When a person dies, family and friends of the deceased lay the individual to rest in a cemetery. In any given cemetery, multiple graves will be present ranging from as little as only two buried in a small family plot or to as many as tens of thousands that are buried in a mass grave or even up to a few million kept in an ossuary. The number of the individuals buried in a cemetery actually adds to the already creepy factor of a single grave – not to mention the circumstances in which the aforementioned individuals died. When tragedy surrounds the circumstances of the death of the individuals buried, you can feel it in the air. You don’t really know why but you feel as though something is just not right or that something is off.
Cemeteries are always creepy. This is because the cemetery is where we are most conscious of our own mortality. We know that in the future, this grim place will also be where we shall be placed before we crossover to the other realm, to the unknown. Superstition plays a big role in our view of death. As of writing, death is still final. No one has found a way to prevent the great equalizer. Once you die, you cannot come back – or can we?
All over the world, there are people who claim to have seen ghosts or experienced something eerie in certain cemeteries. These turned these places into macabre attractions for those brave enough to seek a more visceral connection with the realm beyond. Others may just dismiss these as mere superstition or even flights of fantasy but no one can deny that nudging feeling at the back of your head that makes you wonder, “Can this be true?”
12. Runway 10, Savannah Hilton Head International Airport – Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A
You might be surprised that the first on the list of cemeteries is an airport but there’s a reason for this. Back in the 1980s when the Savannah Airport was building an extension for Runway 10, they discovered that there was something in the path of their proposed runway project – the Dotson family farm complete with a small family cemetery with two graves. The Savannah Airport tried to convince the Dotson family to move the graves but the surviving family members didn’t consent. Because it’s illegal in the U.S. to move the remains of the dead without the consent of the family, the airport management was forced to build the runway over the graves. The airport gave the buried Dotson family members their respects by making headstones that go flush with the runway. Even though the runway looks normal to the uninitiated, those in the know, swear that the runway is haunted.
11. Cementerio de la Recoleta – Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Cementerio de la Recolate or simply, the Recoleta Cemetery is one of Argentina’s most popular tourist destinations. Entering the majestic gates of the cemetery will invoke feelings of being transported back in time since the cemetery is populated with grand mausoleums of varying art pieces and design ranging from the Gothic to the fantastically elegant. It is not the architecture though that puts this cemetery on the list, it’s the story of those buried here. Aside from Evita Peron’s tomb that always has fresh flowers laid on them, other interestingly creepy tombs include the tomb of Rufina Cambaceres and one David Alleno. Rufina had the unfortunate experience of being buried alive after she was pronounced dead, when in fact she was only in a coma. People heard screams in her tomb and when it was opened, there were scratches on the inside of the coffin and on her face from when she attempted to escape. As the story goes, David was a poor gravedigger who saved his wages for thirty years to buy a plot and have a tomb made for himself. After putting the finishing touches on the tomb himself, he then went home and committed suicide.
10. Hanging Coffins of Sagada – Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
Most cemeteries are underground or in a separate plot of land that is sectioned off for just this specific purpose. The Igorot tribe in Sagada, Philippines, however have a very different idea. For them, the cemeteries are above ground hanging over their heads. As family and friends carry the coffin to the cliff, everyone tries to grab onto or help carry the coffin because they believe that being smeared by the dead person’s blood and bodily fluids will bring fortune and good luck. The cliff face looks eerie because of the coffins secured on its wall. The older ones are small because old traditions called for the body’s bones to be broken when they are forcibly placed into a fetal position. The newer ones are longer because the younger generations are afraid of breaking the bones of the dead family member. Most of these coffins were made by the person who was about to die himself. How grim is that?
9. Merry Cemetery – Sapanta, Maramures, Romania
This oxymoronic cemetery is a popular tourist destination in Sapanta, Romania. This cemetery takes a very different approach to the grim truth of death. Instead of creating an atmosphere of sorrow with gray tones and muted colors, the crosses of the deceased are painted with blue, red and yellow. The Merry Cemetery tries to make light of the darkest of all situations – death. Each grave is marked by a cross shaped, headstone that has some form of art on it that represents the deceased and under it, a poem that’s meant to be light hearted or even funny. Though some are pretty entertaining, there are some tragedies that no amount of spin could ever fix. Take for instance the grave of a young child that cursed the taxi that hit him which start with the words: “May flames torch you, taxi,” and end with this sad line: “As long as my parents will live, they’ll mourn me.”
8. High Gate Cemetery – Swain’s Lane, London, U.K.
The High Gate Cemetery is probably one of the poshest exclusive cemeteries in England – after all, it’s in the name. The architecture put into the creation of the mausoleums and the statues is incredible. There are statues, and other pieces of art and architecture in every part of the large garden-like cemetery. One main feature though, are the strange stories that don’t seem to go away. Since the 1960s, people have reported seeing what has come to be known as the High Gate Vampire. This figure is a very tall man of about 7 feet, wearing a high top hat and has a piercing gaze. Another apparition that is seen here is the shrouded figure that stares into the void. Still another famous ghostly resident is the mad woman who runs around the cemetery looking for her children, whom she murdered.
