FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
Presented by author Troy Taylor and Based on his book, BEYOND THE GRAVE (2000).. Click Here for More Information about the book!
HAUNTED CEMETERIES IN AMERICA
There is not a single person among us who has not contemplated the mystery of death at one time or another. We all wonder, no matter what we believe in, what will happen to us after we pass on from this world. Some believe that everything comes to an end, that life in this world is our only existence. Others feel that we are born again, as an old soul in a new body, while others believe that our spirits pass on to another place... or perhaps even remain behind as ghosts.
We all wonder about such things... and perhaps this is the reason that we have dreamed up so many rituals and practices dealing with death. Death has been celebrated and feared since the beginning of time itself. We have immortalized it with cemeteries, grave markers and of course, with our darkest and most frightening legends and lore.
It is a common belief among experts of the occult that cemeteries are not usually the best places to find ghosts. While most would fancy a misty, abandoned graveyard to be the perfect setting for a ghost story, such stories are not as common as you might believe. A cemetery is meant to be the final stop in our journey from this world to the next, but is it always that way?
Nearly every ghost enthusiast would agree that a place becomes haunted after a traumatic event or unexpected death occurs at that location. History is filled with stories of houses that have become haunted after a murder has taken place there, or after some horrible event occurs that echoes over the decades as a haunting.
But what of a haunted cemetery? Do such places really exist? Most assuredly they do, but ghosts who haunt cemeteries seem to be a different sort than those you might find lingering in a haunted house. Most of these ghosts seem to be connected to the cemetery in some way that excludes events that occurred during their lifetime. As most spirits reportedly remain in this world because of some sort of unfinished business in life, this seems to leave out a cemetery as a place where such business might remain undone.
Graveyard ghosts seem to have a few things in common. These spirits seems to be connected to the burial ground because of events that occurred after their deaths, rather than before. In other cases, the ghosts seem to be seeking eternal rest that eludes them at the spot where their physical bodies are currently found. Cemeteries gain a reputation for being haunted for reasons that include the desecration of the dead and grave robbery, unmarked or forgotten burials, natural disasters that disturb resting places, or sometimes event because the deceased was not properly buried at all!
Troy Taylor's book, Beyond the Grave, collects cemetery ghost stories from all over the country. No region of America seems to be spared when it comes to haunted graveyards. In the section that follows, we'll briefly glimpse some of America's most haunted cemeteries and also include an excerpt from Beyond the Grave as well. Those interested in more stories, should check out the book or look into other parts of the website.
El Campo Santo Cemetery - San Diego, California: This now restored cemetery has seen much in the way of desecration over the years and because of the lost burials and unmarked graves, many believe that a number of ghosts roam the area around it.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetery - Near Chicago: This small and secluded graveyard is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the Chicago area. More than 150 documented reports of strange phenomena have been collected here, including ghost lights, apparitions, odd photos, unexplained happenings and more.
The Lost Village of Bara-Hack: This vanished town in Connecticut is still rumored to be haunted by mysterious voices. Tales from the local graveyard also whisper of apparitions and ghostly images from the past.
Western Burial Ground - Baltimore: The catacombs of this cemetery (where Edgar Allan Poe is buried) are located beneath Westminster Hall and have long been the subject of ghostly tales.. not the last of which is the unexplained mystery of Poe himself.
The White Lady of Bachelor's Grove?
Christ Church Cemetery - St. Simon's Island, Georgia: Legend has it that this cemetery is haunted by a ghostly light. The stories say that the grave of a woman who was terrified of the dark sometimes emits a spectral light. Its real-life counterpart had been placed there by her husband before his own death. The light continued to be seen long after.
Troy & Amy Taylor near the tomb of Marie Laveau
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 - New Orleans: This spooky graveyard has long been haunted by a vanishing woman in white who flags down taxi drivers and asks to be taken home. She vanishes from the car before they arrive and the driver always discovers that the woman died years before. To this day, taxi drivers will not pick up women in white dresses near the cemetery!
The graveyard is also said to be haunted by the ghost of voodoo queen, Marie Laveau. Her spirit has been reported inside of the cemetery and even on nearby streets. Believers still come to her tomb today and leave offerings in hope of being blessed by her supernatural powers.
Hollywood Memorial Park- Los Angeles: This "cemetery to the stars" is reportedly haunted by starlet Virginia Rappe, who allegedly died after a night of debauchery with comedian Fatty Arbuckle. Another resident ghost is reportedly Rudolph Valentino, who joins a legion of other spirits near the gates to the adjoining Paramount Studios complex.
Silver Cliff Cemetery - Colorado: For many decades, ghost lights have been reported in a tiny miner's cemetery near this Colorado town. The lights have been studied and examined many times by scientists and by National Geographic magazine but remain unexplained.
Stepp Cemetery - Indiana: This remote cemetery in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest has long been considered haunted. Although many legends exist to explain the ghost, most agree that the graveyard is haunted by a woman in black who has been seen here for years.
