What is the Strangest Thing You Have Ever Seen in a Cemetery? We asked both Cemetery Professionals and Enthusiasts.

Cemeteries are beautiful places to reflect. If you spend enough time in cemeteries though, you are likely to see the occasional strange thing. From reports of enthusiastic nature to the supernatural, we asked cemetery enthusiasts and professionals “What is the strangest thing you have seen in a cemetery”. These are their answers.

JUDE VALENTINE

“This one happened in Charter Street in Salem. I was trying to get a stubborn woman to stop using a tomb as a bench when a barefoot goth woman charged out from the bushes (she later informed us she was trying to coax out a wild rabbit) and started swearing at the woman, saying she was disrespecting the dead. The woman started yelling back at her, meanwhile I’m between them being a polite and anxious nerd, trying to explain why sitting on tombs is bad for preservation. The woman finally got up, with kind of a ‘f**** you’ sort of attitude about her in regards to the goth lady. She made it out like she did it because I was being polite, but she was completely ignoring my initial polite requests and only responded when the other lady yelled at her.” Jude Valentine, Cemetery Enthusiast, Salem, MA

SUE DAVIS

“Lying down in the cemetery across from Back Beach in Rockport with a group of friends, to try and get a glimpse of Tom Selleck in the parking lot below. It was about 9 pm, dark and creepy, not knowing whose grave we were lying on🕸🕷. The next day we said, ‘What were we thinking?’ ” Sue Davis, Cemetery Enthusiast, Massachusetts

JUDY CATALDO

“In the late summer/early fall of 1775 an epidemic of the Bloody Flux (shigella) took many lives, mostly children. In my town 27 died and 25 are remembered on gravestones and on the 240th anniversary of their deaths I visited each grave. One of the first were siblings who died likely within hours of each other. As I stood at twilight in that small burial ground I was overcome with sorrow for their mother, wondering if she had even been able to leave the house to see them buried as she was likely caring for other children hoping they did not follow their siblings to the grave. As I was leaving I snapped a photo and came home to see this in the photo, never in almost 50 years of photos had this happened before.” Judy Cataldo, Cemetery Enthusiast, Massachusetts

CAROLYN THOMPSON

“Being chased by some geese in mating season. We were looking for a gravemarker and got too close to the females and we were chased downhill backwards by the males. We were afraid of them biting our behinds if we turned our backs to them.” Carolyn Thompson, Cemetery Enthusiast.

JASON CHURCH

“Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things in the cemetery. My family and I used to be the live-in caretakers for a cemetery. During that time we saw a lot of crazy, and hilarious things. I have tons of stories about gang fights, running off prostitutes, odd funerals, etc. However the “strangest“ thing that I have ever experienced while working at the cemetery is… I was working in Breda Cemetery here in Natchitoches, LA. While I was working on resetting a fallen headstone; a pair of feral cats just out of the kitten age started watching me.Feral cats in a cemetery is not unusual so I did not pay that much attention. After a while I noticed that they were matchbooked each had the opposite patterns in their fur. Then I noticed that each was missing one eye (the opposite eye). While they moved around to watch me they kept putting their heads together making their good eyes stay on the outside. They slinked around and watch me work for sometime like this. I got quite creeped out and finally had a thought to try to take a picture of them but every time I pull the camera out they ran and would return once I put the camera away. They stayed with me all day continuing to look at me with their heads together. I’ve worked in that cemetery here many times before and since I’ve only seen those cats that one time. It’s crazy but I had the feeling they were just there to supervise that one restoration.” Jason Church, Stone Conservator, Louisiana

DEBBIE BAGGALEY RANDALL

“Thinking we were seeing a ghost shuffling through the autumn leaves in the Howard Street Cemetery… only to be scared enough to scream and jump… by a skunk that popped out from under them!!!” Debbie Baggaley Randall, Massachusetts

LINDA SMALL

“One area of an African American cemetery that I restored 2 yrs ago was very active. They loved to play with my phone and every time I went in one area someone would find the wedding march on my phone. I would just stand there and let them play it. And yes my husband actually heard it too.” Linda Small, volunteer at Raven Rock State Park in North Carolina and cemetery adventurer.

