31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, every day is Halloween. Stop by the blog every day this month for true tales of the unquiet dead. Come for the severed heads, stay for the book bound in human skin. Every story is true, and each one is a real place you can visit. We dare you. 

In Pomuch, Mexico a visit to the grandparents involves more skull cleaning then you might think.

When you die in Pomuch, you are really only taking a short rest.  After a three year rest underground, it’s time for you to get back to work. Your family comes to visit on the third Day of the Dead since you died and digs you back up. (This can be a rather traumatic experiance for the relatives, but it is their duty to your memeory.) Once out of the ground, your bones are cleaned with brushes, transferred to a wooden crate, and placed on display in the cemetery. The more your relatives care the more work they put into your display, creating a slightly competive atmosphere. You may be dead but you still have to keep up appearances.

The ritual which is said to help deal with the pain of death and keep the family together, is also tied to a belief that a poorly taken care of relative can “become angry and wonder lost through the streets.” There is some concern that as the youth of Campeche become more modernized they will abandoned the tradition of cleaning the dead. In the words of one local man speaking of his children “I can’t make them do it, but if they don’t, I don’t know where I’m going to end up.” 


POMUCH CEMETERY, Pomache, Mexico