Deconstructing death in East Falls

The dead may be silent, but they still have stories to be shared.

In celebrating its 175th anniversary, Laurel Hill Cemetery is offering more guided tours this year than ever before, with a new event marked for each weekend from now until October.

Thursday night’s twilight tour “The Science of Death” reflects on a darker milestone, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and explores the embalming methods used during that time period with a little help from the Mutter Museum. Its curator, Anna Dhody, will step in as the guest speaker for the educational tour, and show off another one of Mutter’s macabre treasures, a 19th century embalming kit.

“It’s really an opportunity to indulge your curious side,” says Alexis Jeffcoat, who coordinates programming for the East Falls Cemetery.

With 70,000 people resting in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Jeffcoat says she has plenty of subjects to draw from and bring the past to life. Among the people buried in Laurel Hill are Thomas McKean, who signed the Declaration of Independence, General George Mead, who commanded the Union in the Civil War, and astronomer David Rittenhouse.

“For any program or theme we think of, we have someone to connect it with,” says Jeffcoat.

For example, fans of one of Laurel Hill Cemetery’s most recent inductees, late Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, may be intrigued by its upcoming tour of the cemetery’s athletes on June 3, Jeffcoat says, which is followed by a viewing of the Phillies game.

Laurel Hill Cemetery’s “The Science of Death” tour will be held tonight, May 12 at 6 p.m. General admission is $30, $25 for students and seniors and $27 for members.

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