Aspiring Artists & Politicos: the Best Way to Disseminate Your Message is to Bury Yourself in an Open Casket and Charge Admission

Dying is bad enough, what with ending your life, saying goodbye to loved ones, no more Starbucks; but there’s also a good chance that your life’s work will disappear into oblivion. If you’re a tax auditor, that may not hurt so much, but if you’re an artist or idea person, you’ve put a lot of effort into spreading your own gospel, so to speak. And death could kill that. Very rarely does it move things along.

S.P. Dinsmoor found a clever workaround. The quirky cement artist, vocal Populist, and husband to a woman 61-years his junior, built a mausoleum on his property, and upon his death was intentionally buried in an open casket. Why? Because he knew people would pay money to see THAT, and in doing so, it would preserve his art from demolition; folks would actually see his art; and as a bonus, they would be exposed to his political ideas.  Cunning. And creepy.

Cement Sculptures

The Garden of Eden is in Lucas Kansas. Everyone can stop looking now.

In 1907, at age 64, S.P. Dinsmoor took to sculpture–in cement with reinforced rods. Mostly tall, gangly sculpture. Perhaps so it could be seen from the nearby train station. He also had lights two years before the city did–that guaranteed a view from the station.

He worked on his Garden of Eden for 20 years. Quite a feat.

The Garden of Eden

His second wife, age 20 when he was 81 (and they had two kids), missed him because he spent so much time working in the garden. So he made a sculpture version of himself that kept her company through the window. I somehow think that wasn’t what she had in mind–despite the age difference.

Garden of Eden

Power to the People

Dinsmoor was quite displeased with “trusts”–basically monopolies and corporations. He and the Populists felt that trusts controlled men by controlling their food. In this piece, the Goddess of Liberty is sawing off the long octopus arms of the trusts, limiting their ability to have hands in so many pots.

garden of eden

Other folks with hands in your pockets? Well, just about everyone… This was his last piece, and it’s unfinished.

Death and Taxes

He may have hated big business, but boy was Dinsmoor at ease with death. When his first wife passed, he wanted to bury her in the mausoleum on his property. The city said no way, Jose. So after the formal funeral, he and some buddies dug her up, brought her home, and buried her in cement. Na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo.

In preparation for his own death, he created an angel on top of the mausoleum, to welcome him, should he be worthy of heaven. If unworthy, there’s a water pitcher next to the coffin so he has something to drink while acclimating down below.

Inside the mausoleum you can indeed see his open casket, now behind plexiglass. It’s decomposed-ish, there’s hair, he’s wearing a suit, I try not to think about it. Jokester, he took a double-exposed picture (while still living) and hung it above the casket: he’s both standing next to it and laying inside of it. Heebie Jeebies, Batman!

His scheme worked: his art remains. Although today, people pay to see his art more than they do his, um, remains.


What do you hope to be known for after you pass?
Do you have anything that you wish there an easy way to make public?

Disclosure: The majority of these photos are from Flickr. I was having a bad photo day while visiting the Garden of Eden–it happens. Thank you to the Kansas and City of Lucas Tourism Bureaus for facilitating my complimentary visit to this museum.

4 Responses


I will have to add this place to my bucket list – it satisfies my morbid curiosity and kudos to him for being an original silver fox (or whatever cougar name would be associated with older men)


Fantastic photos. I can’t believe that anyone would do themselves a burial “show”. I guess it takes all kinds to make a world.

Your Comments
My father, an artist, would have loved this place and the fact that this guy was such a character. I think my father aspired to being a “character”—-and sometimes succeeded.

Question: In your last paragraph, “his art remains” —- did you realize what an awesome pun that is?
Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..Election Day in the USA — What Could Go Wrong?My Profile

Suzanne. Thanks for catching the pun! I fret that folks won’t.

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