SHEREE NIKI FICARRO RICHMOND

“Location: Wyuka Cementery, Lincoln, Nebraska
This Receiving Vault is the oldest building in the cemetery, constructed in 1886 from designs by John H. W. Hawkins, a Cornell graduate.
The Receiving Vault was built to hold caskets of remains when the ground was too hard-frozen in the winter to open graves…
I was in Wyuka cemetery scrubing my parents graves in the military section…when i was done i thought id walk around and take pictures of some of the victorian grave markers…
I came to the old receiving vault and the doors were open….so i thought id step in and take a look and get some pictures.. it was starting to get dark..
I heard a golf cart pull up and suddenly the doors closed on me !! And i heard the golfcart drive away…the security guy had locked me in..
I started yelling and banging on the door ..and as i stood there i had that hair on the back of your neck feeling someone was standing behind me i could clearly hear someone breathing behind me…
I thought id faint..
After about an hour of being in there i heard the golf cart pull up….
But no one came to the doors for about what seemed like forever..
I was crying and begging to get out…
Suddenly the door flew open and a flashlight hit me in the face and both me and the security guy looked shocked..i said you locked me in!
I told him what happened..
He laughed and said
You dont know..
I heard you crying and wailing and i didnt know if i wanted to open it now or in the morning when it was daylight out…
You scared the daylights out of me…lol ..i didnt know who or what was in there..
And i said i dont know who or what was in there with me!
We had a little laugh he said this is one i wont forget…lol… and he took me to my car and opened the gates and let me out…
I never peeped around the graveyard at closeing time again thats for sure”
Amateur headstone cleaner and cemetery enthusiast, Sheree Niki Ficarro Richmond

PETE MAHONEY

“I found a sealed jar of assorted peppers behind a tree. I posted a photo of it, and got all kinds of suggestions – voodoo, someone’s forgotten lunch, an offering to an ancestor. It eventually disappeared.” Pete Mahoney

GALE WALL

“I started my genealogy research in late 1999. My first roadtrip in search of ancestors took me to the panhandle of Florida to find the burial location of my great and 2nd great grandfathers. When I pulled into the rural cemetery I realized it wasn’t going to be an easy task with no specific location. I said outloud…”I’ve traveled a long way to meet you. Help me find you.” I drove in and turned down one of the far right lanes…parked, got out and walked right to them. That overwhelming connection has never been forgotten.” Gale Wall, Genealogist

LOREN RHOADES

Author, Loren Rhoades gave us a link to her story. https://cemeterytravel.com/2011/10/04/weekly-photo-challenge-sunset/ Here is an excerpt “I don’t have a photo from the night I watched sunset in the graveyard, but I can tell you a ghost story about it…”

LAURIE MORAN

“We spent two weeks in Europe, and drove from Bergen, Norway to Berlin last summer. We were looking for those adorable European squirrels with red fur and ear tufts the whole trip with no luck. Then, sitting on a bench in a graveyard in the former no man’s land of the Berlin wall, a red squirrel magically appeared to drink from a dripping spigot right next to us. In the same cemetery, there were also mausoleums with bomb damage from the war, and no new interrments from before WWII until after the Berlin wall was razed.” Laurie Moran, The Cemeterrarium, Massachusetts https://instagram.com/thecemeterrarium?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=jerydhxz3z34

ARIANA McSWEENEY

“I once accidentally dug up a 19th century coffin handle! I told my boss that I was done digging after that.”

