This is the nineteenth year that Parkview High School’s theater class has put on Tales from the Crypt at Mount Holly Cemetery, but this was our first year to attend.
Just because this event is scheduled for the second Tuesday in October – in a cemetery, no less – doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be ‘scary,’ so don’t let that deter you from coming next year if scary things aren’t your cup of tea. And if you’re at all interested in Arkansas history, this will be right up your alley!
A little history about the cemetery… Mount Holly is sometimes referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Arkansas because of the many high profile Arkansans buried there.
“Interred within the rock walls of Mount Holly are 11 state governors, 15 state Supreme Court justices, four Confederate generals, seven United States senators and 22 Little Rock mayors, two Pulitzer Prize recipients, as well as doctors, attorneys, prominent families and military heroes, including venerated David O. Dodd, a 17-year-old boy executed for being a “Confederate spy,” and often referred to as the “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.” There are veterans from all wars: Revolutionary, War of 1812, Mexican, Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I and II, Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm.”
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest cemeteries in Arkansas. (Batesville has the oldest.)
Tales from the Crypt
About 20 theater students from Parkview Arts-Science Magnet School were each assigned a notable Arkansan who is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. After doing research, each student writes a monologue describing this person’s life and their contribution to the early history of this state. In performance, they dress in period costume and share their story with the visitors.
We arrived right at 5:30pm, quite surprised to see lines extending from the cemetery gates to both ends of the block. We briefly considered not stopping, but then decided it wouldn’t be too bad a wait. I’m glad we stayed. The weather was pleasant (maybe a tad chilly but not uncomfortable) and after a short wait we were made part of a tour group of about 15 people. There are two ‘half-tours’ of the cemetery to get more groups through – great idea!
Probably the most famous person of our half of the cemetery tour was David O. Dodd. Having known of him from the street and the school in southwest Little Rock both bearing his name, I did a little research on this young man and his story before coming here tonight. The student who portrayed Dodd did an excellent job of bringing his person to life (in a manner of speaking). When you read about Dodd in history books, he is often referred to as being a ‘spy’ for the Confederacy and ‘spy’ is put in quotation marks as though it were an “alleged” claim… It’s really downplayed, and maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but really, folks, he was caught red-handed carrying incriminating information on his person that spelled out (in Morse code) details of where the Union army camps were and the number of soldiers and types of weapons they had at each. Can you say ‘espionage’? After a court-martial, he was hanged for that crime, and that is indeed a tragic end to a young life as he was only seventeen. The real mysteries here are: who he was protecting by not divulging his source? And, did he really understand the gravity (sorry) of what he was doing, or was he maybe tricked or coerced? I personally believe he was young and probably feeling invincible, and he wanted to be a hero by either helping the Confederates or dying for The Cause. Fascinating story, tho. Google it sometime.
Incidentally, the young man who portrayed David Owen Dodd last year is actually a distant descendant of Dodd – how cool is that?!
Unfortunately, it got too dark too soon, so we had to leave before we finished both parts of the tour. However, we are preparing for next year by:
- making sure we eat first,
- arriving earlier than 5:30pm,
- bringing a big sack of clothes to donate to the Goodwill Store across the street to get free (close) VIP parking,
- wearing comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothes, and…
- bringing some cash money to donate to the upkeep of the Mount Holly Cemetery. Admission to this event is free, for heaven’s sake… so bring some cash for a worthy cause!!
Here are some photos of the other ‘personalities’ we heard from.
(My photo of Jane Elizabeth Woodruff, wife of Arkansas Gazette
founder William Woodruff didn’t turn out, sorry!)
Mark your calendars now for Tuesday, October 14, 2014, for the 20th performance of Tales from the Crypt… I know I’ll be there!