“HAUNTED CEMETERIES AND FORGOTTEN GRAVEYARDS” #WeirdDarkness

HAUNTED CEMETERIES AND FORGOTTEN GRAVEYARDS” #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: If there’s one thing on Earth that we can all agree is most likely to be haunted, it’s a graveyard. Since the advent of civilization we’ve gathered our dead and placed them in burial plots together. And it’s no surprise that people talk of the spirits that linger, not far from the final resting place of their bodies, perhaps clinging to life or serving as a grim omen for what’s to come when we all meet our end. Some of these cemeteries, however, boast more ghost stories than others.

TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
Find a full or partial transcript at the bottom of this blog post

LINKS, EPISODES, AND PAGES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Resurrection Mary – Chicago’s Most Famous Ghost” by Elisabeth Tilstra: http://bit.ly/31DKcr4
“Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery” by Orrin Grey: http://bit.ly/2OTIPTo
“Moving Coffins of the Chase Family” by Elisabeth Tilstra: http://bit.ly/2yVrHlv
“Hellmouth of Stull Cemetery” posted at The Line Up: http://bit.ly/2yT1dBc
“Colonial Park Cemetery” by Orrin Grey: http://bit.ly/31yX4yw
“Bachelor’s Grove” by Orrin Grey: http://bit.ly/2Z0yhG2
“The Dead of Hart Island” by Steven Casale: http://bit.ly/2H77spp
“The Mausoleum of Mary Reed” by Jessica Ferri: http://bit.ly/302mrby
“The Grave of the Female Stranger” by Orrin Grey: http://bit.ly/2OViAfA
“Forgotten Graveyards” by Deanna Janes: http://bit.ly/300Duej
“The Most Haunted Graveyards Ever” sources: Occult Museum: http://bit.ly/304kX0A, Kimberly Powell: http://bit.ly/2Z0gkmN, Stacy Conradt: http://bit.ly/2YKCIpe, David Ian McKendry: http://bit.ly/2KvMz9n
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TRANSCRIPT:

Hey, Weirdos – before we get into this episode, I want to apologize for the large number of archive episodes I’ve been posting recently. While none of you have complained about it, and I am grateful for that, it’s still something that bothers me as an entertainer and professional, which is why I want to address it quickly. The weather here in northern Illinois has been incredibly stormy the last few days, and if you follow the podcast on Facebook, or if you’re in the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook Group, you know that changes in barometric pressure often trigger migraines for me. Well, I spent almost the entire weekend on prescription migraine medication lying in bed in the dark. I felt well enough to do a new episode yesterday, but then again today I spent most of the day back in bed with a migraine. It appears the next few days we can expect stormy weather here in Chicagoland as well. But rather than not post anything, many of you have indicated you’d much rather hear an archive episode – as most of you have not heard the older episodes anyway, or you enjoy listening to them again. Either way, rest assured that this is not the new norm and as soon as the weather clears up – or as soon as my head clears up to be more accurate – new episodes will be coming your way. Thanks for always understanding, for always being encouraging, and for always supporting the podcast. You truly are a blessing to me and my bride, Weirdo family. I honestly don’t know where we’d be right now without all of you listening and sharing the podcast like you do. Thank you.

Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and is intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.

If there’s one thing on Earth that we can all agree is most likely to be haunted, it’s a graveyard. Since the advent of civilization we’ve gathered our dead and placed them in burial plots together. And it’s no surprise that people talk of the spirits that linger, not far from the final resting place of their bodies, perhaps clinging to life or serving as a grim omen for what’s to come when we all meet our end. Some of these cemeteries, however, boast more ghost stories than others.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.

Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode…

A bronze monument in an Iowa City cemetery is said to bring death to anyone who touches it.

Could an old burial ground be the most haunted place in Savannah, Georgia?

A final resting place is supposed to be exactly that – final. But the resting places of the Chase family were anything but final… or restful.

Is Satan’s staircase located in a quiet, small-town Kansas cemetery?

A desolate burial ground outside of downtown Chicago is said to be one of the most haunted places in the country.

We’ll unearth the eerie history of Hart Island, a massive cemetery off the coast of New York City where over one million souls are entombed in unmarked graves.

Jonathan Reed couldn’t bear to be separated from his wife … so he moved into her tomb.

In a quiet Virginia cemetery is a peculiar tomb that has mystified visitors for nearly two hundred years.

From playgrounds to public parks, pedestrians stroll over old burial grounds daily… unaware of what lies beneath.

Cemeteries have always been a source of fear. We have scoured the map to collect some of the most haunted graveyards ever.

They say her spirit dances past the cemetery at night, dressed entirely in white. We’ll look at the eerie tale of Chicago’s most famous ghost.

While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter, find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies, find my other podcast – “The Church of the Undead”, plus you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

By the way, Weird Darkness is in the running to be voted “Best Horror and Crime Podcast” by Podcast Magazine – but I need your votes to make that happen! I have a link below in the show notes to take you to the voting page, and you can vote as often as you’d like, so please come back every day and vote again! And thanks in advance for doing so! Maybe we can make Weird Darkness an award winning podcast in 2020!

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!

Just outside of Chicago, Archer Avenue leads motorists past Resurrection Cemetery, the final resting spot of a young woman killed in the 1930s. Many believe the same young woman mysteriously returns to the cemetery night after night, dancing and hitchhiking her way back down the avenue. Of all of Chicago’s ghost stories, this one has been told and retold for over 80 years.

Resurrection Mary, as she is called, was reportedly first sighted in 1939, when a man named Jerry Palus met a beautiful young blonde woman in a white dress at a local dance hall. After dancing together all night, Jerry offered the beautiful stranger a ride home. She directed him down Archer Avenue, stopping in front of Resurrection Cemetery, where she vanished before reaching the front gates.

