Monday, October 12, 2009

Haunted Cemeteries

It’s a common lament amongst ghost hunters, “we love haunted cemeteries, we just can’t explain why they’re haunted…”

I have probably gone to over 100 cemeteries around the country and have made it my mission to do an almost 7-year study of one particular one where phenomenon frequently occurs. That being said, it doesn’t make any sense to me why a cemetery would be haunted, but you know me enough to know how logical I can be about these things.

The way I see it is the answer is within one of these explanations:

1. When family comes and grieves for the deceased, it attracts the spirit of the deceased.

2. It’s not an issue of ghosts, per se, but perhaps phenomenon created by natural outdoor settings where there is proper geology/tectonics for phenomenon to occur. That it happens in a cemetery is incidental.

3. We’re too linear in our thinking. Ghosts no longer need a body, so why should they be in one location at one time? Why not be everywhere at once including attached to fragments of their remains?

4. People, being unsettled by the remains of the deceased and visiting in dark and shadowy cemeteries are likely to see and hear things that aren’t there just be virtue of being spooked.

5. Spirits travel everywhere amongst us including parks, shopping malls, houses, streets, anywhere. If they’re curious, they might visit their old stomping grounds or the location of their remains.

(By the way, I'd love to hear which ones you think it might be)

Once we tuck away the remains of the deceased, they become a bit of a mystery and a fear for the citizens. No wonder cemeteries get a reputation as a place that becomes active at night when there’s no one around.

I started studying up on the most famous haunted cemeteries around America and it didn’t surprise me at all to find that the Ohio/Illinois area is chock full of haunted cemeteries in the heart of the ideal geology for hauntings. (In my ghost hunting formula research, I discovered a “sweet spot” of hauntings in America that involved the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania).

Ironically, some of the best most beautiful and ancient cemeteries in New England don’t have a higher incidence of hauntings reported. The Deep South, especially Charleston and New Orleans, report a great deal of hauntings, as well. Some of this is probably cultural, as I know being a southerner that we love our romance and mystery. Ghosts are like dear old welcome friends to us.

Here’s a sampling of just some famous haunted cemeteries in the US:

Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois is famous for “Resurrection Mary,” a female ghost who likes to hitch rides and then disappear. This is a favorite urban legend and truly believed by the locals who have witnessed a wandering woman along the roadway.

Wolfinger Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio is known for a family who died within a few weeks of each other. The children are said to be seen playing amongst the headstones.

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in the area of Midlothian, Illinois is probably one of the most talked about haunted cemetery in America. Most of the phenomenon here is related to its isolation, its ramshackle condition, and vandalism, as well as signs of occult practice. Sometimes, a creepy isolated cemetery is more haunted by the living than the dead. However, reportedly very solid figures of ghosts have been seen here.

Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur Illinois is where a limping boy in large overalls is seen amongst the headstones. Spectral lights are also seen.

St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, LA is probably one of the most photographed and toured ones. Madam Laveau, the proclaimed queen of voodoo is buried there. Many people leave her offerings to appease her spirit.

Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio has foggy apparitions at night. (picture above is the Haserot Angel, a favorite landmark at this cemetery).

Stull Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas is often referred to as the “Cemetery of the Damned.” The story says that the Devil’s half-human child is buried in the cemetery and shows himself as a 9-year-old boy who can turn himself into a cat or dog or werewolf. (Convenient, depending on what stray animal wanders into the cemetery). As legends go, this one is pretty good. Certainly a curious place.

I have to admit to having poked around the Arizona cemeteries to no end. Some have a very creepy feel, others actually provided proof of activity. Here’s how I rate them:

Most creepy feel, want to leave quickly: Mayer Cemetery
Most regular activity: Double Buttes Cemetery (Tempe)
Most evidence of absolute haunting: St. Francis (Phoenix)
Most physically powerful activity: Bisbee’s cemetery
Most picturesque and traditional: Greenwood (Phoenix)
Most “I’m being watched” and sad feeling: City of Mesa
Most old west looking/feeling cemetery: Congress Pioneer
Most on the power 33rd parallel and weird: Adamsville
Most epic and amazingly cool cemetery: Yuma

Tips for going to cemeteries:

Admittedly, the majority of cemeteries have gates and attendants. Ones that don’t you can still get in trouble for hanging around at night. Believe me, cops know folks up to no good like cemeteries. I admit, being a middle-aged woman with a camera, I don’t get bothered much. I hardly look like I’m going to perform ceremonies with candles and knives. I just tell them I was photographing as the sun was setting and wanted to get pictures of just a couple headstones I’d missed and got caught in the dark.

I suggest if you want to capture activity, you follow these tried and true things I’ve been doing and have found consistently helpful.

