The Story Behind Haley Hodge’s Cemetery-Inspired Baby Name, Salem

  • Haley Hodge garnered significant attention for her unconventional approach to finding baby names by exploring cemeteries, with a viral TikTok reaching 2.7 million viewers.
  • Hodge and her family chose the name Salem for their baby girl, inspired by a U.S. Coast Guard veteran’s headstone in a North Carolina cemetery.
  • Despite some criticism, Hodge defends her unique method, emphasizing the meaningful connections and the peaceful connotations of the name Salem.

A Unique Journey to Finding the Perfect Baby Name

For baby names, inspiration can come from anywhere—books, movies, or even family traditions. However, for Haley Hodge, a content creator and mother of three, inspiration came from a rather unusual place: cemeteries.

Hodge’s journey to find a name for her upcoming fourth child has captured the internet’s attention, sparking both admiration and criticism.

Going Viral with an Unconventional Idea

In May, Hodge’s TikTok video documenting her search for baby names in cemeteries went viral, amassing 2.7 million views. The video showed Hodge and her family walking through gravestones, looking for names that resonated with them.

This unconventional method received mixed reactions. While some praised Hodge’s creativity and willingness to think outside the box, others found the idea unsettling.

The Name “Salem” and Its Significance

Last week, Hodge announced that she and her husband, Rivers, had decided on the name Salem for their daughter. The name, discovered on the headstone of a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who served in World War II, struck a chord with Hodge. She shared on TikTok that the name Salem means “peaceful, safe” and “complete,” qualities she found deeply meaningful.

Hodge explains, “As far as the name went, my favorite has been Salem since I saw the one in the graveyard. My husband’s favorite was Sailer, which we also found in a graveyard.” The family eventually chose Salem through a vote involving all family members.

Defending the Choice

Facing criticism from some who were unnerved by the idea of taking inspiration from the dead, Hodge has been vocal in defending her choice. She emphasizes that cemeteries are not places of evil, but rather places where people’s loved ones rest. “I just saw it as I’m going to the place where people’s grandparents are, their best friends, loved ones. I don’t see it as a place of evil,” Hodge said.

She acknowledges that different cultures have varying attitudes towards death and burial sites, but personally, she has never felt uncomfortable in cemeteries. “If there was something like souls out there, I don’t think they are confined just to a cemetery,” she noted, highlighting that hospitals, too, are places where life and death coexist.

Family Connections and a Unique Story

The name Salem also holds a special connection to water, a theme prevalent in Hodge’s family. She noted a “family water connection” by associating the name with the Salem River, a tributary of the Delaware River. “Everyone in my direct family has some type of water-related name. We have a Rivers, Rains, Brooks, and Banks already,” she shared.

The story behind Salem’s name is something Hodge hopes will be a cherished part of her daughter’s identity. The name was inspired by a late veteran whose life briefly overlapped with Hodge’s. “Our lives missed overlapping by about eight months. He was married and did not have any children of his own, but hopefully he will be okay with being an honorary grandpa to our baby girl,” she wrote in her TikTok.

A Future Full of Stories

Hodge’s viral fame even caught the attention of a major Hollywood star, who offered naming input during a Skype call, adding another layer to the story behind the name Salem. Hodge expressed her excitement, saying, “Not only did we find it in a unique way but one of my favorite celebrities helped choose it too! What a fun fact my baby will have in her future!”

The family is still deciding on a middle name, with Hodge leaning towards something water-related, like Harbor, to further solidify the theme.

A Personal Tradition Documented

For Hodge, the journey to find a name in a cemetery was also about creating a unique story for her daughter. Her first three children, Finley, 10, Banks, 1, and Crew, 3, were named through more traditional means, often inspired by names heard on television. This time, Hodge wanted to give her daughter a name with a story worth sharing.

She documented the entire process on TikTok, initially unsure whether to share it publicly. “I wasn’t even going to post [the videos],” she explains. However, she eventually decided it was a story worth telling. “I knew it was going to spark some attention, being different.”

Embracing the Unconventional

Haley Hodge’s approach to naming her baby reflects a broader willingness to embrace unconventional methods and find meaning in unexpected places. Despite the criticism, Hodge remains firm in her belief that cemeteries are places of peace and remembrance, not fear.

Her story encourages us to think differently about traditions and to find personal significance in the names we choose for our children. The name Salem, with its rich backstory and peaceful connotations, stands as a testament to the idea that inspiration can be found anywhere, even among the gravestones.

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