A visiting writer dubbed New Orleans cemeteries as the ďCities of the Dead,Ē in the late 1880ís due to the many above ground graves.
Routinely burying the dead above ground may seem odd, but itís a necessity in New Orleans, because of the ground water.
In fact, itís said that if you dig a six-foot hole in New Orleans, that it would soon be completely filled with water, because of the high water table and the below sea-level elevation of the city. Thus, set in the grave, coffins would quickly float to the surface like apples in a barrel of water.
In the early days of the city, people often tried to immerse the coffins during the interment. The freshly dug grave, filled with water, and with coffin bobbling away, would be the scene of much excitement as men attempted to force the casket to the bottom with long, wooden poles. Needless to say, this was an agonizing sight to loved ones, so another method was desired. Only the second idea was, perhaps, worse than the first. This time, large holes were bored into the bottoms of coffins, so that it would quickly fill with water and sink to the bottom. Though this method worked like a charm, downing the casket like a wounded ship at sea, it also resulted in hideous and loud gurgling noises as the coffin sank to the depths, something, which was even more difficult for loved-ones to bear.
Finally, out of desperation, the citizens decided to build tombs above ground, a method that worked so well that it quickly became the standard custom.