Decades later, tales of encounters with Resurrection Mary continued to surface. One of the most prominent sightings of the spirit was reported in the Suburban Trib in 1979. Reporter Bill Geist interviewed a man named Ralph for an article aptly titled, “Cryptic Rider Leaves Taxi Driver with the Willies.” The taxi driver requested that his last name be withheld—although he stuck by his chilling story, he didn’t want people to think he was crazy.

Ralph explained that he had picked up a strange young woman in a white dress one evening, who had directed him down Archer Avenue. She was mostly silent, except to remark that the snows had come early this year. When she abruptly requested that he stop in front of Resurrection Cemetery, Ralph slammed on the brakes. He looked away for only a moment, when something happened that made his blood run cold: “When I turned she was gone. Vanished!  And the door never opened.  May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.”

Throughout the years, dozens of other men came forward with eerily similar stories. They all involved an attractive blonde wearing a white party dress who would dance–and ultimately disappear near the cemetery. Some claimed to see her walking down the road, sometimes even jumping into oncoming traffic. Others would say that they stopped to give the girl a ride, and in traditional “vanishing hitchhiker” form, the white-clad woman would disappear as they neared Resurrection Cemetery—sometimes after she got out of the car, and sometimes as the driver walked around to the passenger side to open her door.

The stories of the girl behind the ghost vary. The most prominent is that Mary, as she came to be called, was out one evening with a boyfriend, dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom (now the Willowbrook Ballroom). They got into a spat, and unable to stand his company any longer, the young woman stormed out of the ballroom to walk home alone. Not long after departing the dance hall, Mary was struck by a car. The driver fled the scene, leaving her for dead. Mary’s parents later found by her body; they dressed her in a white gown and dancing shoes and buried her in Resurrection Cemetery. The young woman’s spirit then rose from the grave, wandering the cemetery grounds and haunting her favorite dancing places. Unlike other reported ghosts, it seems that this spirit does not hide from human contact—rather, she seeks it out.

The story of Resurrection Mary’s death explains another type of strange encounter that people have had with her spirit. Several people traveling down Archer Avenue have made distressed phone calls to police claiming to have discovered a young woman’s body on the side of the road, seemingly abandoned after a hit and run accident. When officers reported to the scene, the body seemed to vanish. The only sign left behind was a dent in the grass, in the shape of a human body.

Over the years, many researchers have attempted to pin the ghost’s identity on young women named Mary that were killed in automotive accidents in the late 1920s or early 30s. One theory proposes that the disturbed spirit is Mary Bregovy, a 21-year-old woman who was killed in 1934 when the driver of the vehicle she was riding in crashed into a structure on the side of the road. Another possibility is that Resurrection Mary is the ghost of Anna Norkus, whose devotion to the Virgin Mary led her to adopt Marija (Lithuanian for Mary) as her middle name. Norkus was killed in an automobile accident in 1927, on her way home from an evening spent at the Oh Henry Ballroom.

However, Mary Bregovy was a brunette, and Anna Norkus was just shy of 13 years old—neither matching the description of a blonde in her early 20s. They also weren’t involved in hit and run accidents, leaving the true identity of Resurrection Mary a mystery.

Another chilling aspect of this local legend involves the cemetery itself. Resurrection Cemetery encompasses over 540 acres, making it one of the largest—and possibly most haunted—cemeteries in North America. One night, a man reported seeing a young woman who looked like she was locked in the vast cemetery. When a police officer went to go check out the scene, he didn’t see anyone there. However, the bars on the gate of the cemetery looked scorched and warped. Although authorities chalk it up to a maintenance accident with a truck, legend has it that Resurrection Mary seared the bars with her hands when she grasped them, as if trying to free herself.

In any case, Mary’s story has captivated ghost-hunters for decades. Some write it off as merely an urban legend, but the consistent sightings of this mysterious figure over the years are undeniably striking.

In the Chicago suburbs, screened from the city by the nearby Rubio Woods Forest Preserve, lies an abandoned graveyard widely believed to be the most haunted place in the region. Over the years, more than a hundred different hauntings and otherworldly encounters have been reported in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, from floating orbs of light above gravestones to a phantom farmhouse and a two-headed apparition.

Once part of a larger settlement, the land that became Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery was set aside for use as a burying place in the 1800s, when the body of its first permanent resident was interred there. The cemetery was originally called Everdon, in honor of Samuel Everdon who donated the property. According to those who lived and worked near the cemetery, it was once much like a park, with the nearby lagoon used for fishing and swimming.

Reports of the paranormal began surfacing in the 1950s, though Bachelor’s Grove had already earned a sinister reputation. Gangsters from the 1920s and 30s allegedly used the area to dump bodies and hide illegal firearms.

By the 1960s, the number of funerals at Bachelor’s Grove had dwindled to near zero. By the time the final burial took place in 1989, vandals began raiding the site at night, knocking over and stealing headstones. According to some, coffins were even dug up and corpses desecrated.

As Bachelor’s Grove slipped into abandonment, reports of nefarious activity intensified. Forest rangers patrolling the area reportedly found the remains of animals that had been ritualistically mutilated, along with other evidence of occult activities. Several people reported seeing satanic rituals carried out in the cemetery, complete with animal sacrifice.

The number of ghostly encounters grew as well. Some of the earliest reported phenomena involved orbs of blue light appearing above graves and seemingly moving with intelligence. Another strange tale tells of a phantom farmhouse. Though seldom seen in the same place twice, the building is said to almost always appear as a white homestead with wooden columns and a porch swing on the front porch and a lantern burning in the window. If one tries to approach the phantom structure, however, it starts to shrink, receding with each step until it disappears altogether.

The cemetery’s nearby lagoon plays host to a well-known haunting as well. Many have seen a ghostly farmer and his horse still pulling a plow along its banks. The sighting stems from the legend of a local farmer who drowned in the lagoon alongside his horse in the 1870s.