Camp Chase, Ohio: Fresh flowers often mysteriously appear on the grave of a Confederate soldier who is buried here. It is believed that they are left behind by the famous "Lady in Gray", a widow who lost her husband at the terrible prisoner of war camp that was here during the Civil War. Her ghost has been seen walking among the tombstones.
Greenwood Cemetery - Decatur, Illinois: Long believed to be one of the most haunted spots in downstate Illinois (if not the Midwest), Greenwood Cemetery is filled with legends and stories of ghosts and haunted places. Among them are the ghost of a young girl who has been seen walking among the grave in a bridal gown, a weeping woman in white, ghost lights that are said to be the spirits of flood victims and even Confederate soldiers who were buried here in unmarked graves after being taken from a prison train.
Resurrection Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois: The ghost of the girl who has come to be known as "Resurrection Mary" is one of the most famous ghosts of Chicagoland. She is believed to have been killed along Archer Avenue (near the cemetery) after leaving a dance one night. She was buried in Resurrection Cemetery and has spent the last 80 years traveling the roadways and asking drivers to drop her off at the cemetery gates. When she arrives there, she always vanishes.
And there are literally dozens more... America is filled with stories of haunted cemeteries. This section of the website barely scratches the surface!
An Excerpt from Beyond the Grave:
STULL CEMETERY - GATEWAY TO HELL?
There are graveyards across America, places with names like Bachelor’s Grove and Stull Cemetery, that defy all definitions of a “haunted cemetery“. They are places that go beyond the legends of merely being haunted and enter into the realm of the diabolical. They are places said to be so terrifying that the Devil himself holds court with his worshippers there... and in the case of Stull Cemetery in Kansas, is one of the “gateways to hell” itself!
But just how terrifying are these places? While there are few of us who would challenge the supernatural presence of a place like Bachelor's Grove, there are some who claim that Stull Cemetery does not deserve the blood-curdling reputation that it has gained over the years.
Stull Church & Cemetery (photo by Rene Kruse)
Stull Cemetery, and the abandoned church that rests next to it, is located in the tiny, nearly forgotten Kansas town of Stull. There is not much left of the tiny village, save for a few houses, the newer church and about twenty residents. However, the population of the place allegedly contains a number of residents that are from beyond this earth! In addition to its human inhabitants, the town is also home to a number of legends and strange tales that are linked to the crumbling old church and the overgrown cemetery that can be found atop Stull’s Emmanuel Hill. For years, stories of witchcraft, ghosts and supernatural happenings have surrounded the old graveyard. It is a place that some claim is one of the "seven gateways to hell."
The legends say that these stories have been linked to Stull for more than 100 years, but none of them made it into print until the 1970's. In November 1974, an article appeared in the University of Kansas student newspaper that spoke of a number of strange occurrences in the Stull churchyard. According to the article, Stull was “haunted by legends of diabolical, supernatural happenings” and the legends asserted that the cemetery was one of the two places on earth where the devil appears in person two times each year. It said that the cemetery had been the source of many legends in the area, stories that had been told and re-told for over a century.
The piece also went on to say that most students learned of Stull's diabolical reputation from their grand-parents and older individuals, but that many of them claimed first-hand encounters with things that could not explain. One student claimed to have been grabbed by the arm by something unseen, while others spoke of unexplained memory loss when visiting the place. Like many other locations of this type, the tales of devil worship and witchcraft also figured strongly into the article.
But were the stories actually true?
Not according to the residents of Stull, who claimed to have never even heard the stories before. They were bemused, annoyed and downright angered that such things were being said about their town. The pastor of the new church in Stull, located right across the road from the old one, indicated that he believed the stories to be the invention of students at the university.
But such stories have a strong hold on people, as evidenced by the reaction to the article that claimed that the devil would appear in Stull Cemetery on the night of the Spring Equinox and again on Halloween. On March 20, 1978, more than 150 people waited in the cemetery for the arrival of the devil. The word also spread that the spirits of those who died violent deaths, and were buried there, would return from the grave. Unfortunately, the only spirits that showed up that night came in bottles and cans... but this did not stop the stories from spreading.
All through the 1980’s and up until today, stories have been told about Stull Cemetery and as time has passed, most have grown more horrifying and hard to believe. The problem seems to be that the cemetery has a lack of real, documented accounts of strange activity. The weird tales seem to be little more that “urban legends” and second-hand stories from teenagers and college students.
One story told of two young men who were visiting Stull Cemetery one night and became frightened when a strong wind began blowing out of nowhere. They ran back to their car, only to find that the vehicle had been moved to the other side of the highway and was now facing in the opposite direction. Another man claimed to experience this same anomalous wind, but inside of the church rather than in the graveyard. He claimed that the sinister air current knocked him to the floor and would not allow him to move for some time. Incidentally, it is inside of this same church where “witnesses” say that no rain will fall... even though the crumbling building has no roof!