Ariana McSweeney,Preservation Craftsperson, Mount Auburn Cemetery

CHRISTINE LUTTS

“We did see 50 different species of birds in one morning on a bird walk, even a Bald Eagle. Christine Lutts Friends of Greenlawn, Salem, MA https://friendsofgreenlawn.org/

CLAIRE WOERNER

“Working in recording an old African American cemetery (Glennwood Cemetery in Huntsville, AL) there was one spot that always gave all three of us a bad, uneasy feeling. Turns out that was because the embankment on that side was eroding and the bodies were very close to sliding out into the street. That was also the cemetery
I used to find myself humming old hymns all the time in certain areas. Very peaceful, wonderful place, not scary at all, just seemed to contain so much history it seeped out.” Claire Woerner

KRISTY FLEMING

“The first gravestone I ever restored by myself was John G. Lipe, who died at the Battle of Bayou Menard in Indian Territory fighting for the Confederacy under Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie. I felt very connected to that grave, I could not shake the feeling for days, I felt as if it was the most important thing I had done in my life up to that point.
I had a dream a week later that a man in Confederate uniform handed me a niche local history book. I found my copy of that same book and found a poem John G Lipe had written predicting his death, along with a photo of John that proved to me that he was the same man from my dream.
The strangest part, though, was that in the book I read that two of my direct ancestors were saved along with roughly 80 other Cherokee Braves by John G Lipe, his actions to save my ancestors resulted in his death.
I visit his grave many times a year.

Here is the poem he wrote one week before he died:

‘I stand at the portal and knock, and tearfully, prayerfully wait,
O! who will unfasten the lock, and open the beautiful gate?

Forever and ever and ever, Must I linger and suffer alone
Are there none that are able to sever,
The fetters that keep me from home?

My spirit is lonely and weary,
I long for the beautiful streets.
The work is so chilly and dreary,
And bleeding and torn are my feet.’ ”

Kristy Fleming

FOSTER BOYLES

“My first ever paranormal experience was while I was transcribing epitaphs in a old, well kept cemetery. It was during the day; no wind at all; and I was standing still, copying the epitaph of a lovely slate stone. That was when I felt a very distinct, downward tug of my jacket. There were no branches, no vegetation, nothing around me. It was a slow tug, not a quick one. I apologized if I was annoying anyone, and moved to one side. It was awesome.” Annie Foster Boyles, Cemetery Enthusiast, NJ

BRENDAN O’BRIEN

“While working at Glenwood Cemetery in Everett as an 18 year old in 1996 a very old man asked us if he could have the earrings his wife was wearing, the cemetery foreman had to get the undertaker to open the casket so he could take the earrings off a corpse. Another time we got a grave started but couldn’t finish it by the end of the day. We put a big plank over it, and the next day discovered that an entire family of skunks decided to take shelter under the plank. We used rakes to lift the board up far enough that it would fall towards us when we let it go and ran like hell. When we dared to turn around the skunks were waddling off in the other direction… One time I was investigating a cemetery in Billerica when I noticed a guy lurking sketchily around the outskirts. I thought he was going to rob me or steal my car or something. When I got within earshot he told me that he lived nearby and thought that spirits followed him home from the cemetery and were causing poltergeist activity in his apartment. He thought they were ghosts of soldiers, so he put on his old ROTC uniform and went to the cemetery at night and saluted the veterans buried there. He claimed all the disturbances stopped after that… Also, recently in RMBG, I found the remnants of what was described to me as an “inept revenge ritual” – a black plastic hand, some glittery black craft sand, a smashed crystal phallus, and the rock that did the smashing.” Brendan O’Brien, Rumney Marsh Burial Ground, Revere, MA.

DEBORAH GLIVA

“At Pidcoke Cemetery in Texas, I saw a purple golf bag with a ladybug toy & a sunflower in a tree.” Deborah Gliva, Cemetery Enthusiast

STEPHANIE TIMOTHY-IVEY

“Inside the first picture I found this on the ground. A small black probably velvet bag with small bones perhaps from a bird sticking out. This was in San Fernando Cemetery I in San Antonio, Texas.” Stephanie Timothy-Ivey, Cemetery Enthusiast, Colorado

REDGRAVE RESEARCH

“There was this time we were run out of a cemetery by an angry gang of turkeys. http://facebook.com/ALRedgrave/videos/vb.502056213/10155442036441214/ Gobble gobble.” Redgrave Research

CAMERON MANSELL

“I was fairly young when this story took place so my memory and my childhood imagination may have warped the story a bit but this is what I remember. My grandparents always used to take us to forest lawn which is a huge cemetery in the heart of Buffalo NY.