So the story goes, the horse rushed into the lagoon without reason, dragging the farmer to his death. Encounters of a two-headed creature emerging from the lagoon at night have led some to believe that the vision is actually the half-formed apparition of the farmer and his horse.

Other common ghostly sightings in Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery include a “white lady” who carries her infant through the grounds under the glow of the full moon, figures dressed in robes, a mysterious black dog, and a light like a “red skyrocket” that speeds up and down the trail leading to the entrance of the cemetery. Nor are the hauntings restricted just to the burying ground—the nearby roads have also been the site of numerous reports of vanishing or phantom vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, Bachelor’s Grove is a favorite midnight destination for legend trippers and ghost hunters alike. Several people have returned with what they consider photographic evidence of the supernatural. Perhaps the most striking is a picture taken in 1991 by members of the Ghost Research Society that shows a woman sitting on a gravestone in the cemetery. Dubbed the “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove,” the photograph has been published in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the National Examiner and is one of the most famous—or infamous—paranormal photos of all time.

Nestled in a quiet neighborhood near Hickory Hill Park is Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery. The burial ground is home to numerous monuments to the dead, including one striking statue with a dark reputation—the bronze Black Angel.

The figure dates back to the early 20th century and stands watch over the graves of Teresa Dolezal and her family. Teresa moved to Iowa City with her son Eddie in the late 1800s. There she worked as a midwife until 1891, when Eddie contracted meningitis and died. The boy’s body was buried in Oakland Cemetery and a monument carved in the shape of a tree stump was erected to mark his grave.

After Eddie’s death, Teresa moved to Oregon where she met and married Nicholas Feldevert. But Feldevert was not long with for this world, either; he died only a few years later in 1911.

Stricken by two losses so close together, Teresa returned to Iowa City and commissioned the construction of an eight-and-a-half foot tall bronze angel from Chicago artist Mario Korbel to memorialize her loved ones.

As soon as the statue arrived by train car, stories began to circulate. When the statue was erected in 1913, Eddie’s monument was moved to stand beside it, while the ashes of Nicholas Feldevert were placed within the statue’s base. When Teresa Feldevert passed on in 1924, her ashes joined those of her late husband. Curiously, no death date was added to Teresa’s name at the base, fueling the statue’s mystery.

What’s more, the Black Angel statue had turned from bronze to black by the time of Teresa’s death. Local legends sprang up to explain this phenomenon, with most centering on Teresa’s past. Some claimed that she was an evil a mysterious woman, and that the statue changed its color to warn others to stay away from her grave. One particularly dramatic telling told of a thunderstorm on the night of Teresa’s funeral. A lightning bolt struck the angel statue, scorching it black.

Other versions blamed the blackening of the statue on infidelity, claiming that Teresa swore on her husband’s grave to remain faithful until her death—and that the monument would turn black if she didn’t keep her vow. Some even claimed that Eddie Dolezal never died of meningitis, but was murdered by Teresa herself. The angel statue blackened as a mark of her guilt.

Little proof exists to corroborate such claims, and many explain the color change as the natural process of oxidation. Still, the legends persist, with some asserting that the angel’s eyes had turned “black as coal” overnight and the blackness then spread down its face as though the angel was weeping.

With such a reputation, it’s no wonder the Black Angel statue is now said to possess sinister powers. According to one tale, any girl kissed in the shadow of the angel’s wings will die within six months, and anyone who touches the angel on Halloween night will die in seven years. Kissing the angel directly, meanwhile, will cause a person’s heart to stop instantly. One variation states that only a virgin can survive touching or kissing the statue without being struck dead. Another claims that the angel itself gets down from its pedestal and walks the cemetery at night.

In 2013, the SyFy Channel series Haunted Highway visited Oakland Cemetery to do an episode on the Black Angel, which aired on December 18. Investigators capture odd sounds and visual anomalies throughout the cemetery. When they turned their thermal cameras on the Black Angel statue, they found that it showed up as glowing hot, even though the night around it was chilly.

Whatever the truth of the many legends, there’s no doubting the Black Angel’s power as a monument.

When Weird Darkness returns…

Could an old burial ground be the most haunted place in Savannah, Georgia?

A final resting place is supposed to be exactly that – final. But the resting places of the Chase family were anything but final… or restful.

Is Satan’s staircase located in a quiet, small-town Kansas cemetery?

We’ll unearth the eerie history of Hart Island, a massive cemetery off the coast of New York City where over one million souls are entombed in unmarked graves.

And… Jonathan Reed couldn’t bear to be separated from his wife… so he moved into her tomb.

These stories and more are coming up.

Pretty much anyone who grew up in Kansas—or watches the show Supernatural—knows about Stull Cemetery, even if they’ve never seen it.

According to legend, this cemetery contains a stairway not to heaven … but straight to hell. It is one of seven reputed places on earth where living people can descend to the realm of the damned. The staircase is said to appear only once a year—suddenly, a hidden staircase is revealed, descending into a grave, then into the underworld. Most versions of the story say it happens on the stroke of midnight on Halloween. Others say that the stairway to hell opens on the spring equinox.

So if you ever find these stairs, you must never go down them … because you’ll never come back.

From there, the tales vary, with accounts claiming that Satan himself comes forth on Halloween night to hold court in the cursed cemetery. In some versions, Satan comes to visit the grave of his infant son, while others maintain that it is the grave of a witch that the Prince of Darkness visits, who was the mother of his son, who also appears on the scene as a werewolf.

Many of the legends surrounding Stull Cemetery center on an old stone church that stood there from 1867 until 2002. The Evangelical Emmanuel Church was built by the town’s original Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who held their services in German until 1908. Then the church sat empty for much of the 20th century, its roof falling in, its walls beginning to crumble, even as strange stories clustered tight around it.

The church is said to have been used by Satanists, witches’ covens, and cults for their rituals. Though it had no roof by the time these groups supposedly convened there, it was said that rain would never fall within its walls. Other accounts claimed that it was impossible to break a glass bottle inside the church.

