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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Max Carter leads spirited Graveyard Tour, full of entertaining history

I crossed across New Garden Road from Guilford College to New Garden Friends Meeting, the moon’s fading light my only guide through the darkness. Out of my peripheral vision loomed a shadowy silhouette holding a lantern. I slowly walked toward the figure, my heart beating faster with every step. Could a Quaker have risen from their resting place in the nearby graveyard?

As I drew closer, the figure’s shape became more distinct, illuminated by the lantern’s light. The unease that had possessed my entire body was spirited away as Max Carter, director of the Friends Center and adjunct professor of religious studies, greeted me with a smile.

On Guilford’s annual Graveyard Tour at NGFM, you will not hear any eerie ghost stories in the graveyard. In fact, you will probably not hear about spooky Quakers at all.

“Quakers are as benign in death as we are in life,” Carter told the attendees — a group of at least 50 people — before guiding them into the graveyard.

The Graveyard Tour started 15 years ago as an activity for Carter’s FYE class Plain People. Those who attend the tour can expect to learn about Quaker and Guilford history as they visit gravestones belonging to notable Quakers and non-Quakers. There is even a grave dedicated to a great oak tree that sprouted in 1492.

As the group headed towards the first grave, all that could be heard were the sounds of a few people murmuring, crickets chirping and the crackling of dead leaves as they were crushed beneath shoes. Once Carter began to speak, almost all the noise around him died. It was not an eerie silence but instead very peaceful and welcoming.

Although the hour and 30 minutes long tour is very rich in history, it is in no way tedious.

“Everything (about the tour) is interesting … Max is really good at telling stories,” said sophomore Yves Dusenge.

In addition to enlightening everyone with history, Carter told jokes and funny anecdotes about the graveyard’s residents. The history lessons were nowhere near boring, either. “Interpreters” — costumed people who acted as those buried in the various graves visited — appeared to talk about their figure’s significance in Quaker or Guilford history, while also addressing current times.

“I like the feeling of addressing the crowd as another person,” said junior Laura Todd, an interpreter acting as Lizzie Cox. “It’s very freeing for an introvert.”

Cox was a Quaker woman who fed Guilford students during the Civil War and hung baskets of food in the woods for draft dodgers and fugitive slaves.

When Todd and other interpreters finished, they were greeted with friendly applause from the crowd.

While Carter and the actors spoke, interpreters for the deaf turned their words into sign language. Though not as noticeable, people near these signers got a chance to view the tour from a different perspective. One such person is Nicole Cline ’13.

“It was interesting how the deaf interpreters were able to convey each character … in the same spirit as … the interpreters,” said Cline in an email interview.

Near the tour’s end, rain began sprinkling onto graves, trees and the unfortunate attendees without umbrellas. Despite their lack of protection from the rain, the group pressed on.

To help keep spirits lifted under the chilly rain, Carter ended the tour by telling everyone about Quakers in the graveyard whose surnames were synonymous to famous companies.

“One can start holiday shopping early: Starbucks and Macys (are) buried (in the graveyard),” Carter said in an email interview.

Once the tour was over, Carter invited attendees inside NGFM for a cup of hot cocoa or tea as well as a chance to discuss Quaker anecdotes and history not covered on the tour. This was the perfect treat for those who wished to stay around and briefly escape the rain.

Even though Carter will be retiring in Spring 2015, he plans to continue hosting the Graveyard Tour as a member of NGFM. Anyone who wishes to learn more about Quakers or Guilford’s history is encouraged to join the tour in future years.

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