On a recent visit to Mission Santa Barbara, I came upon the grave of Sister Vincentia Bermudes. She died on Christmas in 1863 at the age of twenty. The base of her grave was covered with coins and dollars, as was a nearby tree stump. Why?
I was curious.
After a day of hard research, I was left with more questions than answers. Why did people leave coins? Were they hoping she would put in a good word with God on their behalf? Was there some urban legend associated with her grave? I still don’t know. In fact, I might never know.
Though, I did find a few interesting facts about burial customs as I did research on Sister Vincentia Bermudes’ grave.
First, Mission Santa Barbara is haunted. I knew this from my own visits. From cold spots to weird EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) to feelings of unease, my daughters and I are convinced. If you want to watch someone’s ghost hunting journey here, I have a link for you.
I also learned that coins are typically left on the graves of soldiers. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, the coins signify a fellow soldier’s connection to their dead friend. A quarter is the most significant offering; it means they were with the soldier when they died. This tradition dates back centuries, possibly to fallen Roman soldiers. Fellow soldiers left coins to pay for their voyage over River Styx.
Did you know?
People lay peanut butter and banana sandwiches on Elvis Presley’s grave – as well as teddy bears – because he loved both. Visitors leave fresh roses on Marilyn Monroe’s grave. And someone left a container with braids of human hair on the grave of a middle-aged man in Georgia. The author of that blog couldn’t find out the story behind that strange offering…but it is worth a read!
I wish I could tell you the story of Sister Vincentia Bermudes; how she lived and died, but I came up empty. I hope the sentiment etched into her gravestone has come to fruition; “May she rest in Peace(sic).”