World's Most Haunting Cemeteries
Just in time for Halloween, we found 11 burial grounds that are destinations
in their own right. From a mausoleum that was closed down after too many
ghost sightings to a graveyard that doubles as a small town, these places
are perfect for a fall tour—if you dare.
By Brendan Spiegel, Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010, 2:24 PM
The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is best known as the site for
the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Library
Two buildings in this Edinburgh graveyard were shut down because of
an uncanny abundance of ghostly apparitions.
Thousands of 17th-century graves lined with creepy carvings of skeletons and
ghouls make Edinburgh's Greyfriars Kirkyard one of the world's most haunting
cemeteries. While a stroll through these eerie environs is shivering enough
for some, Greyfriars's real draw lies in two on-site structures: the prison
where more than 1,000 members of the Covenanters religious movement were imprisoned
in 1679, and the adjacent mausoleum where "Bloody" George Mackenzie, who oversaw
their persecution, is buried. Local authorities locked both buildings in the
1990s after a wave of paranormal sightings spooked one too many people, but
local writer Jan-Andrew Henderson has been permitted to lead tours of both
sites, where hundreds of visitors swear they have encountered the "Mackenzie
Poltergeist." 88 Candlemaker Row, 011-44/131-225-9044, blackhart.uk.com,
daily tours Easter–Halloween at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Halloween–Easter
at 8:30 p.m., $15.
Newcomers to Cairo are often surprised to find the living existing among
the dead in this town set within a cemetery.
Egyptians know the four-square-mile stretch of land running through densely
populated Cairo as simply al-Qarafa (the cemetery), but to hundreds of thousands
of locals, it is much more than that. Many of the city's poorest residents
actually live inside this 1,300-year-old cemetery, creating homes, shops, and
even schools next to and inside mausoleums, with faded gravestones serving
as lawn ornaments. Local authorities have recently discouraged promoting the
site as a tourist attraction and are blocking access to large groups and buses,
but it's still possible to visit with Casual Cairo detours, an outfitter that
takes no more than three people at once. But time to see this one-of-a-kind
neighborhood may be running out—the Egyptian government is studying plans
to relocate residents, raze the cemetery, and turn it into a public park. 011-2012-415-2726, casualcairo.com,
call for prices.
London's Highgate Cemetery has been the backdrop for numerous horror
Dug into a hillside overlooking London, an imposing Victorian-era archway overgrown
with shrubbery leads into a stone tunnel lined with catacombs, the darkness
eventually giving way to a circle of sunlit vaults staged around a 300-year-old
cedar. It's easy to see why this oldest segment of Highgate Cemetery has been
used in many horror films, including Taste the Blood of Dracula and From Beyond
the Grave, and it's accessible only by tours, which also visit the graveyard's
newer reaches, a maze of decaying tombstones covered in dense greenery and
topped by oversize statues ranging from the carved-stone grand piano above
one musician's grave to the gigantic bust of Karl Marx adorning his own resting
place. Swains Ln., 011-44/20-8340-1834, highgate-cemetery.org,
hourly tours weekends Mar.–Oct. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Nov.–Feb.
11 a.m.–3 p.m., weekdays Mar.–Nov. at 2 p.m., $11.
In Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe's final resting place
looks as if it's straight out of one of his tales.
The raven-topped monument to macabre author Edgar Allan Poe is what brings
most visitors to downtown Baltimore's 18th-century graveyard , but look a little
closer at Westminster Burying Ground and you'll find a scene that could be
pulled right from one of his eerie tales. Three years after Poe's death, much
of the graveyard was paved over to make way for a Gothic church, which was
built on elevated brick legs that arch over the graves. Today, tours of the
property include a visit into the creepy catacombs that now hide below the
church's lower level. 519 W. Fayette St., 410/706-2072, westminsterhall.org,
tours Apr.–Nov.first and third Fridays at 6:30 p.m., first and third
Saturdays at 10 a.m., $5.
Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans, with its chilling collection of aboveground
tombs, was the setting for Interview with the Vampire.
In a city set below sea level, there is no hiding the dead underground, so
in New Orleans, cemeteries are collections of aboveground tombs, a creepy novelty
that attracts many visitors to these Gothic graveyards. Concerned about disrepair,
local licensed guides volunteer their time to give tours of two of New Orleans's
oldest graveyards, Lafayette Cemetery—setting for Interview with the
Vampire—and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1—where you'll see "voodoo queen" Marie
Laveau's Greek Revival tomb. All proceeds are donated to Save Our Cemeteries,
a group that works to preserve and restore the city's graveyards. Lafayette,
1400 block of Washington Ave., Mon., Weds., Fri., and Sat. at 10:30 a.m., $10;
St. Louis No. 1, 501 Basin St., Fri., Sat., and Sun. at 10 a.m., $12; 504/525-3377, saveourcemeteries.org.
L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery seems like something you'd see in
a film noir.
