Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: You’re walking home, a little past midnight, humming a tune to yourself. The night is beautiful, the breeze just right, and the stars so clear in the sky, you could count them. And just before you get to your home, a mile or two away, you walk past the local cemetery.
The temperature drops, the air takes on an ominous chill, and you are suddenly more aware than anything that you’re out alone while everyone else is snug at home. You pick up your speed, and finally start running, because for a few seconds, you could almost feel someone’s cold hand on the nape of your neck.
Although cemeteries could be wonderfully beautiful during the daytime, decorated with masonic headstones and adorned with all kinds of flowers, they’re something else completely at night. There’s just something about all those bodies buried side by side, sometimes even on top of each other, that sends shivers down your spine.
And, of course, it never helps when the cemetery is rumored to be haunted.
Here are some famous haunted cemeteries that you’ll definitely not want to be walking past at night alone.
1. St. Louis Cemetery #1 – New Orleans
First things first, it’s important to note that because New Orleans is situated below the water table, the recently buried were usually pushed back up above ground during floods or heavy rains (not really a pretty sight to wake up to).
It was because of this that the city resorted to above-ground tombs, and since their inception, these cemeteries have been rich with lore, legend, and, of course, ghosts.
Cemetery No. 1 is probably the most famous of these ‘haunted’ attractions, with visitors claiming they’ve seen Civil War ghosts, phantom figures and your everyday run-of-the-mill ghost with unfinished business. The fact that over 100,000 people are buried in a section of land about the size of a block definitely adds to the appeal.
The most well-known ghost and spook-seeker attraction, though, is the spirit of Marie Laveau, the city’s voodoo queen.
People are often seen going to her tomb with a piece of chalk, and marking three X’s, in hopes that the phantom would grant them their wishes.
The question here would be, what exactly is her price?
2. Gettysburg Cemetery – Pennsylvania
What happens when the battlefield to one of the deadliest battles in American history becomes home to the burial of thousands? Whoever thought that idea was great was seriously asking for trouble.
Although some of the bodies were relocated to proper graves, the Gettysburg Cemetery is still the burial place for many who ‘never made it home’.
There are reports of ghosts in both Union and Confederate uniforms pacing about, but the most famous of these is a man wearing a black hat with a star. He would talk to visitors, and sometimes even pose for photos if asked to. Of course, the photos always end up without him in them.
3. Hollywood Forever Cemetery – California
Hollywood has always fascinated the masses, and it seems just that even in death, the stars that have swooned us with their performances would also linger about and give us a final, curtain-closing act.
This cemetery is home to some of the greats, past and present, along with their apparitions. Some of the ghosts reported include Clifton Webb and Virginia Rappe.
However, the most famous of these is Rudolph Valentino. According to legend, before her died, Rudolph was constantly visiting hospitals and spending time with dying children. One little girl received special words of encouragement from the actor before she was due for an operation. She survived, and after Rudolph died, she vowed to visit his grave every year and place a rose there. She became known as ‘the lady in black’.
When the lady in black died, her ghost continued the tradition, and both Valentino’s ghost and hers have been spotted by the actor’s grave.
Talk about commitment.
4. Resurrection Catholic Cemetery – Chicago
So what do you do when you’re driving down a road late at night and spot a woman flagging you down, trying to hitch a ride? The Good Samaritan would stop and offer the woman a ride. After all, the night is not the safest time for anyone to be out alone. Only, this particular woman is very quiet, and if you ask for an address, she gives you a cemetery.
‘Resurrection Mary’, as the locals call her, is not your average cemetery ghost. Where others remain confined within the borders of their final resting place, Mary’s taken a liking to strolling about outside the cemetery gates. And if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see it), she might just hitch a ride back ‘home’. Often, she vanishes in the car, or steps out at the cemetery and disappears within.
The exact identity of the ghost is unknown, but speculations run wild. One of these is that Mary was a Polish woman, Anna Norkus, in the ‘30s who was killed in a car accident on her way back from a dance at the O’Henry Ballroom. Which might not be too far from the truth, since Mary is always seen wearing a vintage ball gown.
That is, until she disappears, of course.
5. Howard Street Cemetery, Salem – Massachusetts
There is never anything good that comes from being associated with Salem. Why? If you need to ask that question, then there’s an entire section of New England history you should quickly familiarize yourself with.
Known for its witch hunting past (the Salem Witch Trials – give it a read and then tell us we’re exaggerating), Salem is easily considered one of the most haunted places in the US.
Of course, being the oldest cemetery there is no exception. The most famous ghost to walk the grounds is Giles Corey. What makes Giles special? Well, torture for one. Refusing to admit to accusations regarding his use of witchcraft, Corey was forced to lie down in a hole in the field next to the prison where he was held.
That field (yup, you guessed it) later became the Howard Street Cemetery. Stubborn and steadfast, Corey suffered three days of torture, where the Sheriff George Corwin, ordered a plank to be set on his chest and rocks to subsequently be added on top. The rocks multiplied until Corey was eventually crushed to death, screaming out “More weight!”
Now, Corey’s ghost is seen to be wandering the cemetery, usually before a tragedy strikes the town. The curse’s most notable account is that he was seen before the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Even the position of Sheriff of East Sussex suffered from the ‘curse of Giles Corey’ until it the office was moved to Middleton in 1991.
Who knows, maybe Giles really was a wizard.
Home to the Dead
Whether it’s a vengeance-seeking spirit, the dead reliving their last days, or two friends who have maintained their friendship even after death, one thing is for certain: Cemeteries are never what they seem. Through countless stories, we will always be reminded that the bodies buried under the tombstones we see have an uncanny ability to come back and haunt us. Stories of the restless span the entire globe, and add a little bit more eeriness to a setting that is already at the helm of ghost stories and tales of the macabre.
In the end, it puts a creepy twist on what it means to be ‘put to rest’.