Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes: Conrad Aiken House

A Mind Haunted

Aiken attended Harvard, where he became friends with poet T.S. Eliot, and married three times, while dividing his time between the United States and England. His writings were influenced by Sigmund Freud and, of course, his parents' deaths. Guilt and a quest for salvation permeated his works.

Conrad Aiken
Conrad Aiken

Knowing that mental illness ran in his family, Aiken battled the notion that he too would descend in to madness. His second wife saved him from committing suicide in the 1930s.

Conrad's father around the time of his marriage
Conrad's father around the time of his marriage

Twelve years before his death, Aiken returned to Savannah and bought the house next door to his boyhood home. He spent a considerable amount of time at the Bonaventure Cemetery where his parents are buried. He decided that when he died, his tombstone would be a bench for others to enjoy.

Conrad's mother
Conrad's mother

One day, he was in the cemetery and saw a ship named the Cosmos Mariner passing by on the nearby Wilmington River. He decided to read the local paper and find out where the ship was going, but didn't have any luck. That incident stuck with him and became his tombstone epitaph: "Cosmos Mariner, Destination Unknown."

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