One of the most profound differences between humans and animals lies in the way we treat our dead. Regardless of whether we see death as the end of a journey or the start of another, the great dignity that civilized society bestows to the dead is a reflection of the respect that we have for life and each other. As the great Roman orator Cicero once so eloquently noted, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
Across the breadth of the millennia, humanity has developed a number of mediums to serve as the final resting place for their dead. From the flaming burial ships of the Norse, the cremation of the Hindus, the mummification of the ancient Egyptians, and the hanging coffins of the almost extinct Bo people of China, cultures will inevitably create their own unique versions of the final resting to honor their dead.
The arrival and subsequent growth of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have turned burial into the most common form of a resting place for the dead. These burials are usually made in specially chosen plots - graveyards or cemeteries. However, the dead are also sometimes buried inside tombs, crypts, vaults, catacombs and mausoleums. The choice of burials accord loved ones, family members and friends with a way to pay their respect to the departed, as well as immortalizing their memories.
Today, the choices of resting places have become an industry unto itself. In fact, many plan the location of their funeral and burial years in advance. Location, clothing, coffins and neighboring plots, among others, are taken into consideration when making their decisions. The cost of some of these choices can spiral into hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars. We have compiled below a list of the ten most expensive resting places in the world today.
10 Graceland Cemetery, Chicago: Up to $120,000
Established in 1860, Graceland Cemetery is a sprawling 119-acre site located northeast of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Famed for its beautiful Victorian era design, topography and natural beauty, the cemetery is the resting place to many of the city’s Founding Fathers, including Marshall Field, Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan. Listed in the National Registry of Historic Sites, the cemetery is included in several externally-organized walking tours, most notably those arranged by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Historical Society and the Chicago History Museum.
Prices for basic burial plots range from $2,600 to $4,000, while premium individual and family estate lots located near the lake cost between $25,000 and $120,000.
9 Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn: Up to $320,000
Founded in 1838, the Green-Wood Cemetery offers a gorgeous blend nature, architecture and serenity inside its huge 478-acre grounds to denizens and visitors alike. The cemetery is frequently compared to a landscaped park, owing to its beautiful combination of topography, lakes, wildlife, buildings and sculptures. On good weather days, you can even see picnickers, painters and photographers spending time in the area.
The traditional resting place of the Roosevelt clan in the early 20th century, the cemetery is also home to numerous local figures, including composer Leonard Bernstein, mobster Crazy Joe Gallo and William Livingston, one of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution.
Prices start from $1,772 for basic plots, $19,500 for a single entombment in a community mausoleum and $320,000 for a 756 sq. ft. mausoleum site.
8 Cryonics, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Arizona: Up to $338,000
Cryonics, not to be mistaken with cryogenics, is a process where the body is frozen in perpetuity. While bodies under cryonics are considered legally dead, a number of providers suggest that revival of these bodies may be possible in the future once medical technology has made sufficient advancements. This belief is based on the theory that clinical deaths do not equate to information-theoretic deaths. Some argue that information-theoretic deaths occur gradually after clinical death, and during the intervening period, the memories, personality and neural structure of the brain remain intact.
Similar to mummification, the cryonic process drains water out of the human body using a chemical cocktail, called cryoprotectant. The body is then slowly frozen until it reaches a temperature of -200°F, when it is then placed inside a container of liquid nitrogen, where the temperature reaches a blistering -320°F.
There are numerous variables involved in calculating the price of the procedure, but Alcor estimates the cost of a full-bodied long-term suspension to be about $338,017 (including the 100 years storage and membership fees).
7 Mount Auburn Cemetery, Massachusetts: Up to $500,000
Sometimes referred to as "Sweet Auburn" and "America's first garden cemetery", Mount Auburn Cemetery is well-known for its rich flora and enchanting scenery. Founded in 1831 on a one-time farm and designed by botanist Jacob Bigelow, the cemetery is probably the first professionally-managed park cemetery in the country. Its exquisitely designed and maintained gardens are occasionally featured on TV and the press, and it has been the filming locations of several movies.
