Henry O’Neill was a perfectionist. Every morning, he would make his rounds through White Oak cemetery. He ensured that every hedge was impeccably cut, that there were no dead flowers scattered about, and that every headstone was in pristine condition.
In his 20 years of groundskeeping for White Oak, he developed quite a spectacular memory for names. Not once had he ever confused Richard Wyatt for Wyatt Richards, or made his way to Tanya Michael’s gravestone instead of Tonya Michael’s.
One afternoon, after finishing his rounds, Henry decided to take a walk on the very outskirts of White Oak cemetery. It was during this very walk that he stumbled upon something that resembled a small bush made of creeping vines and white pennycress.
Intrigued that in all his years he’d never noticed this bush until now, he decided to look closer, realizing that the bush was not a bush at all, but a gravestone obscured by overgrown vegetation. Henry was shocked to know he had been neglecting someone’s resting place for so long. He immediately began pulling weeds up, wondering why this grave was so far from the rest.
Behind the foliage stood a crooked, aged headstone, badly cracked and weathered with just a single name engraved across—Adelaide. Henry knew of an Adele and Adelia—even an Adeline, but the name Adelaide was one not yet introduced to his memory bank.
The sun began to set and Henry decided to retire for the day after spending hours in an attempt to restore the peculiar tombstone. He managed to pull up all the weeds and trim the area around it, but the crack was beyond repair.
The following morning, after his daily rounds, Henry walked along the outskirts of White Oak cemetery to find the gravestone of Adelaide. But something was not the same as before. One of the letters that were so deeply etched into the dark stone had vanished. The last letter of the name was completely gone, as though it had never existed. Sure, the name would still sound the same, even with the missing vowel, but it was unlike Henry to ever misspell a name.
Henry brought this phenomenon to the funeral director’s attention, who laughed at the idea, then checked his books to come to the eerie discovery that no one by the name of Adelaide had ever come to White Oak cemetery. The funeral director was skeptical, and though he knew Henry was not the type for tomfoolery, still asked to be taken to the grave site. So they traveled to the outskirts of the cemetery and just as Henry had said, there lay the crooked headstone.
Henry looked over at the funeral director, surprised to see that his expression was not what he expected. The director didn’t seem shocked to see that there was a grave all alone at the periphery of the churchyard. Sure, the true peculiarity of it all was that a letter had vanished, but the funeral director was not witness to this and Henry chalked the whole incident up to a silly misspelling.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Henry was certain he made no mistake. Another letter was now missing from the stone. The funeral director was in awe, and being a man with a strong curiosity for the great beyond, was eager to know what was to come. He instructed Henry to document the strange events happening at the cemetery. He had hoped that within this evidence, they could unravel the mystery of the vanishing letters. And so day by day, Henry and the funeral director marveled at the odd, crooked stone, photographing the strange phenomenon, and watching as one by one, a letter from dear Adelaide’s name disappeared in reverse until only a blank slate remained.
Henry was fearful what would happen next, hoping that his name would not be engraved into the mysterious stone the following day. He did not sleep that night and instead found himself nervously examining the photographs, certain that nothing good could come from the grave.
Early the next morning, before the funeral director arrived, Henry decided to walk to the outskirts of White Oak cemetery to see the grave of Adelaide. But to his surprise he could not find the tombstone. He circled the cemetery grounds multiple times, but the mysterious stone had vanished, just as the letters had. Henry knew this was no act of theft or vandalism for the graveyard grounds remained undisturbed.
He quickly phoned the funeral director who was not pleased to be awoken so early. Henry frantically explained to him that the grave of Adelaide was now gone. He explained how he searched the grounds as thoroughly as he could but to no avail, the stone was nowhere to be found—vanished without a trace. But the funeral director’s response was not what he expected.
“Adelaide?” he questioned.
It took about five minutes within Henry’s frantic explanation to realize the funeral director had no recollection of Adelaide, or the mystifying gravestone—as if the disappearance of the stone also took all thoughts and memories along with it. “But the photographs!” Henry thought to himself, desperately patting down his coat pockets. Henry pulled the polaroids from his jacket, only to reveal that they were nothing more than pictures of an empty plot of grass—that by some twisted, supernatural feat, the gravestone of Adelaide managed to erase those as well.
But Henry was not one to ever forget a name, and every day, after his rounds, wondered if the body of Adelaide had vanished along with the stone—or if it was still buried somewhere in the outskirts of White Oak cemetery.