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Vt. woman’s cemetery scrubbing adventures draw 1.5M TikTok followers

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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WEST RUPERT, Vt. (WCAX) - We’re almost in spooky season, and what could be spookier than a cemetery? But one Vermont woman is working to make them a little less scary by revitalizing headstones from hundreds of years ago. Then, she posts her adventures on social media.

Caitlin Abrams of West Rupert has always had a passion for genealogy. So, she got involved with a website called FindAGrave.com, which helps connect people from all over with their ancestors.

When someone from Iowa asked Abrams to check on a Vermont gravestone, she found it in disrepair and decided to learn how to clean them.

After months of research on the proper way to clean gravestones, Abrams got to work.

Now, she shares her cleaning process on the video-sharing app TikTok.

But aside from shooting, editing and sharing her video, she does research on the deceased as well.

As it turns out, tons of people are interested in gravestone cleaning. Abrams has 1.5 million TikTok followers of all ages, from all over the world.

While some tune in for the aesthetically pleasing nature of it, others join in to learn more about history.

“A lot of people really like the stories, they like to kind of help me investigate. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘Oh, I found a newspaper article from this and this,’ and I’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s exciting.’ I’ll pin the comment so other people can find it,” Abrams said. “I get a lot of comments from people saying, ‘I lost my loved one and this means a lot that you’re doing this for people.’ And every time I get one of those comments I try to respond.”

There’s a specific cleaning process Abrams spent months perfecting so she doesn’t hurt the stones but still gives them a facelift.

She gave us a look at her process.

During the warmer months, you can find Abrams in cemeteries spanning Washington County, New York, and Bennington County, Vermont.

She pays her respects in different ways than most. The genealogy buff spends her free time giving historic headstones a little TLC. What’s more, Abrams takes the time to actually learn about the people buried underneath where she works.

“I can spend hours just researching these people that have absolutely no connection to me just to sort of find out the little things,” she said.

Then she shares it with the world.

“I thought that maybe I was the only one interested in random stories of people you have no connection to but it seemed like people were really interested,” she said.

Using video-sharing app TikTok, Abrams, who moonlights as “ManicPixieMom,” tells the stories of the dead to 1.5 million followers.

“I think that it’s really important to kind of shine a light on our history in a way that we don’t really get in school. And that’s another thing people say on TikTok, ‘I never knew I liked history until this part,’” Abrams said.

Some bear 200 years of the elements, so Abrams scrapes, cleanses, scrubs and rinses.

“Sometimes they rinse really satisfyingly and sometimes they don’t, and I don’t always know which it’s going to do. It surprises me,” she said.

All to do a little storytelling for her fans online, and to do a good deed for Vermonters and New Yorkers who have come and gone.

“The graves have just broken down into, essentially, dust. So, we want to keep them up while we can and make it so that years from now people can still read what they have to say,” Abrams said.

All of her supplies are funded by donations and the TikTok creator fund.

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