If the World Wide Web is a reflection of who we are, then here's one subject almost as popular as sex:
A fascination with the macabre - and the end that awaits us all - can be found in thousands of sites that offer up everything from grief counseling to near-death experiences to gruesome photos that can only be described as pornography of death.
Bypassing those sites that pander to our more pruient interests, let's take a midnight tour of some of the Web's darker places . . .
For a cool summer's night, what better place to start than a quiet cemetery. City of the Silent http://www.best.com/~gazissax/silence/ offers some short essays on cemetery terms and symbolism and other information for taphophiles (folks who like cemeteries).
At the same site is the WWW Post-Mortem Page, one of the best resources for death-related Web sites. Author Joel Gazis-Sax even rates the hundred of sites he's collected. Here are a few he's awarded "four gravestones" (best).
Graveyards of Chicago http://www.graveyards.com offers online tours of the city's interesting cemeteries, with more than 200 photographs.
Arlington National Cemetery http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/michael_patterson_4 has the history of the cemetery, Medal of Honor winners buried there, a map, poems and essays, even information on how to get buried there.
The Virtual Pet Cemetery http://www.lavamind.com/pet.html A strange little site that allows pet owners to post memorials to departed dogs, cats, goldfish, frogs . . . you get the idea.
Writ in Water http://www.serve.com/diavolo/grave/ This
personal site is a collection of the author's photographs of famous graveyards and monuments, including Keats, Shelly, Wilde and Morrison.
Find a Grave http://www.orci.com/personal/jim/ Jim Tipton collects dirt from the graves of famous (and dead) people. His Web site is an impressive reference to burial places of hundreds of celebrities and historial figures, including maps. Many have photos, too.
Some sites for exploring the psychological side of death:
WidowNet http://www.fortnet.org/~goshorn/ A large selection of Web resources for those who have lost a spouse. Information on everything from finances to support groups to picking out a memorial.
GriefNet http://rivendell.org Another excellent source of Web resources for those dealing with death, dying and bereavement. Created by a clinical psychologist.
And on a lighter note:
You're Outta Here! http://www.cjnetworks.com/~roryb/outta.html A newsletter of celebrity deaths, with spritely writing and searchable obits. For a macabre laugh, check out the tragic but true "Stoopid Death" stories.
Paul Is Dead No roundup of death sites is complete without a couple of loonies who still maintain that the ex-Beatle is dead. Try http://kiwi.imgen.bcm.tmc.edu:8080/public/files/faqs/pid.html or http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Obituary/paul.html
And did you know Micky Dolenz is dead too, killed in a tragic home perm accident? Someone has proof http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~infinit/Monkees/deadmicky.html
Finally, the truly death obsessed can tour the Death Web Ring www.alsirat.com/silence/ring/ring.html a group of sites that share a common, ahem, ground.
Now that you know what awaits behind that final door, perhaps you're wondering how much longer you have?
The Death Clock http://www.deathclock.com uses actuarial information to predict how many seconds are left in your life. A similar death calculator can be found at RetireWeb http://www.retireweb.com/death.html
Northwestern Mutual Life offers a longevity test http://www.northwesternmutual.com/games/longevity/
that considers health, lifestyle and family history - closer to what a doctor or insurance agent might use.
For a 44-year-old overweight male (that's me), the Death Clock says my time would run out at age 73, RetireWeb said at age 78 and Northwestern Mutual said at age 80.
Guess which one I believe?
E-mail Charles Brewer with questions, comments and suggestions at CBrewer@enquirer.com Charles Brewer's columns can be found athttp://enquirer.com/columns/brewer