Despite the localization dubbing it a “Charnel Lane”, Hemwick is more accurately a “graveyard town”, (墓地街) as seen by the plethora of headstones crowding its grounds. This cemetery extends to the forest outside the main village and continues into a cave before spilling out a little into the Cathedral Ward on the other side. A sign hanging above that cave passage confirms that this is all Hemwick property. The area isn’t a simple lane for the Cathedral Ward or Yharnam, but its own independent community existing just outside of town. Specifically, Hemwick is situated on the sea northeast of Yharnam, classified under the frontiers headstone in the Hunter’s Dream like the Forbidden Woods. In fact, close inspection of the wider area layout reveals Hemwick and the Woods to be adjacent, though the two aren’t directly linked in-game thanks to the dividing mountain — the inaccessible tunnel road weaving through said mountain is the only potential hint of the locals having a way over there. It may be isolated, but this geography is still relevant to the town’s origins, all the more so even.
The boss for the area is the Witch of Hemwick, or rather the Witches of Hemwick. Despite prerelease promotional material claiming the local mansion is home to only a single mad witch, the actual boss battle proves this a bait-and-switch. One hag hides in the corner with invisibility while the other acts as a distraction. Some have suggested this first witch is thus an illusion, but illusions don’t leave a body for the other to revive. Much like the Shadow of Yharnam boss battle, the Witch of Hemwick encounter involves two individual witches with separate HP bars. The only difference is that these hags use their peculiar magics to make it at first appear like there is only one, at least when we pay a visit.
When not under attack by hunters, the witches seem to serve as the village elders, directing the inhabitants from their abode — it is the largest building at the highest elevation in town, thus indicative of their importance. Why is their presence in and dominion over the town notable? Because barring the countless eyes ornamenting their attire, the two witches are identical to the eye collectors (アイコレクター) lurking in the Hintertombs, whom they share the same name with internally. Building on that connection, said bloodshot eyeballs both enemies possess are used solely in rituals for accessing those Remote Graves. And just as the Hintertombs lie on the outskirts of the core Pthumerian complex, Hemwick sprung up on the fringes of Yharnam. In that case, the town was likely similarly established by renegade Pthumerians who had, one way or the other, found their way above ground.
One of the materials needed for Holy Grail ceremonies.
The beautiful eye ball gouged out immediately after death, or perhaps from a live human, serves as a key to break the seal of the Underground Ruins, the Remote Graves section.
Indeed, the witches’ mansion enshrines a statue of a hooded woman performing a ritual upon an ailing man laid on an altar, flanked by smaller women seemingly praying it goes well. Leading up to this hang more statues of bandaged-up men in similar prayer. Taken together, the witch’s residence appears to double as a kind of prayer house. This explains the fancy bridge connecting two elevated platforms in the middle of the room — it is an ambo for the hooded preachers to interact with their congregation from above. The statues make their message clear: the witches alone can ensure health and safety of Hemwick. As we can see in their boss battle, they can use their arcane arts to heal and revive others. The elders preserve the old traditions and so continue to be looked toward for both temporal and spiritual guidance even after the ancestral blood has thinned and who-knows-how-many generations have passed, carrying on Pthumer’s matriarchal societal structure in the process.
If the Hintertombs lie just below the Forbidden Woods, then the same is likely to be true for neighboring Hemwick. And like those woods, there probably at least were breaks in the earth giving those fringe Pthumerians passage to above ground. Their new insular community would then develop around the cult of their witch elders. It is the townswomen we see handling burial, armed with saws, sickles, butcher knives, and mallets for dissecting the corpses beforehand. These grave women mirror the witches, who still carry a special tool for scooping out eyes from their sockets — and are clearly well-practiced. The biggest difference is that the grave women’s work seems geared toward harvesting body parts in general, likely for the witches. Dungeon offerings confirm that certain body parts lure excited eye collectors to other parts of the labyrinth, so the witches presumably want such corpse parts to use in their own rituals — freakish ceremonies they perform every night according to a Famitsu article. This rather cavalier treatment of the dead benefits them in other ways, too.
One of the special materials needed needed for Holy Grail ceremonies.
A portion of the holy men whom the Treatment Church sacrificed for the sake of its search. It is said that the ruins keepers express a peculiar excitement toward a holy man’s corpse odor.
A portion of the keepers express excitement due to the additional rite “corpse odor sacrifice”. They are more dangerous than normal, but should also serve as special hunt targets.
