FREAK Shots: Death and Foreclosure

A blog reader named Lee emailed us a photo he took on Highway 86 in Imperial, California. “It made me wonder if [the economy] is really that bad that even dead people will lose their resting places,” he writes. “What will they do? Evict the dead?”


We called Victor Carrillo, the supervisor for Imperial County listed on the sign, to find out.

“It’s a privately owned cemetery,” he tells us. “I presume it will be purchased by another entity in the cemetery business. That’s been typical.”

For a new owner to use the land as something other than a cemetery, says Carrillo, they’d have to contact all the families with relatives buried there, pay to move all the remains, request a land-use zone change, and have numerous public hearings.

Carrillo suspects the cemetery’s alkaline soil, which makes it difficult to grow grass and vegetation, played a role making it unattractive to potential customers and bringing it to foreclosure.

Though according to the Los Angeles Times, the cemetery is just one of many businesses in the Imperial Valley that is suffering.

We asked Larry Anspach, president of American Cemetery/Mortuary Consultants Inc. whether we’re likely to see more cemetery foreclosures as a result of the recession.

“This is the first I’ve heard of a cemetery being foreclosed,” he says. “People say it’s actually a recession-proof industry.” A foreclosure is more likely to happen because of bad or fraudulent money management by the owner, he says.

Anspach agrees with Carrillo that a foreclosed cemetery probably won’t become a parking lot or a Walmart:

Given the current economic climate, people probably aren’t scrambling to use the land for commercial purposes. It would obviously upset a lot of people if someone said “Gee, we’re going to turn this cemetery into a housing development, like in Poltergeist.”

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  1. Grant says:

    Cemeteries are such a waste of space

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  2. M.B. says:

    Should be viable as a continued buisness since people are dying to get in…

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  3. Eric M. Jones says:

    “Carrillo suspects the cemetery’s alkaline soil, which makes it difficult to grow grass and vegetation,….”

    It is generally trivial to lower soil alkalinity. The problem is the price of the water required to keep the green plants growing. In the mightly San Joaquin (where most of your vegetables are grown), the soil is very alkaline, but the water is affordable.

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  4. evgeny says:

    no wonder they’re in foreclosure–they ask for flowers instead of money!

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  5. Larry Eisenberg says:

    Some Cemeteries it appears
    Are racked with Bankruptcy fears,
    Would such a Chapter 8,
    Include each Pearly Gate
    And the Heavens to which it adheres?

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  6. Connie H. says:

    A smart buyer would turn it into a xeriscaped cemetary, with cactuses and whatnot — make it ‘green’ (well, actually brownish) featuring low water use and native plants as a feature.

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  7. econobiker says:

    #6 Connie H.:

    Then will they spread tan fake grass /Astro-turf under the graveside tent for the mourners to stand on versus the fake green stuff they use today?

    I also thought that cemetaries were supposed to have a bunch of money in trust for the maintenance of the cemetary…

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  8. Ian says:

    I can’t believe no-one would want that land. It’s the dead center of town.

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