Come armed with some flowers from the grocery story. Come about an hour before sunset or more. Give the place time to “get used” to you. Honestly, nothing will happen within the first 20 minutes. Get the feel of the place, walk around, check out interesting graves. I usually try to find ones where no one visits anymore because they’ve been gone so long. I lay a flower on that grave, say the person’s name, read the epitaph and take some pictures. Sometimes I ask if I can take pictures, ask if they’re lonely, run my audio recorder. Sometimes, I set it on the headstone and take pictures. If I’m lucky, I can coordinate the time on the camera and the recorder to see if a sound occurs when a shot was taken. Now and then, when I feel particularly drawn to the grave of a young adult, I sit and carry on a conversation, telling them what's happened in the world since they passed and take pictures now and then. I thank them as I leave. As weird as it sounds, intentions and respect seem to go a long way in earning trust from whatever intelligence might be at play there.

If the cemetery has people visiting a grave, when they go, you might approach and take pictures or try audio. I have no idea if is their emotions or what, but there always seems to be activity around newly visited graves. Newly decorated ones, as well.

Concentrate on pathways especially. It sounds weird, but well worn paths and roadways in cemeteries are very active. I have yet to figure out why, but sometimes it seems as though energy in all forms prefers unobstructed pathways (a lot like the Feng Shui principles I talk about often where a crowded cluttered house holds energy in).

Have a super happy time visiting the haunted cemeteries or any cemeteries. This is a season for a quiet walk in a peaceful beautiful place and a bit of reflection on life and our imprint.


  1. I loved this whole article Autumnforest-and the last sentence was beautiful! If there is one time of the year to do this-it is now. I have always wondered why ghosts would hang around their bones-of course this hardly accounts for all hauntings-but you would think being in a non-physical body that they could go anywhere. If ghosts do indeed exist I have a feeling that if they are "trapped" here that they would continually go to their old stomping grounds-even if it is the mall! I have always thought too-that in some cases the actual grief of the living can keep spirits around for a long while. again these are just thoughts. I am like you in the way that I am not really "sold" on anything. Some things involving the paranormal make more sense to me than others-like the haunting of old territory. However the thing with the mortal remains and especially in cases where they have been disturbed and a haunting starts has always creeped me out more than a bit. I know when I am gone I do not want to be tied to my bones! and hopefully won't need to care too much where they are or what is done with them. Best to you Autumnforest and I so enjoy reading your blog-especially the question parts! and again this was a double 5 star rating article!

  2. Dev;
    Thanks. Glad to get you thinking. I just love spending time in cemeteries. I never feel scared. Even at nighttime when I've seen and heard some pretty amazing things. I feel fascinated and excited, but then that's how I always react to phenomenon. I'm like a kid in glee. I don't have the answers. I have some parts of answers that suit me, but not something that can be proven. I hope by telling people how to approach a graveyard, I can see the consistency in what methods work and figure out why. I never stop asking. I know you're the same too. We're birds of a feather.

  3. There are wonderful old cemeteries throughout the city here. They are very peaceful and afford some beautiful photographic opportunities. I am fond of Calvary and Bohemian National, but they all have some really interesting monuments.

  4. Hollywood Cemetery here in Richmond, VA. has had evps caught, mainly during the daytime.
    But there's an African-American cemetery here that I've seen a tall black figure (found later a figure of an African-American figure has been seen by others), plus a little girl sings and pictures have been caught. Of course, this cemetery was neglected horribly and I think that is the reason more than anything. Heard on local news a group got together to help the cemetery and clean it up nicely.

  5. I think the phenomena may be a combination of those things, although I don't see why there'd be much 'residual' activity. Since residuals seem to be a replay of events in a point in time, I don't see why there'd be all that much to replay in a cemetery.

    I wonder if there may be any angelic activity too...angels trying to convince people still attached to their bones to move on.

  6. I teach ghost hunting in my area and one of the main things I maintain to be true is being respectful to the entities you choose to interact with. Saying please and thank you for example will get you far more results than demanding anything. I agree with reason #5 by the way. I think a spirit can go anywhere they want at any time. There may be different rules for suicide victims, and if you haven't yet given your opinion on that, I would love to know it.

  7. Enjoying your blog.
    I am hoping to visit New Orleans for their haunted tour as well as their cemetaries this month.
    When I lived in England one of my favorite pastimes was visiting the old cemetaries:)

  8. Love those old creepy cemeteries. I'm glad you made a list of some AZ cemeteries and their spookiness. I would like to visit some and see what kind of creepy feelings I get from them.

  9. For some bizarre reason, my response didn't get printed. Too bad! Well, here goes:

    Pangs; You're very lucky--Illinois is a super haunted state--perfect elements and the Chicago cemeteries are some of the most photographed and beloved ones. It's like living near fine art museums.

