Valley of The Sun Cemeteries for Taphophiles

Taphopile: One who loves tombstones.

I’ve seen a great many of the cemeteries in Arizona. I love cemeteries and think of them as peaceful parks. Having lost a great deal of my family members, I find it comforting to know that others suffer losses and come and visit and “update” their family members regularly. My family members are back east, but in Arizona I enjoy visiting the local cemeteries. I love photographing them, painting them, and also being inspired in my horror novel writing by the stillness and the epitaphs left behind. There’s something contemplative about being near the cycle of life and feeling at peace with it.

NOTE: I don’t have any cemeteries on my top fav’s list that don’t allow headstones. The more modern cemeteries that like to make mowing easier for them by limiting headstones to plaques in the grass and don’t allow people to leave offerings, I won’t even visit. They feel very sterile and are not beautiful. I can’t imagine having to visit a relative here and leave nothing and have no statues or headstones. What are these cemetery owner’s thinking?

Here’s my top fav’s in The Valley depending on what type of need you have (top 2 choices per type):

“I’m looking for a cemetery that’s park-like, green, and has lots of people visiting and is shady.” (A tall order for Phoenix) There are two cemeteries in The Valley that come to mind the most in this category: Greenwood Memory Lawn just west of 23rd Avenue and north of Van Buren. This cemetery was a few cemeteries combined and it is very lush, green, shady, with huge statues, tons of intriguing headstones, and it’s sort of an all-day event because there’s so much to see and so much ambiance. Bring a packed lunch. No kidding. This one is the “Forest Lawn” of Phoenix. Bring lots of film too and sketch books, oh and comfortable shoes! The other one that comes to mind is the City of Mesa Cemetery at 1212 N. Center Street between Brown and McKellips Roads. This one has an enormous amount of Cypress trees (you can see their pointed tops before you even get nearby). It’s very green and shaded with interesting headstones and statuary. Joggers and local folks exercise here because it’s so pleasing. It makes for fantastic photo-ops and a great walking workout.

“I’m looking for something eerie and perhaps even active with phenomenon.” Immediately, I have to list Double Buttes (west of I-10, south of Broadway). This cemetery is just downright unsettling and has lots of legends of a woman in white, a man attending a grave who disappears, and lots of photographic oddities. The place feels weird, is uber creepy, and has many very old graves and important graves as well, many of the founders of The East Valley. St. Francis is my other great choice, located at Oak and 48th St (need to take Thomas to get to it because 44th St doesn’t have an exit for Oak). A shadowperson has been seen by several witnesses around the large stained glass at the outdoor crematory and a man speaking in Latin was heard. This is a giant Catholic cemetery, extremely creepy, unsettling, filled with wild cats, and more bodies per foot than any other cemetery in The Valley. You'll probably get the most eerie photos here for your collection. If you stick around the outdoor crematory (the long concrete hall with the huge stained glass window) you’ll be in weird-ness central for any action.

“I’m looking for something small and intimate in an urban setting.”
Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Phoenix is a remarkable one at 15th Ave. and Jefferseon. It’s in a nasty part of town, but has its own lot and is fenced off for safety. The founders of the city are buried here and the famous Lost Dutchman Miner (the very farthest possible right corner from the entrance in the back lot of graves). It has an amazing view of the city while showing off very old headstones. Camelback Cemetery at McDonald and between Scottsdale Rd. and Invergordon (directly across from Kiva Elementary School - must park in school lot) is an amazing neighborhood cemetery. It sits right smack dab across from an elementary school and surrounded by neighboring homes (with tall bushes – guess they don’t like looking at a cemetery). It’s easy to access and very small, perhaps 2 acres. There’s a crazy mix of ethnicities and religions here, which is intriguing. You can wander around a long time looking at strange offerings, weird headstones, and puzzling constructions. There’s a section of plain white crosses for Hispanic workers who died of the 1918 influenza. Cars make EVP impossible, but the place has a very strange unsettling feel, so it’s worth the charming walk around the dirt lot.