Next to the church was a tall pine tree which grew up through and split a headstone. According to stories, the tree was used to hang witches before the land was consecrated as a churchyard. The church and the tree were often held to be signposts, helping to point the way to the gate of hell. In 1998, on the day before Halloween, the tree was cut down in order to dissuade thrill-seekers.

Stull’s status as the location of one of the Gateways to Hell is so well known that it inspired an album by the band Urge Overkill, featuring images of Stull Cemetery on the album cover. It was also used in the plots of several movies, including the machinations of the Satanic villains in Turbulence 3, who plan to crash a plane into Stull Cemetery in order to release Satan. The film also makes use of an urban legend that when the Pope visited Colorado in 1995, he diverted his plane around Kansas so as not to fly over unhallowed ground.

In the final episode of the fifth season of the TV series Supernatural, the final confrontation of the Apocalypse takes place in Stull Cemetery (though it’s actually filmed in Vancouver).

Depictions like these have done nothing to dissuade amateur ghost hunters, thrill-seekers, and legend trippers from descending upon Stull Cemetery, especially on Halloween night. In spite of fences, no trespassing signs, and the fact that the area is heavily patrolled by police, the residents of the small community of Stull have had to deal with countless instances of trespassing and vandalism.

In 1978, more than 150 people attempted to go to the cemetery on Halloween night; in 1988, that number climbed to nearly 500. The cemetery today is home to as many broken headstones as intact ones, and many of the markers are gone completely, spirited off by vandals who wanted a piece of the famously accursed burying place.

Stories about Stull often claim that it is guarded by “mysterious people” in pickup trucks who “terrorize” visitors. Those stories, at least, are almost certainly true, though perhaps less mysterious than they might appear. The living residents of Stull aren’t exactly thrilled by the cemetery’s diabolical reputation, and the often less-than-respectful tourists, so residents frequently aid the police in patrolling the area.

Tracing the origins of the stories about Stull is no easy matter. The area has had its share of odd deaths over the years, including a boy who was accidentally burned to death and a man who was found hanging in a tree. Yet according to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Stull Cemetery’s reputation as one of the Seven Gateways to Hell can be traced back to a professor at the nearby University of Kansas, who made it up as an urban legend to tell his students. As the story spread, it took on a life of its own, until it was printed in the University paper in the 1970s.

Whatever the origins of the diabolical legends, most people who still live in the community today–and have ancestors buried in the old churchyard–just want to see them rest in peace.

Barbados may be known as a popular tourist destination, but local culture and history involve more than just white sand beaches and fruity mixed drinks. In the center of the island is Christ Parish Church, whose graveyard—like many graveyards—has a few ghost stories. One particular tale involves a family’s tragic saga, and a legacy of postmortem unrest.

In 1808, the Chase family purchased the vault for the burial of their child, an infant by the name of Mary-Anne Maria (some claim her name was Ann Marie, or Mary Ann Marie). The tomb had been built in 1724, and already held the body of a Ms. Thomasina Goddard, buried in 1807. Colonel Thomas Chase, patriarch of the family, decided against disturbing the deceased by moving her coffin out of his new family vault.

Four years after they buried their baby, the Chases had to bury another child: their daughter Dorcas. The circumstances surrounding her death were more than slightly unusual; the young girl starved herself to death, apparently as an act of rebellion against her father, Thomas, who was supposedly abusing her. The girl’s body was buried beside her infant sister’s, each small body held in lead caskets.

Just one month after burying Dorcas, Thomas Chase himself died; strangely, his death was also a suicide. The family prepared Thomas’ body and opened the Chase vault, but what they claimed to find inside was shocking. Where there had previously been three coffins lined neatly in a row, the tomb was now a scattered mess, with each casket upended and in a different place. The coffins themselves seemed to have been moved.

The Chase family was shocked, but they chalked up the scene to grave robbers. The coffins were once again arranged neatly, and Thomas’ casket—made of lead just as his daughters’ had been, and weighing nearly 240 pounds—was added. The massive marble stone was rolled back into place, taking several men to do so, and the entrance was sealed.

The next death in the family was Charles Brewster Ames, in 1816. Again, the 11-year-old’s body was prepared for burial and the Chase vault was opened. The invasion of 1812 seemed to have happened again. All four coffins—including Thomas’ tremendously heavy one—were displaced, as if they had been tossed like toys. And yet, the entrance had not be tampered with.

Once again, the coffins were returned to their original place, and the tomb was resealed.

It was around this time that the public began to take interest in the stories that were being told of the moving coffins. Twice more—in 1816 and in 1819—the tomb was reopened to add the coffin of a family member and, both times, the vault was said to have been rearranged from within. It seemed that the dead really were not at rest. Secondary stories, of hearing shrieks from within the tomb, or of horses being spooked while passing it, also became more and more prevalent.

The governor of Barbados himself even took interest in the case. He ordered an inspection of the Chase vault—inside and out—and, after being satisfied that it was secure, had a fine dust sprinkled on the floor and his own signet ring stamped into the seal on the door. Eight months later he returned. Externally, everything was in order and the seal was intact. Curiosity called for the door to be opened, at which point onlookers saw to their horror that the coffins, once again, had been thrown about the inside chamber. This time, the movement seemed to be quite violent, with Mary-Anne’s coffin thrown so forcefully into a wall that the corner of her casket had broken off.

This was the last time that the vault was reopened. Each coffin was individually buried, hoping to restore some peace to the individuals whose bodies were inside. The tomb itself remains empty, and open, with nothing but stories passing through.

Although the story has circulated for over 200 years, researchers call it “historically dubious.” No burial records or newspaper articles exist to confirm the tale as it allegedly happened, and certain details of the event echo a Freemason allegory of secret vaults and restless coffins. However, there was a Chase family living in Barbados at the time, and others who swear by the facts of the tale. Whether or not it can be known for certain, it seems telling that the tomb has remained open, that the Chase family bodies have remained separated—specifically, those of Dorcas and her father Thomas—and no mysterious movement has since happened.

