Meet the Headstone Hunter: She dresses like a Victorian mourner, spends every day in a graveyard… and she's best friends with a GHOST
15:42 GMT, 30 October 2012
15:42 GMT, 30 October 2012
For most of us Halloween comes just once a year but, for one woman, ghouls, graveyards and fancy dress have become a way of life.
Six years ago, Jeane Trend-Hill quit her job as a fraud investigator to become a so-called Headstone Hunter – and she now spends all her time lurking in graveyards.
The 46-year-old from Langdon Hills in Essex is a paranormal investigator whose fascination with death even extended to her getting a tattoo of the blackbird featured on Amy Winehouse's headstone.
Spooky: Jeane Trend-Hill with one of her favourite angels at East Sheen cemetery in London
Dressed up: Jeane, pictured here at Lambeth Cemetery, regularly dresses in Victorian mourning garb
Tribute: Jeane's blackbird tattoo (left) was inspired by an image on deceased singer, Amy Winehouse' grave
Jeane, who has also written a number of books on death and cemeteries, including an A-Z guide on the meanings of symbols found on graves, explained:
'The blackbird is in memory of Amy Winehouse whom I used to see a fair bit of in Camden when I lived there and also my Dad – I kept seeing blackbirds in odd places after he died.
'I took comfort in hoping that the blackbirds were my Dad keeping an eye on me.'
Jeane's obsession with death and cemeteries began when she was a child and used to visit family member's graves with her parents.
'While the adults chatted and arranged flowers, I would wander off and look in amazement at the angels, doves and crosses on people's graves. I was struck by their beauty and as I got older I began photographing them purely for my own enjoyment.'
Six years after leaving her government job, Jeane's day now
involves anything from leading groups around haunted locations to taking
photographs of memorials and even investigating and researching the
paranormal for TV programmes.
'Sometimes I get asked to check out
people's homes, usually when they have moved or if anything odd has been
happening,' explains Jeane.
Friends: Jeane regularly saw the late singer while out in Camden and is pictured next to her grave
Feathered friend: Jeane (left) rescued blackbird, Magic, from the side of the road before releasing it a week later. She believes he is a reincarnation of her late father, who died 14 years ago
Spectre: Jeane tends to architect Arthur Beresford Pite's grave, while wearing Victorian mourning garb. She believes his ghost has saved her life on several occasions and has even seen him in the, er, spirit
Other projects include grave restoration work, and Jeanne is currently working on architect Arthur Beresford Pite's grave, after an incident in which, she believes, Pite's spectre saved her life.
'When I started work at 30 Euston Square in London I was told that the building was supposedly haunted by its architect Arthur Beresford Pite,' remembers Jeane.
'As the building manager of 30 Euston Square, I believed Arthur looked after me as I looked after his building.
'One of my most memorable experiences was when Arthur stopped me from falling headfirst down a steep flight of stairs and out of a large open window. I was carrying a heavy box which I couldn't see over the top of and slipped off the first step.
'Suddenly I was pulled back up by my shoulders. I turned around to thank who ever had saved my life, but there was nobody there. No one could have passed me on the staircase without me seeing them.'
Jeane also claims she saw a ghostly apparition resembling Pite. She explains:
'Early in my research I was flicking through a book about architecture and saw a portrait of Arthur, it was the first time I'd seen a photo of him.
'I was astonished because he was the man I'd noticed on several occasions outside the office, often accompanied by a man in an old-fashioned railway uniform.'
Ghoulish: Jeane in her favourite vintage dress with the Victorian version of a hearse at Lambeth Cemetery
Victoriana: Jeane's collection of memorabilia includes taxidermy, mourning jewellery and photo albums
Tattooed: As well as a blackbird, Jeane's tattoos include a dove of peace (left) and an ouroboros (right)
Not content with working on Pite's grave, Jeane also unveiled a memorial plaque on the 75th anniversary of the architect's death while wearing a Victorian mourning dress.
It wasn't the first time she's dressed up in Victorian costume, and Jeane says she often wears it for special events.
'People do a bit of a double take when they first see me but they love the dresses and jewellery. I love all things Victorian and collect photo albums, mourning jewellery and clothes, mourning cards (500 and counting) and taxidermy.'
Jeane has even started collecting Victorian mourning tattoos.
'I have a snake biting its own tail, which is also known as an ouroboros, and is a Victorian style meaning everlasting life. I also have a couple of basic cross tattoos and a dove which is one of my favourite symbols on old graves.'
And people are taking notice, providing Jeane with another outlet for her talents. Needless to say, she's thrilled:
'Recently I have found people are asking if they can use my photos of memorials as the basis for their tattoo designs, which is wonderful.
'Because of the demand I'm now an advisor on memorial tattoos. I help people with their questions about designs and if they require I supply them with my photos of angels, crosses and memorial statues for reference.'
While Jeane's family has been supportive of her unusual new job, not everyone has been so understanding.
'Some people seem to find what I do morbid but others find it fascinating; by photographing monuments and writing about cemeteries, I'm giving them a glimpse to the other side but in a good way, not a scary one.
People tell me I show the beautiful side of cemeteries and help to make death a little less scary, which in my opinion can only be a good thing. I guess death is the last taboo.'