There are lots of other cemeteries to choose from in The Valley, but if you just viited these eight, you’d have satisfied any needs.


  1. Thanks for all these cemetery ideas in and around Phoenix. Mike and I are always looking for places to go that we don't have to travel very far. Above the Norm.

  2. I'm with you on not traveling far. I'm a lot more intolerant with the foot recovery, but I have to admit I just don't like driving through the desert. I feel so vulnerable and bored. I'm used to where I grew up, you could be in three states within a half hour and all looking quite different. This huge state always wears me down. I usually try to do a big road trip at least once a year around the state, but if I can do it local--I like that too. I'll have to let you know when this summer me and my ghost hunting buddy are staying at the Hotel San Carlos downtown. Maybe we could all stay at the same time. Summer rates are uber cheap. Last time we went with two other women hunters and the room was very crowded all night. It'd be great to have two rooms and try them both to see which one's more active. :-)

  3. I'm a cemetery person too. From 5th thru 10th grade I would walk kitty corner through one to get to my grandmother's house while saying hi to her deceased husband on the way. Even kitty corner it was a good mile+ walk.

    I've always been in awe of the headstones and elaborate mausoleums in cemeteries. The older workmanship is unbelievable.

    You don't have to travel far if you use Google 'street view' for your Phoenix views. Here's a couple of screen prints I took a moment ago on my favorite. The Anthony side of the street looks like it was taken at a different time of year than the Maumee side of the cemetery.

    Another great place for hanging out in a cemetery is San Francisco. There's some really old ones there that are unbelievable. I just take long walks in them, read an occasional headstone and move on.

    Memorial Park 1
    Memorial Park 2
    Memorial Park 3

  4. Nice pictures. I love the look and feel of the old cemeteries with the large headstones that stand upright. The newer cemeteries just don't have the same creepy feel to them. Mike and I would love to join you and your ghost hunting partners at the Hotel San Carlos. I know we can learn some tips on how investigations are done because we really don't have any method on how we ghost hunt. We can book a couple of rooms next to each other or try and get the most haunted rooms. Whatever works. We are hoping to go to Bisbee on April 3rd to spend a night at the Oliver House but it depends on if Mike's sister is able to visit. Heres hoping.

  5. Atrueoriginall, thanks for the pic's. I agree. There's something about cemeteries. I like to take flowers with me and leave one on the really old graves that no on visits anymore and I take the time to read their headstone outloud. Something about it, it's like for those few moments this person from the past exists now because they're being talked about currently. I guess I'm romantic or sentimental, but I feel a kinship. It's funny, too, because you really don't know if the person was a real a-hole when they inhabited the earth or not. You just assume everyone deserves some respect--death has a way of cleaning the slate.

    Mike and Julie;
    Totally cool! I'm hoping June might be a good time before monsoons hit. Sometimes, that can be good, but sometimes it can be bad. It can be good for energizing activity, but also noisy so it's hard to do EVP. Plus, they have a great pool on the roof around the 4th floor, I think. It's just fun to hang out in before you go in for the night and take on the ghosties. They had a paranormal conference there this past fall, I'm hoping my connections might help me find out if they'd be amenable to taking us to the basement for a tour of the well where the boys drowned. Fingers crossed! Debe, the leader of MVD Ghostchasers has the exact story on the hotel, so I'll find out from here what rooms are good. We were going to shoot for Cary Grant suite because it's close to a lot of action, but I've also heard the top floor is good. They were in the process of renovating the penthouse and we wanted to go inside, but they wouldn't allow it with construction going on. That would have been pretty sweet. Will keep you posted.

  6. Whoa, so I'm a taphophile. Nifty. I saw your comment, Autumn, on the recent 2012 Olympics dig over on Ben Fairhall's often prosaic & sometimes phantasmagorical The Daily Behemoth, the adjunct of his for-more-accelerated-academians-only sister site, Battling The Behemoth, and I wonder what it'd be like, the things that you'd pick up, perceive, or transceive (AKA read!) from that archaeological sites relics.

