“Some people might think it is odd to spend time in the cemetery, but in our travels, we have met many people who, like us, enjoy the history, solitude, and beauty of these resting places.”
An interview with co-author, Helen Goltz about the Grave Tales series:
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
A: Chris and I met in the 90s when we were both working for Channel 7 in Brisbane. We met up again in 2009 at 4BC, and were married in 2014. We both have a fascination with cemeteries – the history, the tales, the mystery and, dare I say, the serenity. Chris has visited many of the old European cemeteries and I have roamed many of the local ones. I thought it was weird that they really fascinated us both, but since writing our book, it appears we are not alone! Cemetery lovers have been coming out of the… well cemeteries!
Q: What was the inspiration behind Grave Tales?
A: I’ve had the concept for decades and I’ve pitched it as a television and radio series in the past. But while having a ‘sea change’ in Victoria, we decided to put pen to paper and began to research and write the stories. We don’t do family histories, but rather we look for ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, willingly or unwillingly.
Q: You have visited hundreds of cemeteries now, do you both have a favourite?
A: Absolutely. I love Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney. It is tree-filled, shady, leafy and beautiful. Of an afternoon, it is full of community folk mingling, walking dogs, and enjoying the area. If I were lying dead there, I’d be delighted to have the living surrounding me.
Chris finds it very hard to go past Waverley Cemetery for the view and for the history lying within.
Q: Is there a particular story that affected you both?
A: Actually, there is a lot for me. Writing Grave Tales: True Crime was really harrowing for me – some of the female victims stayed with me for weeks. But stories also like Qld’s only hanged woman, Ellen Thomson, and young Grace Yorsten, 27, who died in the sinking of the Pearl Ferry are such fate-driven stories, very sad.
Chris finds it hard to narrow it down, but he loves the shark arm murders story in our Sydney volume because as he says, you couldn’t make it up. The Billy Sing story really touched him as well. Billy was a WWI soldier who met an unhappy end, and it illustrates the need to look after our veterans.
Q: The research must have been extensive. What are some of the resources you used to go digging up the past?
A: The research and writing is fun; the editing, not so much… thank goodness for our wonderful editor, Joanne James. The National Library (Trove) and our State Libraries are superb, especially the Queensland State Library … one of the best in Australia, and we are spoilt by having their resources to use. We couldn’t do this job without Trove – it would take us years to do one book. It has given us many of our story ideas pre-1950s, the old news clippings are our best source of material. I love reading the style of reporting too.
Q: Any last words?
A: Yes, we hope our readers find these tales as fascinating as we do. We have taken great care to be respectful to the people featured in Grave Tales in the telling of their life stories, and to any living descendants. Our intent is to save our history and share the tales of the many lives that have gone before us. We look forward to catching up with you on the road, and our sincere thanks to all the experts, ancestors and contributors who helped our journey to capture and tell these fascinating stories.