Savannah, Georgia is a town with a whole lot of character and a whole lot of ghosts.

As the city expanded over the years, many old burial grounds were covered up, paved over, and built upon, often without moving the graves that lay beneath. This has led Savannah to gain the nickname “The City That Lives Upon Her Dead,” and it’s also led to plenty of ghostly tales and spectral sightings all over the city.

Ask any local, and many will tell you the most haunted place in all of Savannah is the Colonial Park Cemetery. The oldest extant burial ground in the city, the Colonial Park Cemetery lies right in the middle of the town’s famed Historic District, on the corners of Abercorn and Oglethorpe Streets. The six-acre cemetery was founded in 1750, and acted as the city’s primary burial ground until 1853. More than 10,000 people are estimated to be buried in Colonial Park, though the cemetery is home to fewer than 1,000 grave markers.

Roughly 700 of the cemetery’s permanent residents lie in a mass grave, victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1820. Some stories say that the dead actually numbered exactly 666, but that the figure was rounded up to “nearly 700” to avoid association with the number of the Beast.

Many of the dead are interred in the brick family burial vaults for which the cemetery is famous. These vaults, which were once underground structures that have been compared to root cellars, held the bodies of deceased family members on shelves. When time and the Savannah climate reduced the corpses to little more than bones and dust, the remains were transferred into a large family urn, and the shelf reused for the next family member in line.

During the Civil War, General Sherman’s Union army spared Savannah from complete destruction in his “March to the Sea,” presenting the city to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas gift in 1864. However, members of the Union army did desecrate and vandalize the tombs in Colonial Park Cemetery, often in strange and creative ways. These included moving headstones around and carving new dates on the tombstones with their bayonets. One man had his death date changed to indicate that he lived to the ripe old age of 544 years, while the vandals changed the dates on another stone to show that a man’s son had been born 1,000 years before his father.

Over the years, the boundaries of Colonial Park Cemetery have shifted, and there are some who claim that the dead are interred beneath the streets that border the cemetery. In the 1960s, workers doing construction on Abercorn street supposedly found human bodies. Some point to the pattern of rises and depressions in the sidewalk that borders the street as evidence of wooden coffins beneath.

Of course, any place with such a rich history of death and burial is bound to be home to more than a few ghost stories, and Colonial Park Cemetery is no exception. Some such stories concern the dueling grounds that were said to lie just beyond the south wall of the cemetery. Back when dueling was still legal, this was where gentlemen came to resolve their differences, often permanently. Today, the grounds are home to a basketball court and a children’s playground, but some say that if you travel by at night, you’ll see the ghosts of those who died in duels.

One of the most famous ghost stories associated with the Colonial Park Cemetery concerns a man named Rene Rondolier. Rondolier’s ghost has often been reported walking through the cemetery, or hanging from the “Hanging Tree” which lies near the back wall of the grounds. Rondolier’s ghost is said to be easy to spot because, in life, he was almost seven feet tall. The story goes that he murdered two young girls in the cemetery, and was later lynched, either from the Hanging Tree or in the nearby square.

Though there’s little historical evidence to corroborate Rondolier’s existence—in life, let alone in death—plenty of visitors to the cemetery report strange occurrences within the cemetery grounds. There are tales of shadowy figures, and even a green mist moving among the remaining headstones. Colonial Park Cemetery is considered so haunted, in fact, that local paranormal investigators have taken to calling the graveyard, “Paranormal Central.” Of course, upon your visit, you can schedule a ghost tour.

New York City certainly has its fair share of hidden spots – from the abandoned buildings on dead-end streets to colonial relics from the not-so-distant past. But along the northern coast of the Big Apple lies a small island with a dark and troubled history.

Hart Island, located in the Long Island Sound just off the coast of The Bronx, is little known to city residents. Over the years it has functioned as a Civil War prison camp, a sanatorium, and, most infamously, as an immense burial ground for the city’s unknown dead. But just what is the story behind this mile-long sliver of land?

Thomas Pell, a physician from England, came to the New World and purchased a substantial amount of land from the native inhabitants in what is now The Bronx and Westchester County. The year was 1654, and Hart Island was included in Pell’s purchase from Chief Wampage of the Siwanoy people. The exact amount Pell paid for the land is unknown, though some rumors state it was nothing more than a cask of rum.

During the Civil War, the island functioned as a prisoner-of-war camp for the Union Army. Just over 3,000 Confederate soldiers were jailed there, some dying during their stay. In 1869, the City of New York purchased the island for $75,000, transforming it into a potter’s field for the city’s growing burial demands.

The first person to be interred on Hart Island was a 24-year-old woman named Louisa Van Slyke, who died in 1869 with no family or friends to claim her body. Initially, unknowns were buried in single plots – but as more bodies were shipped ashore, cemetery workers soon ran out of space.

Consequently, the city started burying people in mass graves – long trenches that each held 48 bodies, one on top of the other. Children and infants were buried in troughs that held up to 1,000 bodies.

It wasn’t long before the site became largest tax-funded cemetery in the world.

In addition to providing burial grounds for the outcast dead of the five boroughs, Hart Island also served as a quarantine site during a yellow fever outbreak in 1870, and was a convalescent hospital for tuberculosis patients. A labor center for delinquent boys was also established on its shores.

In the late 19th century, Hart Island supplied overflow housing for female patients from the Blackwell Island Insane Asylum on what is now Roosevelt Island – receiving only the most chronic cases. Later, the outpost transformed into the Phoenix House, a drug rehabilitation center whose residents were tasked with fashioning leather shoes. Scraps of old leather still litter the island to this day.