    Going to get some rubbing powder,
    Anadæ Effro ( :-)}

    PS ~ Autumn, I'll miss you on Tom's Wreck, my not so affectional appellate for My Space. It appears that that whole social networking site is full of bugs & I'm locked out of my own page there. Well, that's the way the software crumbles.

  7. Anadæ;
    Yeah, won't you miss Tom's cute little messages when he updates stuff? Hee hee. They did the same thing to me recently with the password. I had to change it a bunch of times to get in. It sucks. One thing corrupts it and it goes mad. At least I don't depend on it to talk to many folks on their. You can always email me through my background info on my blog. I agree, being at a place and being the first to touch something when it hasn't been touched in a long time is my favorite delight. It reminds me of being a kid and digging up relics. My finger twitch. I went to a big King Tut exhibit as a kid and I had to literally keep my hands behind my back the entire time. My need to touch is way too inherent. Thankfully, I'm a demonstrative person, so others don't think it's weird that I can't understand something until I touch it. I always said I'd love to help the cops out. I can't imagine a better job than to touch crime scene objects. People say "isn't that upsetting?" Not really, unless it was a crime of passion. Most killers, in fact, are so remote from compassion for others and understanding of the emotional ramifications that I also see the crime from that viewpoint. It actually helps me. We had a local serial rapist here that I locked onto and a couple of shooters. I kept notes and "checked in" from time to time to get more info. I admit, however, being very nervous about approaching the law. They aren't usually too hospitable to info and since I don't make a living as a psychic (I would never do that), I feel as if I have less legitimacy. The sad thing is, I was 95% accurate on both cases. I just keep the notes and tuck them away. Unfortunately, I also am an airline disaster and helicopter crash dreamer and those are 100% accurate. I hate those! I get to be on the plane or helicopter but I know I'm not going to be hurt, I'm just going to witness it. I wish there was a good place to plug in predictions anonymously or something and someone can just check on them...

  8. Thank you for the new vocabulary word! "Taphophile" sounds like some 1800s means of communication.

    I am more of the atmospheric kind of taphophile, I think. The cemetery of Perre Lachaise in Paris had spades of atmosphere; at one time the grounds were so full of bodies the ground level was six feet above street level, separated only by an aging stone wall. Eventually they pared down the graves, but as a result the soil is full of fine ground bones and shards of ceramic flower vessels. Very colorful. When I went with two classmates one of them tried to pick up some of the ceramic shards to take home, but when my friend and I told her that they were left for the dead she put them down in a hurry. I still don't quite know what the girl was thinking, but she was so innocent in her vandalism we couldn't get angry at her. She took pains to put the shards back where she found them and tread very lightly after that.

  9. Celyn;
    I think like all females, atmosphere and mood is everything. I agree about cemeteries. I'd give anything to check out the labyrinths in France. There was a cemetery I came across on a camping trip in NW Virginia and I still think about it all the time. It was hidden between trees and so filled with berry vines and wild grapevines that you wouldn't know it was there, except I happened to trudge into it by accident and kicked a headstone. It was a small family graveyard, maybe a half dozen or more stones in these thick trees. It was obvious no on had been there. I picked wildflowers and left them and read their names out loud. I'm working on a scene for my horror novel right now that takes place based on that location--I get to have the fun of making up the story of why the graves were there. I wonder if it's still there? Next time I'm back in Northern VA, I'll have to see. My son one time picked up a wooden small cross the cemetery used to mark the new digs and it fell over and got dragged into the roadway. He brought it home and hung it up on his wall with his art. I'm not superstitious at all about such stuff, but I have a moral issue with stealing from a cemetery, but it was his decision. About a week later, he had meningitis and a few seizures and landed in the hospital. Makes you wonder....


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