If we acquire decent Insight, we will begin seeing strange pitch-black, corpse-like entities climb out of the ground around Hemwick. These “mad ones” (狂気者) appear to be comprised of a solidified viscous fluid they drip when first forming and while dissipating like spirits upon defeat. And although the witches can summon the beings — another practice inherited from the Hintertomb eye collectors — they will spawn even deep in the forest graveyard outside town, even after the hags are dead; the only other requirement is that it be post-nightfall. With all this in mind, these mad ones are most likely cursed spirits of the dead buried on Hemwick ground. Based on their ghastly form and hand scythe, they are born of animus — their bodies were disgracefully cut up, so they do the same. The power of the night induces this naturally, but the eye collectors can drudge up the cursed grudge and bind it to their will. This explains why they are internally called “mad evil spirits”, (狂気の悪霊) though these names might be misleading.
Normally, Insight merely enables greater comprehension of the arcane, things which were always there but invisible to our unenlightened eyes. In this case, the mad ones don’t seem to exist without Insight, and only come to exist after we approach with it. Even the eye collectors require us to have minimum Insight for their summoning rituals to work. Be that as it may, perhaps the spirits are actually roused by our enlightenment, more specifically the insanity inherent to our enlightenment. Our attunement to the arcane world irritates our mental and spiritual faculties, similar to their grudge, so they respond when prompted. If so, then their name may not be conveying that they are mad themselves — they act no less rational than any other evil spirit — but beings yielded from our own madness.
But whether they technically be mad beings or madness beings, they are still there for the witches of Hemwick to conjure. The grave women give their elders body parts for their ceremonies and an army of spirits to protect themselves and the town. That is plenty reason to put so much importance on burial. However, the only thing rivaling Hemwick’s graves is its corpses, countless forming piles upon piles in body bags. Even if we presume the graves part of the locals’ long history as morticians, these are far too many cadavers to all originate from in town. Famitsu articles likewise describe the area as a “gravekeeper” town gathering and processing corpses not related to the populace. True to its Pthumerian heritage, Hemwick has been burying and protecting the dead from other places, two places in particular standing out: Castle Cainhurst and Yharnam.
In regards to Cainhurst, we can spy the castle behind the witches’ mansion. While the bridge connecting the island to the mainland is now broken, it still clearly points toward Hemwick, and another broken viaduct rests right beside the witch dwelling. It is from this same bridge that we see a Cainhurst carriage roll up to take us to the castle, the pick-up point marked by a monument made in the Cainhurstian style. To access this crossing, one need get past the defensive walls enclosing it, preferably through the large gate opened from the inside. This leaves the witches not only safeguarding themselves, but also regulating access to the castle, which conversely could access them with ease. Also, where else would the nobles have been recruiting its lowborn servants if not from the nearby town? By all indications, Hemwick and Cainhurst shared a close relationship mirroring serf town and feudal lord’s castle.
In that case, why wouldn’t the lords have the serfs help with the burials? The nobles probably didn’t want servants buried on their property, with no graveyard there to argue otherwise. The townsfolk could handle preparation for the nobility’s interment as well. Cut content indicates plans to assemble luxurious coffins, beast incense jars, and burial gifts into a hearse from around Hemwick so that we might stow way on it to Cainhurst. The items definitely fit with blood-drinking aristocrats, and taking the bodies back to the castle would line up with the implications of an underground mausoleum for the nobles there — especially the large, plain, old stone sarcophagus among the caskets. Therefore, the castle’s final rites were most likely all outsourced to Hemwick.
Then there is Yharnam. The graveyard in the Forbidden Woods was ultimately abandoned, and the town next door was in all likelihood the cause. Why climb all the way up the valley to dig holes for bodies to be thrown in when there was a settlement all too happy to take those cadavers off your hands right there? The vale city was positioned to someday strike a deal with its neighbor above, trading burials for goods. Hemwick doesn’t have the space or cultivation to ply farming or similar rural trades, yet still it has survived. How? Because what it could do was bury bodies. This relationship with Yharnam seems to be how the town got its name, “wick” being the suffix for a town while “hem” colloquially refers to the edge of something — it is the town on the edge of Yharnam. And between itself, Yharnam, and Cainhurst, Hemwick would earn its other name as the Graveyard Town over the years.
One can easily imagine a lingering problem: no matter how close graves were crammed together, Hemwick still didn’t have the space to bury people indefinitely. By the time we visit, the town is already overflowing with headstones, with just as many bodies still needing their own funeral; the graveyard town has simply run out of room. At the same time, Yharnam’s expansion to the top of the valley evidently made setting up their own boneyards more feasible. Of course, the densely urban city couldn’t keep that up forever, either. As the path from the Cathedral Ward well shows, both communities were coming up against the other for space. And with Hemwick so reliant on Yharnam to survive, it needed to use that opportunity to keep the trade going. Their answer? Turn the bodies to ash.