By 1977, following the closure of Phoenix House, the island was vandalized and nearly all of its burial records were lost in a fire. But that did not deter New York City from continuing to use the island as a burial site. Over one million people have been interred on Hart Island since it first started as a potter’s field. All of the graves are unmarked – with the exception of one. That plot belongs to the first child to die of AIDS in New York, who was buried in isolation, with no name.

Today, the cemetery is a resting place for the indigent and for those whose families simply cannot afford to pay for a proper funeral. Inmates from nearby Riker’s Island perform the burials. The isolated nature of Hart Island has made it exceedingly difficult for the bereaved to pay their respects – historically, grieving friends and family have been forbidden from setting foot on the island.

It was not until July 2015, that the city government announced it would facilitate visits by family members, following the settlement of a class-action civil liberties lawsuit.

Finally, some life will wash ashore on Hart Island.

It’s common practice to reserve a plot next to your loved one’s grave in anticipation of your own death—but Jonathan Reed took it one step further.

The retired merchant was devastated when his beloved wife Mary E. Gould Reed died in 1893. After Mary’s interment in her father’s family vault on March 19 of that year, Jonathan visited regularly—a little too often, in the opinion of his father-in-law. When Mary’s father died in 1895, Reed was free to visit her tomb to his heart’s content.

So he had her casket transferred to another vault in the Whispering Grove section of the cemetery. There he put an empty casket next to hers, a placeholder for his inevitable end.

And it is here that Jonathan Reed’s tale takes a surprising twist. Unable to bear being away from his wife’s corpse, Jonathan moved into Mary’s mausoleum. He brought furniture and a wood stove and cheered up the place with mementos from Mary’s life—her paintings, her unfinished knitting, and the family’s pet parrot (which, upon the death of the bird, was stuffed). Jonathan even took his meals inside the crypt. As news of the devoted widower spread, visitors came by to catch a glimpse of the man who now made his home living amongst the dead.

Nearly 7,000 people reportedly wandered through Evergreens Cemetery, for the sole purpose of encountering Jonathan Reed. The New York Times even covered the story, explaining helpfully: “Mr. Reed could never be made to believe that his wife was really dead, his explanation of her condition being that the warmth had simply left her body and that if he kept the mausoleum warm she would continue to sleep peacefully in the costly metallic casket in which her remains were put.” According to witnesses, he carried on long conversations with his wife. The Times reported that “he really believed that his wife could understand what he was saying to her.”

For nearly 10 years Jonathan made his happy home in Mary’s tomb. Then in May 1905, caretakers discovered his still body on the crypt’s floor, his arms outstretched to the casket of his dearly departed wife.

Jonathan Reed was interred next to Mary in his prepared casket. The doors to the vault were sealed. While the doors remain locked to this day.

Up next…

In a quiet Virginia cemetery is a peculiar tomb that has mystified visitors for nearly two hundred years.

And,.. from playgrounds to public parks, pedestrians stroll over these old burial grounds daily… unaware of what lies beneath.

When Weird Darkness returns…

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia is home to a most peculiar grave—one that bears no name, only a haunting inscription: “To the memory of a Female Stranger.” The identity of the soul at rest beneath the headstone remains a mystery, attracting visitors and inspiring ghostly tales since at least 1833.

The inscription in its entirety reads as follows: “To the memory of a Female Stranger whose mortal sufferings terminated on the 14th day of October 1816. Aged 23 years and 8 months. This stone is placed here by her disconsolate Husband in whose arms she sighed out her latest breath and who under God did his utmost even to soothe the cold dead ear of death. How loved, how valued once avails thee not/To whom related or by whom begot/A heap of dust alone remains of thee/Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be. To him gave all the Prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10th Chap. 43rd verse.”

The poetic verses are taken from Alexander Pope’s 1717 poem “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,” with a few alterations. The first print mention of the Grave of the Female Stranger appears to be in a poem published in the Alexandria Gazette in 1834, which details a visit to the tomb. The poem was published under the initials S.D. and later revealed to be the work of poet Susan Rigby Dallam Morgan of Baltimore, Maryland.

Ms. Morgan also wrote about the grave in her column for The Philadelphia Sunday Courier under the pen name Lucy Seymour. In an entry from 1836, Morgan wrote that the Stranger had been a foreign woman of “tearful face and a pale complexion” who traveled with a male companion said to be her husband, though locals doubted this claim. According to Morgan, the only soul that the Stranger confided in before her passing was a local pastor, whose name is also lost to time.

Articles about the Female Stranger continued to surface throughout the years, growing more mysterious with each publication. In 1848, the Alexandria Gazette published a letter that claimed the grave belonged to a beautiful woman of pale complexion who was accompanied by a disreputable man. The companion gave his surname as “Clermont” and paid his bills with $1,500 in counterfeit English currency.

An 1886 version published in the Hyde Park Herald added such dark Gothic details as a doctor sworn to secrecy and a reclusive husband who kept his wife’s face hidden behind a veil and forbade anyone to speak to her or attend her funeral. An account published in the Washington Evening Star suggested that the Female Stranger and her male companion were doomed lovers. Yet another penned by Col. Fred Massey in the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette in 1887 adds that the lovers were European nobles who absconded to Alexandria, and that the Female Stranger died in her husband’s arms with their lips locked in a final kiss. The husband buried his partner in secrecy then disappeared from town, only to return in the dead of night and exhume her body to take it with him.

With little in the way of concrete proof, multiple theories as to the true identity of the Female Stranger have circulated. Some are comic in their outlandishness—one suggests that the Female Stranger was, in fact, Napoleon Bonaparte in drag—while others possess a whiff of truth. A persistent theory claims that the Female Stranger is actually Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr, who disappeared at sea some four years before the recorded death date of the Female Stranger.

