Most people love a good thrill, and we don’t mean gravity-defying views or insane roller-coaster drops. We’re talking about the hair-raising variety you get from a graveyard tour. Of course, not all cemeteries are all mist and gloom. In fact, it can be easy to confuse some cemeteries with botanical gardens come spring. Come and check out some of America’s most hauntingly beautiful cemeteries – and “meet” their most famous spirits.
St. Louis No. 1: New Orleans, LA
Since 1788, New Orleans celebrities and locals alike have come to their final resting place at St. Louis No. 1. Even Nicolas Cage has reserved a spot. Popularized by the film “Easy Rider,” the cemetery is characterized by French- and Spanish-style tombs that loom above the ground. While reservations are required for a visit, Free Tours by Foot offers 90-minute walks here at no charge.
The Haunt: According to voodoo tradition, marking an “X” on the mausoleum of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau will grant you a wish.
Bonaventure Cemetery: Savannah, GA
This cemetery boasts grand Victorian architecture in its cathedral and sculptural gardens, and it’s even made an appearance in both the book and the film versions of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 6th Sense World offers tours that explore the diverse landscapes and waterways of the grounds as well as tours that focus specifically on the cemetery’s ghosts and scary stories ($25 or $33).
The Haunt: Little Gracie Watson died of pneumonia at six years old. Many visitors have reported that they heard cries whenever someone grasped at her statue, and others have seen tears of blood flow from the statues eyes.
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY
According to an old adage, it’s a New Yorker’s ambition to sleep in Green-Wood. Why? Although not New York’s most historic cemetery, Green-Wood makes up for any lack of clout with astonishing beauty. In fact, the graveyard functions just as much as a community park as it does a cemetery, hosting yoga classes and cocktail hour in the catacombs. Of course, the evening flashlight tours ($15) aren’t to be missed. Green-Wood’s historian takes you to the catacombs and haunted graves of some of New York’s famous mobsters.
The Haunt: The Battle of Brooklyn took place atop the hills of what’s now Green-Wood, during the Revolutionary War in 1776. One thousand soldiers died and were buried in a mass grave here.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: Concord, MA
You won’t find any headless horsemen at this Sleepy Hollow (the one from Washington Irving’s story is in New York). Instead, you’ll encounter here a cemetery elegantly described as “the garden of the living.” Designed in the early 19th century, the plot purposely was created with picturesque scenery in mind, to create a pleasant space for locals and visitors while honoring the dead. The Thoreau family, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and numerous others are buried at its famed Authors Ridge. Tours cost $25 for a 90-minute stroll.
The Haunt: The eerie grave of Ephraim Bull, who first cultivated the Concord grape, is inscribed with: “He sowed, others reaped.” The quote references the fact that Bull died without ever seeing his share of profits from the innovation.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood Forever Cemetery transformed from a dilapidated, vandalized burial ground to a resting paradise for the elite in a mere 15 years. Located behind Paramount Studios, the graveyard houses hundreds of pop culture icons, like Mickey Rooney, George Harrison, and Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone. Attracting visitors from all over the world, Hollywood Forever offers tours for $15. For something a little different, look for quirky events like the Cinespa film series, which features outdoor screenings of classic movies like “Jaws” inside the cemetery.
The Haunt: The ghost of William Randolph Hearst supposedly haunts the grave of his mistress Marion Davies. Funnily enough, Hearst himself isn’t buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.