Many cemeteries are known for having unmarked graves, but the Logan Cemetery appears to have the opposite: a grave marker without a body.
In the undeveloped northeast corner of the cemetery sits a small, lone tombstone with plastic flowers. It’s unlikely many people have ever wandered over there to read the inscription on the stone, but the modest marker drew the attention of some recent passers-by, and what they discovered has led to a bit of a mystery.
A crudely etched engraving on the cast-concrete marker says “Harambe,” accompanied by the years 1999-2016. Many readers will remember the name as that of a gorilla shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after it seized and dragged a 3-year-old boy who tumbled into the gorilla habitat in May of 2016.
Harambe’s death became a subject of worldwide remorse after a video of the zoo incident went viral and it appeared to many observers that the fearsome animal was actually trying to protect the boy. Internet memes based on photos of Harambe gained wide circulation and continue to this day.
Harambe’s birth and death years are the same as that on the Logan tombstone, which leaves little doubt that the marker is dedicated to him. But is the legendary western lowland gorilla actually buried there?
“Nope,” says Logan City Cemetery Sexton Justin Allen. “The marker just showed up there one day. From what we gather, it was like a college student’s project or something, and they just went and put it in there, and we haven’t taken it out yet.”
He guesses the marker was placed two to three years ago, which roughly coincides with the gorilla’s death.
Allen said there is no record of such a grave at the cemetery, but the family that brought the marker to the newspaper's attention noticed Harambe’s name is actually listed in the cemetery’s directory. How it got there is puzzling.
The directory is a spiral-bound log of graves in a covered enclosure outside the sexton’s office. The book is accessible to any cemetery visitors at all hours, but since it is printed in a type-font, nobody could have added Harambe's name without it appearing out of place, unless they actually reproduced an entire page and clandestinely inserted it in the book.
Jennifer Bordner, who with her sister and father discovered the marker a few weeks ago while visiting the cemetery, was fascinated by the find and has tried to track down what happened to Harambe’s remains after his death. News stories at the time indicated his sperm was being preserved for possible artificial insemination in the zoo’s gorilla breeding program and that his body would likely be handed over to scientists studying genetic problems facing the lowland gorilla population.
Both Bordner and The Herald Journal have contacted the zoo about the fate of Harambe’s body but have yet to receive a response.
Bordner said she hopes putting public attention on the makeshift marker doesn’t result in its removal, and she applauds the cemetery for allowing it to stay so far.
“I think it’s a sweet thought if that’s what they did as a tribute to Harambe,” she said.