Whoever she was—if she existed at all—the Female Stranger has left a lasting impression on Alexandria. Tourists visit her grave to this day. The stranger’s spirit, too, still lingers. She is said to have died in Room 8 at the nearby Gadsby’s Tavern. Some claim that her ghost haunts the room in which she passed, and can be seen standing at the window and gazing out the glass.

It’s where you buy your groceries and where your kids go to play. But hidden deep beneath the ground are centuries of secrets. Across the world, construction workers and archeologists are digging into the soil and finding pockets of bones, revealing a past that will no longer stay buried.

Washington Square Park, New York: What New Yorkers know today as a prime hotspot for greenmarkets and people-watching was once a hotbed for disease-infested bodies. Originally a potter’s field in 1797, the ground beneath Washington Square Park was used to bury those who died of yellow fever. In 1827, the space underwent a makeover, with more than 20,000 putrefying bodies left to nourish the greenery above. Nineteenth century lore has it that a blue mist emitted by the dead would hover over the park at night. And the park still holds secrets. In November of 2015, city workers attempting to dig up an old water main instead unearthed a 19th century burial vault—that led to yet another crypt.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana: In 1971, construction workers broke ground in New Orleans to build the Superdome and soon found bones—lots of them. Turns out they uncovered the remains of the Girod Street Cemetery, an old graveyard used to bury those who died of yellow fever and cholera. While the site was deconsecrated in 1957 and many of its eternal residents transported to new digs, not every body made the trip: Those souls not spoken for were left behind. The cemetery is technically located adjacent to the stadium under the parking lot.

North Fulton Golf Course, Atlanta Georgia: Titleist enthusiasts teeing off on the fifth green at Atlanta’s North Fulton Golf Course may have the hairs on the back of their necks tee off on their own, thanks to the 84 unmarked graves in nearby Chastain Park. It’s believed course builders knew of the graveyard’s existence when they started digging back in the 1930s, which was possibly an old burial ground for a former almshouse. Why they decided to build over it remains a mystery. Either way, play through.

Weccacoe Playground, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: You’ll never look at a set of swings the same way again after learning about the macabre truth lurking beneath the Weccacoe Playground in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In use from 1810 to 1864, the Bethel Burying Ground is where close to 5,000 African Americans were left to rest in peace. Abandoned, then used as a dump, the sacred ground today is home to a child’s play land, as well as a full-size tennis court.

Shanghai Disney Resort, Shanghai China: Set to open in 2016, Disney’s first foray into mainland China, Shanghai Disney, may need to update its tagline from the happiest place on Earth to the creepiest. According to Mental Floss, hundreds of burial plots were unearthed during the site’s construction. The tombs had to be relocated, with families of the deceased receiving 300 Yuan for the disturbance. That’s about $47.

Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois: Now home to a jogger’s favorite trail and a tourist’s must-visit zoo, Lincoln Park in Chicago has a not-so-secret secret: There were thousands of bodies once buried below ground. Used as a graveyard for masses who died from cholera, some 80 bodies were unearthed in 1998 when construction commenced on Lincoln Park’s parking garage. Though most of these bodies have since been moved, one tomb remains: the mausoleum of innkeeper Ira Couch. Find it behind the Chicago History Museum.

Crossrail’s Liverpool Street Station, London, UK: During recent construction of the Crossrail’s Liverpool Street Station in London, workers dug into a 300-year-old graveyard now believed to be the Bedlam Burial Ground, a poor man’s graveyard and the resting place of more than 20,000 skeletons. The macabre discovery was nothing compared to the violent tales told by the bodies themselves: Among the strange findings, archeologists unearthed a row of skulls, a corpse with its skull strategically placed between its legs, and a skull with a gash in its crown where a hefty blade had pierced it.

Les Halles District, Paris, France: This bustling hub lures locals and tourists alike in old Paree, but it’s actually a bright facade covering up a trés sombre piece of history: the Cimetière des Innocents. Used from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century, this infamous burial ground contained massive pits that could house up to 1,500 bodies. The pits remained open until they reached capacity, which made for an odor stinkier than the city’s beloved cheeses—not to mention a serious threat to public health. Beginning in 1786, the bodies were exhumed and moved to the Catacombs, though some of the corpses had decomposed so thoroughly that there was little left to move. According to Scientific American, the bodies that had been reduced to globs of fat were actually transformed into candles and soap.

The Many Cillini Across Ireland: Cillînî, (chill-een’-ee) or the unconsecrated burial grounds where unbaptized children, along with illegitimate babies and their mothers, were left to mingle in limbo, can be found scattered across Northern Ireland. A cillîn burial goes as such: No mass, no ceremony, just a male family member laying the dead child to rest, the mother not allowed to hold her child, and other members of the family discouraged to participate. Today, archaeologists and humanitarians are working to ensure these lost souls are not forgotten.

When Weird Darkness returns…

Cemeteries have always been a source of fear. We have scoured the map to collect some of the most haunted graveyards ever.

As we’ve seen in this episode, cemeteries around the world have gained a reputation for being haunted by ghosts for many reasons, including grave robbery, unmarked or forgotten burials, natural disasters that disturb resting places, or sometimes even because the deceased was not properly buried at all. Add all of that to the fact that graveyards are often dark, somber places and you’ve got the perfect setting for a ghost or two. Before we close out this episode, let’s explore some of the world’s most haunted cemeteries we have yet to touch on…but don’t forget to hold your breath as you drive by, or you might breathe in the spirit of someone who has recently died!

Pinewood Historic Cemetery, Coral Gables, Florida: According to legend, an elderly woman’s grave was vandalized by teenagers. Now, she roams the graveyard scaring folks…minus her head!

Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, Australia: Close to one million people lie in the beautiful, Victorian Rookwood Cemeteryin Sydney, but it is the grave of the notorious Davenport Brothers, famous spiritualists, that is said to attract ghosts to the necropolis.