Clad in a vintage black evening gown, dark sunglasses, and carrying a black
lace parasol, Hollywood historian/tour guide Karie Bible appears to have stepped
right out of a film noir movie as she leads guests through L.A.'s Hollywood
Forever Cemetery. With the Paramount Studios Water Tower and Hollywood sign
peaking out above the grounds, Bible tells tales of famous residents like director
Cecil B. DeMille, '50s horror hostess Vampira, and rocker Johnny Ramone. 6000
Santa Monica Blvd., 818/517-5988, cemeterytour.com,
most Saturdays at noon (check website for exact dates), $12.
The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah is best known as the site for the
film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
If graveyards were created by set designers, they would all look like Savannah's
Bonaventure Cemetery, where elaborate, ivy-covered crypts are guarded by disturbingly
lifelike statues, and mausoleums are laced with stained glass, all set among
the mossy oak trees and blooming gardens of an 18th-century plantation on a
bluff overlooking the Wilmington River. The scenic graveyard's popularity boomed
after it appeared in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and many guides
now offer driving tours of the 100-acre cemetery, although you'll miss the
charm of wandering through its many hidden corners. Instead, follow the Bonaventure
Historical Society's self-guided tour, available at the weekend-only visitors
center. 330 Bonaventure Rd., 912/352-1885, bonaventurehistorical.org,
This cemetery in Rome seems to cast a spell
Bysshe Shelley was so taken by its eerie beauty that he extolled its
merits in a poem and was later laid to rest here.
Wedged between a towering, 2,000-year-old pyramid entombing a Roman dignitary
and a surviving section of the 12-mile-long brick wall built to protect ancient
Rome, the Non-Catholic Cemetery is a serene oasis in the middle
of this modern metropolis. One of Italy's most enchanting urban settings, the
graveyard's stately cypress trees, poetic statues, and oasis-like ambiance,
inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley to write, "It might make one in love with death,
to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." Shelley got his wish,
and his grave is something of a pilgrimage for writers, many of whom, similarly
enchanted, have opted to rest here themselves. The cemetery's English-language
tours ensure you won't miss any of the boldface names and—in case you
fall for the spell yourself—yes, it is still possible to be buried here.
Via Caio Cestio 6, 011-39/06-574-1900, cemeteryrome.it, openMondays and Saturdays 9 a.m.–5p.m., Sundays 9 a.m.–1 p.m.,
tours $4 (by appointment only,minimum of five people).
Graveyard guards have their work cut out for them at Paris's Cimetière
du Père- Lachaise, where fans of the many celebrities buried
here go to great lengths to pay their respects.
Irish aesthete Oscar Wilde would undoubtedly be pleased to find his sphinxlike
tomb at Paris'sCimetière du Père-Lachaise covered in hundreds
of red-lipstick marks from admiring fans. (Graveyard guards are less amused—fats
in the lipstick are causing the structure to deteriorate) Many outfitters include
a brief stop at this 109-acre walled compound in Paris's northeast corner on
longer city itineraries, but it's worth grabbing a self-guided tour map from
the conservation office and spending a day finding the many famous graves—from
Jim Morrison to Chopin—hidden among the cobblestoned paths and grassy
expanses. Don't forget to pack a lunch—macabre as it may sound, Parisians
love to picnic inside the cemetery, one of the city's largest green spaces.16
rue du Repos, 011-33/1-55 25-82-10, free.
In Buenos Aires, the resting place of Eva Perón
is at once opulent and melancholy.
An ominous black door, guarded by a melancholy young woman carved from marble,
leads into a spacious room where a single grave is topped with an ornate sculpted
rose. It's just one of the many opulent mausoleums at Recoleta
Cemetery; burying the dead here is a posh afterlife status symbol practiced
by Buenos Aires's wealthiest families for 200 years. A trip inside is topped
only by hearing the myriad stories among Recoleta's 6,000-plus temples, pyramids,
and castles—in this case, the rose-topped tomb was erected to assuage
a family's guilt after a young woman slipped into a coma and was buried alive.
Nearby you'll find the flower-strewn grave of Eva Perón; she was buried
below 27 feet of steel and cement as a precaution since political rivals had
previously stolen her corpse.Calle Junín 1790, 011-54/11-4804-7040,
English-language tours Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11a.m., free.
One of the most overlooked sections of the Arlington National Cemetery
in D.C. is also the most haunting.
While thousands of D.C.'s daily tourists zip across the Potomac River for quick
photo ops at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns and the Kennedy
family plot, a few venture farther from the tour bus to explore the graves
of the 300,000 other people buried here. Grab your walking shoes (but not your
wallet) and join DC By Foot's free, 1.5-mile walking tour, which takes visitors
through lesser-seen stops inside the vast burial ground, such as the segment
of the cemetery that once housed a village of freed slaves and the memorial
to Confederate soldiers. 214 McNair Rd., 202/370-1830, dcbyfoot.com,
tours Mar. 20–Nov. 14 onSaturdays at 10 a..m, free.