TikTok's #CemTok is the latest - and spookiest - trend which includes a 'cemetery safari' - but what are they?

The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’
The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.
The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.

TikTok is home to many unusual and somewhat creepy trends - from Jasper the doll to the Zepotha horror film and zombies in China. But, there’s a new Halloween trend for 2023 which is the spookies of them all - #CemTok.

CemTok, which is short for CemeteryTok, and also known as gravespotting, is the latest baffling trend to emerge from the social media platform. At the forefront of it is BBC documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara, who has carved out a niche for himself as a self-proclaimed ‘cemetery influencer’.

Namara’s new series, Cemetery Safari, invites viewers to go with him as he tours notable graves of celebrities or historical figures. But, it’s not as gloomy as it sounds as this is combined with his idiosyncratic sense of humour, style and intellectual curiosity. Two of his top videos include ‘The Time Travelling Tomb’, which has received more than 465,000 views, and ‘London's Floating Coffin’, which has received more than 90,000 views.

Namara’s fascination with graves and all things connected with the after-life all started when he visited the tomb of Oscar Wilde at the renowned Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. He decided to film his experience and share it on TikTok - and found that other users were intrigued. He explained: "There's a raunchy urban legend about his grave, and I suddenly felt a pressing need to share it with the world.” 

Language you need to know

  • #CemtTok: A portmanteau of 'cemetery' and 'TikTok', coined by Jono Namara it is the hashtag to find all things Cemetary Safari.
  • Tapophile: A person who is interested in cemeteries, funerals and gravestones.

  • Tombstone tourist: Tombstone tourist describes an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of deaths.

  • Gravespotting: Like trainspotting, but with less trains and more graves. . .

Overwhelmed by the interest and engagement that followed, Cemetery Safari was born. Coining the term '#CemTok', a portmanteau of 'cemetery' and 'TikTok', Namara has enthusiastically embraced his unexpected social media fame that has even inspired many TikTokers to explore their local graveyards.  During a recent appearance on TalkTV, he referred to himself as “a bonafide taphophile - a tombstone tourist”. 

The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.
The #CemTok TikTok trend was started by documentary-filmmaker and former fashion-model Jono Namara who likes to go on ‘cemetery safari’. Photo by Milbanke Media/Jono Namara.

But Cemetery Safari isn't just about history; Namara goes on his tours dressed in a Savile Row tailored suit as he aims to look like a quintessential English gentleman - and this makes him stand out even more when he visits graveyards, and also on TikTok itself. In an upcoming shoot called ‘Spectral Style’, for example, Namara will be seen donning designer wares in one of London's magnificent cemeteries, Abney Park, for a hauntingly fashionable experience.

Namara's journey to TikTok fame has been unconventional. Born and raised in North London, he was a member of the Young Archaeologists Society as a child and this ignited his passion for history and culture. As a teen he was discovered by fashion designer and photographer Hedi Slimane and was introduced to the world of high fashion; walking the catwalk for Balenciaga, Paul Smith, Comme Des Garcon, and Hugo Boss and landing campaigns for Dior Homme and Lanvin.

Today, he makes documentaries for the BBC including 'E-Life After Death',  which explores how social media has impacted the way we process death, and 'A Brief History of Celebrity', which explores how we went from idolising the poet Lord Byron to reality TV star Kim Kardashian. 

To join Namara on his Cemetery Safari follow him on TikTok @cemeterysafari, where he has more than 10,000 followers, and also on Instagram, @jononamara, where he has more than 2,000 followers.

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