The Louisville Stigmatorium Talks Abandoned Eastern Cemetery and Forsaken Dinosaurs!

We catch up with Andy Harpole at the Louisville Stigmatorium to discuss his charitable work at Eastern Cemetery and his efforts to save the Louisville Sinclair Triceratops.

“Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure exactly the sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.” – William Ewart Gladstone

Over the course of 2013, the Louisville Stigmatorium at 1722 Maple Street has quickly developed a loyal underground reputation for its collection of oddities, curiosities and strange collectibles. Located in a mysterious room inside of Andy Harpole’s boat repair shop, the Stigmatorium’s mini museum of oddities is as unique and scattershot as the curator himself.

Talk to Andy for five minutes and he’ll freely admit that his unusual collection and many of his varied, off-the-beaten-path interests are likely a product of ADHD (attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder), which he has dealt with since early childhood. You can almost visualize the neurons in Andy’s brain firing as his mouth tries desperately to keep up with the ideas he wants to relay in conversation.

Along with the intellectual mania, however, comes a deep passion for local history and a yearning for communal pride and social equality. Over the last ten months, Harpole has formed the Friends of Eastern Cemetery, Inc. ( ) in an attempt to right some of wrongs that the former owners of the Louisville’s oldest public cemetery perpetrated against the public in a scandal that dates back to the 1920’s. There are 138,000 deceased buried in only an estimated 16,000 graves.

Harpole has put together a ragtag group of volunteers who have given up many of their Sundays working to improve the grounds so that relatives can again visit their buried loved ones amid the crumbling remains of the cemetery’s 28.7 acres.

How did Harpole initially become interested in the fate of Eastern Cemetery?

“The original idea for the Louisville Stigmatorium came to me while walking through Eastern Cemetery,” relates Harpole. “I was dealing with the breakup with my girlfriend and my kids were involved and I was spending hours and hours in court, and I was under a lot of stress. I just wanted to go somewhere to be alone and I ended up in Eastern Cemetery.”

“I couldn’t believe the terrible state that the city had allowed it sink into through vandalism and neglect. I started to think about the ‘stigmatic’ story that had grown up around the scandal. Nobody wanted to be a part of this place or wanted to be associated with it, and yet thousands of families and family members are buried here.”

“Meanwhile, I had a collection of oddities that I had been acquiring for years at my house,” he continues. “When people would come over, at first they would get freaked out and think all this stuff was really weird. But when I would explain to them the history of the items, they would suddenly get really interested and want to know where they could find some of this stuff themselves.”

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Once they understand something, it doesn’t scare them anymore. That was one of the first goals I had with the Louisville Stigmatorium, and it’s also what I hope to do with Eastern Cemetery: de-stigmatize.”

Harpole sees the vast gulf between the wealthy and the poverty stricken in our modern economy represented in the wall that divides Eastern Cemetery with the beautiful, lush grounds of Cave Hill Cemetery right next door.

“The Middle Class is quickly disappearing, if not already gone,” says Harpole. “Many good, working class citizens from Louisville’s past are buried in neglected graves in Eastern Cemetery, while right next door there sits one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country if you have enough money to be buried there.”

Besides vandalism, Harpole’s group has encountered dogs let loose on the grounds that not only use the area as a pit stop, but also dig up bones from shallow graves. While fighting the day to day battles that are damaging the grounds, Harpole is also attempting to “de-stigmatize” some of the urban legends surrounding the area that draw ghost hunters and legend trippers.

“There’s the story of The Witch’s Grave,” says Harpole, “because there’s a gravestone that people think has a pentagram on it. But it’s actually an Eastern Star associated with the Freemasons and masonic groups and has nothing to do with witchcraft or Satanism.”

What keeps the Friends of Eastern Cemetery going?

Well, both Heine Brothers Coffee and Spinelli’s Pizzeria have donated coffee and pizza to feed the volunteers on long Sundays. Donations can be made at that help pay for gas and supplies. “Even a $5 donation pays for a gallon of gas,” says Harpole, who estimates he spends $60 in fuel every Sunday the group works.

The real motivation, however, comes from somewhere else.

“I was out there by myself one day cutting the grass,” he says, “and this little old lady comes up to me carrying a handful of flowers. She says, ‘What are you doing here?’ I say, ‘I’m cutting the grass.’ She tells me she has been coming here for years to visit her relatives, but the grass and foliage had gotten so tall that she could no longer get to them, so she started leaving flowers on the road.”

“I asked her if she had a few minutes to wait, and I cut the whole area clear for her. When I came back and helped her get down to the graves and visit her family, she broke down in tears as she finally got to leave her flowers by the grave. That’s why I’m doing this.”

I also wanted to catch up with Andy regarding his quest to rescue another forgotten Louisville icon, the Sinclair Triceratops gifted to the city by the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Harpole became the leading force in attempting to save and restore the life-size dinosaur after seeing an article we published on the subject last year (see: ).

As the owner of a boat repair shop that specializes in fiberglass repair, Harpole is in a unique position to help. The dinosaur currently resides only a block away from Andy’s shop, and Andy has contacted the current stewards of the triceratops at the Louisville Science Center and offered to store the dinosaur inside his building for free, getting it out of the elements. He has also offered to help restore the dinosaur on his own dime and display it to people in a separate wing of the Stigmatorium.

But there’s even better news for the Louisville icon: Dave Conover, head programmer for the 20 year old model and toy expo, Wonderfest ( ), has offered to help recast the broken pieces of fiberglass using molds from an existing replica of the original model.

In addition, world famous paleo-artist, William Stout, who was also production designer on “Return of the Living Dead” (1985), has offered to help restore the original paint scheme. Stout is the owner of the actual maquettes created by original dino-sculptor, Louis Paul Jonas, which were used as guides for building and painting the full sized fiberglass dinosaur sculptures.

“I spoke to all the right folks at the Science Center and with the city,” says Harpole, “and everybody seemed to think it was a win-win and a great idea. I was all set to bring in a flatbed truck and crane and move it here to begin restoring it.”

“They couldn’t give us the dinosaur, of course, but they said there was a clause that allowed them to loan it to us for an indefinite time for display purposes. All I had to do was wait for the board of executives at the Science Center to vote on it.”

That was months ago and Harpole is still waiting. Admittedly, Harpole confesses he was sidetracked by the Eastern Cemetery and other work related projects, and he hasn’t been doggedly working the phones recently.

There is a long history of well-meaning rescue attempts of the Sinclair Triceratops that have almost always gotten lost by either apathy or red tape and indecision on the part of its corporate owners. Hopefully, the forces of good and the dino-lovers of Louisville will ultimately win out so that kids will be able to enjoy this local legendary creature for generations to come.

The Louisville Stigmatorium has set up a Facebook event page to encourage salvation of the Louisville Sinclair Triceratops at . You can also donate your time or resources to the Eastern Cemetery effort at If you’d like to view the museum of oddities, purchase something unusual or even sell or trade something strange, you can arrange a private tour through the Louisville Stigmatorium Facebook page at Regular museum hours will return as soon as the weather warms up in the spring.

The Phantom of The Ville

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