7. Greyfriars Kirkyard – Edinburgh, Scotland
The Greyfriars Kirkyard Cemetery is an old cemetery rich with history. It was built back in the 1560s and is connected to the Covenanters’ Prison. Of the 1,200 prisoners in the prison, only 257 came out alive. Today, those who are brave enough or just plain foolish enough to enter the gates of Greyfriars for nighttime tours regularly don’t leave unscathed. Those who were harmed by malevolent forces or poltergeists of the long dead inmates suffered injuries that were reminiscent of those inflicted upon the prisoners themselves while they were mistreated by their captors. These include scratches, burns, bruises and sometimes even broken bones. The tally as of 2006 had already risen to 450 documented attacks on tourists.
6. Isola di San Michele – Venice, Italy
People already get creeped out when they visit normal cemeteries, how much more if you happen to find yourself on an island that is full of dead people – an island of the dead? When it was decreed that burials would prove unsanitary when done in the main Venetian Islands, they designated an island to become their cemetery. It’s still currently in use, and people use special gondolas to carry the dead over to the island. There are no famous ghostly characters that reside here but spectral encounters have been known to be reported occasionally. This you would likely expect when setting foot on an island inhabited only by the dead.
5. La Noria Cemetery (La Noria and Humberstone Mining Towns) – Chile
The mining towns of La Noria and Humberstone, Chile located in the Chilean Desert, had once been home to worker slaves who were treated poorly by their masters. Children were not saved from such cruelty. They were even the ones who suffered the most because their bodies couldn’t quite cope with the stresses and the abuse that they experienced leading many of them to die. Slaves who died were buried in the La Noria Cemetery and today, those who visit the place in search of the paranormal are not disappointed. They are even welcomed by the horrifying sight of human skeleton remains sprawled in the abandoned towns themselves. One particularly interesting event that took place here was when Josh Gates, a paranormal investigator, identified what seemed to be a FLIR thermal signature of a child which quickly disappeared.
4. Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the Dead) – Urbino, Italy
With a gruesome sounding name that any heavy metal band would envy, the Church of the Dead, graces this list with its display of mummies. Visitors who have acquired the taste for the morbid are led through a classical Baroque doorway and into the mummies’ display room or what has come to be known as the Mummy Cemetery. There, visitors can marvel at the sight of 18 well preserved mummies propped up in each of their display cases. The mummies were not artificially created, they were the result of a naturally occurring mold present in the area that dried out the body of the dead creating the preserved corpse. If you’re wondering who built the Church of the Dead – it’s the Brotherhood of Good Death (another name that could have sold millions of heavy metal CDs.)
3. Bachelor’s Grove – Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
This place has been referred to as the most haunted cemetery in America. This claim is backed by eyewitness reports of paranormal activity in the area with specific apparitions. One of the most famous is the white lady who walks around the area carrying a baby. A ghostly house or farmhouse had also been widely reported in the 1950s. Another ghostly apparition reported was of a farmer and his farm horse who were killed in the nearby area. A black dog that disappears when approached was also on the list of manifestations reportedly seen, as well as the famous “woman sitting on a grave” captured in a picture run by the Chicago Sun-Times, in 1991.
2. Paris Catacombs – Paris, France
The Catacombs of Paris hold almost three times the number of Parisians living above at a staggering 6 million dead. Above, the busy city life of beautifully chic Paris is in stark contrast to what is below, an underground city of the dead. There are passages and corridors of stacked dismembered bones and skulls incorporated into the wall in a dark yet bizarrely artistic way. The thing about the Paris Catacombs is that it is quite vast, and no one really has any idea how convoluted the maze could get. The danger of getting lost is real; take for example Philbert Aspairt, who died in 1793 and wasn’t discovered until 11 years later. What was sad about his death was that he was found very near to an exit.
1. Capuchin Crypt – Rome, Italy
The Capuchin Crypt is a series of 6 rooms located underneath the Santa Maria della Concezione del Cauppuccini. It houses the skeletons of 3,700 monks of the Capuchin Friars. When the Capuchin Friars arrived in 1631, they brought with them the remains of their deceased brothers which amounted to 300 cartloads. They were buried in soil that was brought specially from Jerusalem. Succeeding friars who died have since been buried there. After about 30 years spent decomposing in the soil, the remains are exhumed to make room and to add to the decorative artwork of the catacombs. The creepiest thing in the crypt are not the skeletons posed and displayed for shocking artistic effect, what is really creepy is the message that the Friars thought so important that they translated it into 5 languages. The message reads:
“What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…”
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