture in Huntington, but I’m not 100% of the connection. 
Samuel passed away on October 27, 1925 (death certificate), and I assume that the larger monument was erected around this time, as this was the height of Egypto-mania here in the United States!  He was a charitable sort, leaving donations to a handful of charities in his will, including the Colored Orphan’s Home in Huntington. The rest of the estate was left to his wife.  Interestingly, when doing research on a married couple, I usually find much more about the husband than I do the wife, but in this case, it was reversed. It seems as if Sara was a little more…well-known…than her husband. 
Sara was born in Washington, DC on September 9, 1885. However, her father was born in Russia, and I suspect was either related to, or was very close friends with the Samuel’s family before THEY immigrated. In the 1910 census, Sara is listed as being a teacher. This is a profession she’d maintain well after her husband’s death, and up until her own death from coronary thrombosis on January 7, 1940 (death certificate). But, she wasn’t JUST a teacher. She was a leader in special education in West Virginia, serving in 1929 as the state supervisor of education for crippled children in the State Department of Public Welfare. She was responsible for founding a speech clinic, establishing vocational rehabilitation projects, and helping handicapped graduates enter the workforce. She truly was a pioneer, and it’s a shame that she and her husband passed away too soon. 
My own mother spent over 40 years herself in the special education field, first as a teacher and then at the board office as an educational diagnostician. For years, she championed for the rights to a solid education for students of all abilities. She passed away on September 24 after a brief battle with cancer.  It seems almost serendipitous that a trip to the cemetery for a fun distraction would lead me to learning more about Sara Glick, a real hero to the special education program here in West Virginia.  A really cool, somewhat mysterious Egyptian motif on a tombstone sparked my curiosity to the point where I was led to discover someone I know my mom would have looked up to and would have loved to have known. 
Stay spooky, stay curious, and happy haunting, everyone! 
The Cumberland (Maryland) News
08 January 1940


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