The legends also say that the Devil has been appearing here since the 1850’s and insist that the original name of the town was “Skull” and that the later corruption of that into “Stull” was simply to cover the fact that the area was steeped in black magic. It was said that the witchcraft-practicing early settlers were so repentant about their past deeds that they changed the name of the town. In truth, the town was called “Deer Creek Community” until 1899, when the last name of the first postmaster, Sylvester Stull, was adopted as the name of the village. The post office closed down in 1903, but the name stuck.
In 1980, an article appeared in the Kansas City Times that added further fuel to the rumors about Stull Cemetery and the abandoned church. The article was quoted as saying that the Devil chose two places to appear on Earth every Halloween. One of them was the “tumbleweed hamlet” of Stull, Kansas and the other, which occurs simultaneously at midnight, is someplace on the “desolate plain of India.” From these sites, according to the article, the Devil gathers all the people who died violent deaths over the past year for a prance around the Earth at the witching hour.
But why in Stull? The article adds that he appears in Stull because of an event that took place in the 1850’s, when “a stable hand allegedly stabbed the mayor to death in the cemetery’s old stone barn. Years later, the barn was converted into a church, which in turn was gutted by fire. A decaying wooden crucifix that still hands from one wall is thought to sometimes turn upside-down when passersby step into the building at midnight...” The story neglects to mention that, historically speaking, neither the Deer Creek Community nor Stull have ever had an official mayor.
Author Lisa Hefner Heitz has collected numerous legends that have added to the mythology of Stull Cemetery. Some of them include the “fact” that the Devil also appears at Stull on the last night of winter or the first night of spring. He comes to visit a witch that is buried there. Coincidentally, an old tombstone bearing the name “Wittich” is located fairly close to the old church. It should also be mentioned that there are rumors that an old tree in the graveyard, which was cut down a year or so ago, was once used as a gallows for condemned witches. There is also said to be a grave in the cemetery that holds the bones of a “child of Satan”, who was born of the Devil and a witch. The child was so deformed that he only lived for a few days and the body was buried in Stull. Some say that his ghost may walk here, as there supposedly was a photo taken a few years ago that shows a “werewolf-like boy” peering out from behind a tree.
One of the strangest stories about Stull supposedly appeared in Time magazine (it didn’t) in either 1993 or 1995 (depending on the version you hear). This story claims that Pope John Paul II allegedly ordered his private plane to fly around eastern Kansas while on his way to a public appearance in Colorado. The reason for this, the story claims, was that the Pope did not want to fly over “unholy ground”.
The legends grew and by 1989, the crowd at the graveyard on Halloween night had become so overwhelming that the Douglas County sheriff's department had to station deputies outside to send people on their way. They handed out tickets for criminal trespass to anyone caught on the property. It was believed that nearly 500 people came to the cemetery on Halloween night of 1988, doing damage to the church and gravestones, prompting a police response the following year.
As time passed, the local residents grew more irritated that vandals and trespassers were wreaking havoc in the cemetery where their loved ones and ancestors were buried. Finally, a chain link security fence was installed around the grounds and although the area is still regularly patrolled, the visits have died down somewhat, at least outside of October. In addition, there have been the signs posted against trespassing here and locals have made it clear that visitors are not welcome.
So, what about the stories? Were they true or the work of some student writer's imagination? Is the cemetery at Stull really haunted.... or is the "haunting" merely the result of an "urban legend" gone berserk? That’s a hard question to answer. Although undoubtedly the vast majority of the tales about the cemetery have been manufactured from horror fiction, they still beg that now-familiar question of how such stories got started in the first place? Is there a grain of truth to the dark tales? Did some isolated supernatural event take place here that led to embellishment over the years?
We have no idea and local residents are not talking. Strangely, although property owners have spoken out against both vandals and the macabre stories, they have done little to try and end the legends for good. For example, as so many of the paranormal events supposedly involve the ruin of the old church, why not tear it down? The building has been standing vacant 1922 and it has been badly damaged by vandalism over the years. In 1996, the remnants of the roof blew off and once exposed to the elements, the interior walls have been damaged by both weather and graffiti. Recently, a large crack also opened in one of the stone walls after the church was struck by lightning. So why not tear it down before it falls down on its own? Wouldn’t this bring an end to the demonic tales circulating about the place?
To make matters worse, why chase away those who come to the cemetery at midnight on Halloween to see the Devil appear? Why not simply “control the chaos” and allow the curiosity-seekers to see that no spirits will run rampant on that fateful night? On Halloween night of 1999, reporters from a local newspaper and a television news crew joined a group of onlookers at the cemetery. Sheriff’s deputies were on hand, but did not ask anyone to leave until 11:30pm. Why?
At precisely this moment, an unknown representative for the cemetery owners appeared and ordered everyone to leave the property. The officers had no choice but to go along with their wishes and the reporters and spectators had to leave. As Stull Cemetery and the land around it is private property, there was no option but to comply. The owners stated, through the representative, that they did not want media attention brought to the graveyard because it attracts vandals. But couldn’t they have furthered their cause by allowing the camera crew to show that the Devil did not appear at midnight, thus debunking the legend forever?
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
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Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
See Bibliography of "Beyond the Grave" for Individual Sources