Firelight emits out from various towers in town, too large to come from candles. Many of the buildings also have random chimneys or wall pipes releasing tons of smoke. Hemwick is using its facilities to light pyres, the fuel for which we find in oil urns all around town. The purpose for all this indoor fire becomes obvious after seeing what look to be single-body cremators amongst the graves. Single-person carts are likewise strewn about the area, some next to the cremators and one beside a corpse strapped to a table outfitted with a guillotine. The grave women are burning the bodies after dissection, hence some wield molotov cocktails or red-hot pick tools for tending to flames and collecting ash. This is the same tool wielded by the hunched woman statue erected in the entrance plaza. The graveyard town has made itself into a crematorium.
Since we find the same bone marrow ash Hemwick produced in the Hintertombs and other Pthumerian ruins, this might be the witches reviving another old practice passed down from their ancestors. If so, then it could have been practiced from the very start for the disposal of select corpses, namely the occasional beast. Unlike other areas we explore, Hemwick bears few signs of the beast scourge; none of its decomposing corpses have returned to life, and only the town males bear any fur — the grave women also cover themselves in bandages, but this seems more due to the dangerous nature of their work, taking the plaza statue’s own bandaged face. Still, the town has been dealing with parties who have historically suffered from the disease, so they must have come in contact with afflicted corpses at some point or another. In that case, burning those bodies to ash before they fully transform would be the clear-cut solution. Indeed, their religion’s emphasis on health demands action be taken to protect the whole of the community.
Additional catalyst that boosts the might of Quicksilver Bullets.
It is supposed to be special bone marrow ash. It is apparently a product of the Graveyard Town of Hemwick.
It is a valuable means to boost the might of shooting, particularly for hunters who lack excellent blood properties.
Now the townsfolk have ramped up cremations in the wake of declining grave space, which has received support from the Healing Church. Hemwick’s residents possess blood vials indicative of accepting blood ministration, and three of the church’s burly dismantlers work alongside the grave women in the innermost part of town, presumably helping with dissection. The one-man cremators look a little too advanced for local hands, but not the sophisticated church workshop. The bone marrow ash becomes available for purchase after acquiring the Radiant Hunter Badge, implying that church hunters were making use of it; the fact that Djura’s hunter ally does possess it reaffirms the implication. Riflemen also carry the stuff to enhance shooting with Quicksilver Bullets whether they be from Hemwick, Yharnam, or the Forbidden Woods. In short, the Healing Church backed Hemwick’s cremations in exchange for the ash, which it has in turn more widely distributed. It wasn’t like the graveyard town had much of a use for it, and blood ministration promised superior healing to tempt cooperation.
However, relations with the church have since soured. None of the male citizens are currently in town save for one wheelchair-bound man and the large manservants — in essence, those with physical or mental disabilities. Every able-bodied man is instead out hunting outsiders infringing on their home, the mob having already killed one such party camping in the forest. With them are many of their hunting dogs, equipped with crude metal spikes to lacerate foes. Meanwhile, the women are no less brutal. The description to the bloodshot eye indicates that it isn’t always being removed after the body has died. The aforementioned guillotine table likewise includes spikes, something completely unnecessary for dismantling a corpse. Even more bodies have been tied to posts and displayed around town, a common method of execution when setting an example. The hunter with the Rune Workshop Tool is similarly tied to a chair in a small room of the witches’ mansion, the hags apparently having tortured him to death. As we can experience for ourselves, these women will use whatever is on hand to defend their home from intruders.
Based on both sexes’ chatter, the town has been spooked by the growing beast problem in Yharnam, now refusing to associate with any outsiders for fear of its spread; especially clergy from the Healing Church. If the manservants are any indication, they have probably noticed a sudden spike in beasts within their own community, an epidemic which, again, is only not worse thanks to their cremation practice. That might have been tolerable when the Healing Church had things under control, but now the church’s mess might be spilling over into their community. Seeing how things got worse after the increased outsider influence, Hemwick has naturally fallen back on its insular roots, cutting off any risk of the beast scourge spreading further. This extremist mindset has also naturally given way to more sadistic elements. It isn’t just about purifying the town of outsiders, but making them suffer for what they have done to their community.
To be fair, madness might also be playing a role in this degeneracy. We can see the grave women dancing in circles in the plaza, collapsed and weeping before the graves, or holding their hands in pain. A woman still indoors will also ask us if we hear the “graveyard’s song” when prompted, excitedly anticipating events to come. Whether because of the beast hunt night or the stress of recent events, some good old fashioned lunacy is taking ahold of the ladies of Hemwick. That isn’t to say that they aren’t hearing a song. It is entirely possible that blood ministration has made them more sensitive to the blood of the deceased they have burned or buried, which they interpret as the graveyard singing. However, their behavior is nonetheless disconcerting considering their savage aggression. Either the beast scourge will spread despite Hemwick’s best efforts to quarantine, or everyone in town will die burning on a pyre.
Can you hear the graveyard’s song? If you can hear it, it’ll be soon. Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Eeheeheeheehee.