With over 100,000 people interred here, the place holds a deep historical significance to many in Cambridge and the state. Some of its most famous denizens include the great poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, influential senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and maritime legend Nathaniel Bowditch.
Price for a basic plot in the Garden of Hope starts at $1,500 and rises to $500,000 for a premium burial plot.
6 Kensico Cemetery, New York: Up to $500,000
Located just 12 miles north of the Bronx River Parkway, the Kensico Cemetery offers a luxurious and scenic final resting place for its ‘inhabitants’. Founded in 1889, Kensico is home to the likes of firebrand author Ayn Rand, the legendary Iron Horse Lou Gehrig and a great many other sons and daughters of New York. For tourists intent on experiencing some of the magic and history of the place, the management organizes regular tours inside its 460-acre ground.
Interments at Kensico start from $1,800 for basic plots to $500,000 for private mausoleums.
5 Nirvana Memorial Garden, Singapore: Up to $517,800
Built in 2001, Nirvana Memorial Garden is a luxury columbarium targeted at the affluent Buddhist community in the city state. Combining a serene, modern architecture and amenities with a carefully tailored-landscape, Nirvana redefines the traditional concept of crematoriums.
With its grand majestic praying halls, private suites, gleaming golden statues, computerized laser lighting and high fidelity sound system, Nirvana literally takes your breath away.
Prices for interment at the columbarium range between $6,994 and $517,800.
4 Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale: Up to $825,000
Established in 1906, the Forest Lawn Memorial Park has expanded to six locations around Los Angeles. However, the primary site is located in Glendale, with over a quarter million interments over the last century. With its three chapels, the place has also hosted about 30,000 weddings, including that of former president Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman.
Forest Lawn also features a fine art museum which regularly hosts exhibitions for some of the greatest names in the world of art. Some of the more well-known figures that have been buried here include actor Gene Autry, King of Pop Michael Jackson, Joe Barbera (co-founder of Hanna-Barbera Productions) and the inimitable Humphrey Bogart.
Prices for internments start at $2,820 for the basic package, rising to $825,000 for premium plots.
3 Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx: Up to $1.5 million
Home to the likes of baseball legend Babe Ruth, jazz icon Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, and Moby Dick author Herman Melville, the Woodlawn Cemetery draws millions of visitors to its beautifully landscaped gardens each year. Founded in 1863, the 400 acres cemetery was also the site of the 1912 Titanic Memorial to mourn the 192 passengers who perished in the disaster.
Probably the most beautiful cemetery in the world, visitors are frequently awed at the bronze, steel and stone works of the mausoleums, gates and statues found inside the grounds.
The price for a basic burial plot here starts at $4,800. The price of private mausoleums, meanwhile, can go up to as high as $1.5 million.
2 Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles: Up to $4.6 Million
The Westwood Village Memorial Park has often landed in the news in recent years, chiefly over the bidding and jostling to fill the empty crypt above the one belonging to bombshell Marilyn Monroe. The star-studded cemetery is also the resting place of some of the greatest names in Hollywood history, including Natalie Wood, Burt Lancaster, Rodney Dangerfield, Farrah Fawcett and Dean Martin.
Westwood is a small and rustic enclave located inside L.A.’s sprawling urban jungle and just outside the Memorial Garden. Designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, burial lots at Westwood are regularly traded on the open market. In 2009, the aforementioned crypt was sold for a princely sum of $4,602,100 on eBay
1 Celestial Burial, Up to $34 Million
For the very adventurous, the prospect of their remains orbiting the earth or voyaging across the solar system might be a particularly compelling proposition. They will be in good company too, with Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek), L. Gordon Cooper (Mercury astronaut) and Timothy Leary (psychologist and 60s icon), already making their rounds in space.
However, owing to the prohibitively high cost and space constraints, bodies must be cremated before being launched to space. With prices as high as $12,500 per gram, the price of sending the entire cremated ashes of an average human body (between four and seven lb.) could rise up to as high as $34,000,000!