Western Burial Ground, Maryland: This graveyard in Baltimore, Maryland has one thing going for it already: it’s the final resting place of horror writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe. If that doesn’t give you chills, maybe some of the stories will. This cemetery has an unfortunate history of live burials. Many spirits are said to haunt the ground, looking for revenge on those who buried them prematurely. There’s even tales of a buried skull, placed there to block out the sound of screams that seemed to be coming from the severed head of a former minister. Many have claimed to hear the sound of screams and some even claim it caused detrimental effects to their mental health.

God’s Acre Cemetery, Bethany, West Virginia: The cemetery is said to be occupied by multiple spirits. Built in the 1820s, the cemetery later had a stone wall erected around it that has no breaks. The wall extends four feet up and goes another 3 feet underground. The rumor is that the wall was built this way to try to keep all of the restless spirits trapped in the cemetery walls.

Paris Catacombs, Paris, France: Listed by many among the world’s most haunted places, the Paris Catacombs, buried deep beneath the streets of Paris, hold the bones of over six million French dead, interred in the empty limestone quarries from 1785 through the 1800s. With so many bones stacked up everywhere you look, it seems impossible to believe that ghosts don’t exist.

Boot Hill Cemetery, Arizona: The Wild West is a place awash with ghost stories, from murdered cowboys to desecrated native populations. And Tombstone, Arizona has the honor of being among the most haunted of the bunch. Several graves from the winning of the west mark the grounds, but the cemetery became famous when a photographer released a photo of what appeared to be a full bodied ghost in the background, brandishing a knife. This has lead many to flock to the area to see this phenomenon for themselves.

Black Diamond Cemetery, Black Diamond, Washington: Visitors have described a lot of varying paranormal experiences, but the most common one is hearing whistling, often coming from multiple directions at once, even though no one is around you. Well, no one living that is.

El Campo Santo Cemetery, San Diego, California: The now-restored 1849 Roman Catholic burial ground known as El Campo Santo Cemetery is a popular place for ghost sightings. Some of the graves here were covered over by a street, and others have been desecrated over the years, reportedly leaving the residents restless.

St. Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans, Louisiana: When you think of famous cemeteries, New Orleans probably comes to mind. There are three St. Louis Cemeteries in the Big Easy, but #1 is said to be the most haunted. It’s the oldest, for sure, opening in 1789 to replace St. Peter Cemetery, which burned in 1788. It’s no wonder the cemetery holds some haunts – with more than 100,000 people buried in a section of land about the size of a block, you’d expect that a few of them might have a little unfinished business. The tomb that tends to attract the most attention is that of Marie Laveau, the famous voodoo priestess, said to be spotted not far from her grave in the cemetery. People mark three “X”es on her tomb, believing that doing so will cause her to grant them a wish. There is also the grave of Henry Vignes, a man who died suddenly and was placed in an unmarked grave as a result, he is said to be seen as well, and there are also stories of an unnamed young man walking the grounds in solemn despair.

Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, Illinois: One of the most famous haunted cemeteries in the midwest, Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois, is the site of numerous ghost stories and legends. The Civil War section is the most famous, said to be haunted by the ghosts of Confederate prisoners.

Hollywood Forever, California: This cemetery in Hollywood, California goes back to the 19th century and is the eternal host to several famous Hollywood stars. The Psalms Mausoleum is said to be haunted by cold drafts, eerie sounds, and the ghost of Clifton Webb. The grave of Virginia Rappe is also a hotbed for cold spots as many believe her spirit seeks justice for her unsolved murder. One such ghost story, recently thrust back into the spotlight thanks to season 5 of American Horror Story is that of Rudolph Valentino whose grave is said to be visited often by a mysterious apparition in black that leaves fresh roses at his vault.

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio: Fresh flowers often mysteriously appear on the grave of a Confederate soldier who is buried at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, believed to have been left behind by the famous “Lady in Gray,” The ghostly widow, who has been seen walking among the tombstones, lost her husband at the ​Confederate prison camp which existed on this spot during the Civil War.

Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts: Few places in the world are more rife with talk of paranormal happenings than Salem. Giles Corey famously cried out for “more weight” when he was pressed to death after a conviction of practicing witchcraft. Perhaps less well known are his cries that he cursed the land of Salem before his death. Since then, Salem residents, including the famous Nathaniel Hawthorne, claim to have experienced the apparition of Corey haunting the place where he died and the cemetery. Others have mentioned the strange aura the cemetery seems to take on at night, appearing incredibly quite for its busy location in the town.

Silver Cliff Cemetery, Silver Cliff, Colorado: Ghost sightings in the haunted Silver Cliff Cemetery date back to the 1880’s. Ghosts of pioneers are believed to be the cause of the blue balls of light that float over the graves.

Union Cemetery, Connecticut: This cemetery is so haunted, that famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warrenonce visited to conduct an investigation into the mysterious White Lady. Several origin stories exist for this prankster spirit, including the theory that she was murdered early in the 20th century or she is a wandering woman who died in childbirth. Either way, many have captured pictures of this specter and she’s been known to play possum with unwitting drivers.

Stepp Cemetery, Bloomington, Indiana: A number of eerie legends and tales of paranormal activity have arisen from Stepp Cemetery, one of the most famous haunted cemeteries in the state of Indiana. The story is always a ghostly woman sitting watch over a gravesite, but the origins of the woman and her story seem to vary with each teller of the tale.

Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: No town conjures up more images of ghosts than Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This unsuspecting town played host to some of the fiercest fighting of the American Civil War and paid the price for it in a number of ways. One, is the lingering presence of spirits in the town. Cemetery Hill was the place of a gruesome summer battle that resulted in bodies piled high, awaiting burial. People claim to experience a “phantom smell” of rotting flesh sometimes in the area. Some have even seen full apparitions that have touched them or communicated with them, often warning them to leave.

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All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise), and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.

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If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you can find a link in the show notes.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.” — Proverbs 10:2

And a final thought… “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by a majority.” – Unknown

I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.

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