Anyways I remember walking with them and I somehow found myself falling behind until they were a good deal ahead of me on the path. Then all I remember is a very loud man’s voice from behind say ‘hey! Watch where your going’ then something pushed me and I flew forward and hit my lip on a gravestone in front of me. I ended up not needing stitches or anything but still shook me yup, not to mention the fact that no one was around me. I attribute getting pushed to a spirit that didn’t want alittle kid like me playing around on top of them.

I learned that day to not step on top of a
grave and I still don’t to this day.” Cameron Mansell, Cemetery Enthusiast

TRACY MULLER RYLANDS

“When I was in a Charleston cemetery, I found a piece of freshly baked cake on a plate on a grave. Someone later told me it was possibly voodoo related. I did not touch the cake, just went on my way. The other happened many years ago when I found a bra on a stone bench that’s part of an elaborate memorial for a well-known hospital founder at Atlanta’s Westview cemetery. I also left the bra where it was.” Tracy Muller Rylands, Cemetery Enthusiast, Dunwoody, GA

JEFF OSGOOD

“Jeff Osgood (Clay of the Dead). I was a gravedigger for two summers at Wooster Cemetery in Ohio. We had a burial during a particularly wet week had been raining for days. The coffin was in the vault and it was all in the hole. The dump truck on the edge of the hole had just dropped in initial layer of dirt. I grabbed shovel. We typically jumped in the hole to move the dirt to the edges to avoid pockets that would promote sinkage later. I was moving to get into the hole when the entire earthen wall above the dump truck gave out. The truck teetered back and fell into the hole. If It happened a second or two later, I would have been in the hole and certainly been crushed to death-two bodies in the same hole. Chills me to this day.”

TAYLOR MORTIMER

“One time, with you actually, while resetting a fallen stone we hit coffin while digging. I believe it was a 4yr
old child born around 1621. Got to hold the coffin handle in my hand.” Taylor Mortimer, Epoch Preservation Intern

JENNIFER NISBET

“I was as Greenlawn cemetery planting flowers at my grandparents/uncle/ancestors grave and my shovel hit something that looked like a ring. Freaked me out for a minute until I realized it was a metal ring from what was probably an ornate fence.” Jennifer Nisbet

AMY JONES

“Strangest thing for me was seeing a doll on an isolated country graveyard, it was back by the treeline, kind of creepy. It was the grave of a young girl, run over by a stagecoach. There was a plastic bag with notes in it, scraps of paper written back and forth over a few years time between ppl researching the story and someone who might have been a relative. One called themself the ‘graceful ghost, there was a copy of the article from 1800s about the accident. I haven’t gone to that yard in years…I should go see if it’s all still there.” Amy Jones, Cemetery Enthusiast, New Jersey

RACHEL MEYER

“I have seen a few strange things in cemeteries. Mostly they involve people but this one involves an albino rat at Howard Street Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts.

I was working on a slate stone that had been broken and was partially underground. It was a complicated repair and I was very much absorbed in what I was doing when I saw an albino rat slowly walking across the wall nearby. He walked toward me and was very friendly. He had to be a pet. I couldn’t abandon what I was doing but I posted about it in real time to get advice and ended up calling the police line to see if they had a call of an escaped pet rat. I was concerned it would be easy to spot by the local hawk who was very violent and who I had named murder hawk. This went on for an hour or so while this rat walked around the work site. He eventually found some food and disappeared behind a gravestone. Some back story is that people say this is the area where Giles Corey was pressed, long before it was a burying ground. There is some debate around that. However, it is local legend that he haunts the site. So that is how I was one box short of having a pet albino rat named Giles Corey.” Rachel Meyer, stone conservator Epoch Preservation, author of this article.

Do you have a strange story? Leave it in the comments. Also, visit us on Facebook and on Instagram @EpochPreservation.

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