    I miss the old cemeteries in VA. I found one in Haymarket one time near the lake, deep in the woods. It was a family grouping of graves under an island of trees. It was covered in brambles and I only found it because I tripped over one of the headstones. We pitched out tent there and proceeded to see weird lights and hear voices whispering so we freaked out and left early. The place was so inspiring, I'm using the location for a scary part of my romantic horror series "The Hunt."

    You ask the questions too. I'm glad to find someone who's open to all possibilities and just wants to know what "rings true." I've heard of the concept of angels and although I don't believe in angels and demons in the classic sense, I do believe in intentions. I know for a fact that the more personable and respectful you are in a haunted site, the more evidence you get (just look at Jason and Grant).

    I'm so glad you're passing on the wisdom. It's really important. I have to admit that people that stir things up (Ghost Adventures) don't really run into any success. In fact, they tend to close off all interaction. I've found just shooting the breeze with someone as if they're not dead and you're just having a conversation about stuff makes things happen. In fact, my best evidence has been while having intimate real conversations with friends about real issues while in haunted places. Once you tap into their empathy, you can actually get lots of KII action going and EVPs. It's like the "sweet spot." I have to admit, as far as my take on haunted cemeteries, I'm not entirely sold on souls wandering around yet. I definitely believe in residual without a doubt, but I also feel as if something of a person does somehow remain and maybe we're thinking too linear that one person/one soul/one location. I remember when my father died when I was 16, I saw him at the same time my sister felt him pull on her toe across country (he was pulling my toe too--one of his old favorite hello's), and my brother heard him calling his name in another location. So, I'd probably stick with the "we're too linear in our thinking" concept. Thanks for asking.

    You're officially a taphophile (lover of cemeteries). I can't imagine how awesome they are in England. I hope to get to Scotland/England some day within the next couple years and I suspect I will be stopping at every charming cemetery. I love to do grave rubbings and sit and create sketches and paintings while sitting there. It puts me in a state of mind that makes my art better than it normally is (which is mediocre at best).

    You absolutely have to go to St. Francis. Oh my gosh! The experience is unbelievable. It's around Oak and 48th St. not far from the airport area. It's a huge Catholic cemetery with the creepiest and weirdest stuff I've ever seen. Nuns and priests are buried there too. That's where I heard the man speaking Latin right beside me when I was all alone. My son and his friend saw the shadowperson there and it changed his entire life after that point. He's a logical I-don't-believe-in-anyhing kind of guy, but he said that it completely defied reason and it interacted with them--knew they were there and peeked out and watched them. Shivers. I should re-post that description of his encounter again. It's that time of year. Oh, and the cemetery has an enormous cat population fed by a local lady who comes at dusk and when she does, the cats rush out and it's madness. That's also where I got my car locked inside, so be sure to park outside the gate or in the way of the gate so they can't close it. Hee hee

    1. This bronze statue could use some cleaning!!! All this crying is the bird drops and weather humidity due to the lack of taking care of statues like this old Hasorot Angel.

  10. I LOVE the photo at the top of this post. Gorgeous. Lovely blog as well.

  11. Erica;
    Thanks. That statue is my #1 favorite cemetery statue. If you look up the Haserot Angel in Google Images, you'll see a lot of great shots of it with its huge wings sitting there with a staff in his hands. He's magnificent. I just adore the aging and patina. That's what I'd want to guard my grave.

  12. Your blog is great! Reading your post on haunted cemetaries I was happy to see the Stull Cemetary on the list. I used to drive by that cemetary every morning on my way to the marsh to duck hunt. It's actually in Stull, Kansas and is close to the University town of Lawrence (my alma mater). I've heard lots of stories and everything that you've written jives with what I've heard. There was an old church on the grounds that has since been torn down, but supposedly a rock thrown inside wouldn't echo. Aside from the local legends, there doesn't seem to be any historical evidence supporting the legends.

  13. Ethan;
    I checked out your site and it's awesome! I'm a total eco-weenie, so I appreciate people reusing things and growing organically. Hugely exciting to me. You might want to read my post from October 5th on Radon-induced hauntings. I spent the entire summer doing a study of 50 haunted places comparing their geology, history, and architecture of the buildings, and waterways nearby and found a very strong correlation between these things and haunting activity. I called it my haunted formula. I'd love to get input from folks who have more knowledge of geology and are interested in such things. If you ever want to knock around ideas, let me know.

  14. Your website is awesome! Great article on the vibes in cemeteries. My favourite is the one in the Garden District, in New Orleans.

    I was wondering if you could tell me where the statue of the angel, at the top of your 'Haunted Cemeteries, is located and any other info you might know about it.

    Many thanks,

  15. Kiki
    It's the Haserot Angel at Lake View in Cleveland.