Gray skies, still-bare trees and aged tombstones would suggest a scene to inspire the pen of Stephen King and not the playful shenanigans of the Easter Bunny.
But guess who showed up at Loudon Park Cemetery yesterday?
The Easter Bunny and some 300 candy-loving youngsters, who took part in the cemetery's first egg hunt -- part of Loudon Park's efforts to show the neighborhood and the city that the family-owned and -operated graveyard "has a heart."
"Our reason for doing this is to be a part of the community," said Marie Loewer-Nave, director of family services at the cemetery. "Cemeteries are more than cold stones. They're for the living as well as the dead."
For the record, the search for 1,000 plastic-shelled eggs occurred on an undeveloped tract of the 500-acre cemetery and not among the gravestones of Loudon Park's 350,000 interred residents, who include H. L. Mencken, Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, Jerome, and Mary Pickersgill, a seamstress who sewed the flag that is said to have inspired Francis Scott Key.
"There's so much history here," Mrs. Loewer-Nave said.
"This cemetery is such a part of Baltimore. I think it's nice for people to be aware of this heritage. It's their heritage," she said.
Most participants seemed unaware of nearby graves or of the 138-year-old cemetery's history as they scrambled for eggs hidden in a stretch of grass near Wilkens Avenue.
"The majority of kids here don't even know what a cemetery is," said Patrick Corbett, an Ellicott City tractor operator who brought his 3-year-old daughter, Molly, to the egg hunt. "It's just something out there."
Molly was too busy chewing on a chocolate egg to respond.
"The only exposure most people in Baltimore have to cemeteries is when a death occurs or in a horror movie," Mrs. Loewer-Nave said. "We want to let people know we're open seven days a week and we're here for them to visit, trace genealogy or history or whatever."
Franklin Terrell, a former construction worker who is now a salesman at the cemetery, said he was unsure how an Easter egg hunt would go over with the public.
"It seemed a little strange to me to have an Easter egg hunt at a cemetery," Mr. Terrell said.
"I didn't know how the public would react. But cemeteries are not just places of ghosts and goblins. They're places of beauty," he added.
He and Mrs. Loewer-Nave deemed the day a success.
For the cemetery to become part of the community is not something that is unattainable, Mr. Terrell said.
Loudon Park has often been referred to without the word cemetery because it once was a place that attracted a lot of visitors, he said.
Trolley cars ran through the cemetery from 1905 until 1931, when they were replaced by a bus that operated there until 1945.
"People used to come here just to visit others," Mr. Terrell said. "Most of who's who who lived in Baltimore is buried here."
Christine Peed, who lives nearby, brought her two children, Amanda, 6, and P. J., 5, to the egg hunt, expecting to see them search for goodies among the tombstones and monuments.
"I thought it was better they had it over here," she said, referring to the open space. "But there's really no place to hide eggs except in the grass."