Have you ever visited a cemetery when you travel?
Wherever we travel to, we always seem to find ourselves gravitating towards unique, interesting, and notable cemeteries along the way. A cemetery can provide you with a little history lesson about the area, the culture, and the people who lived (and died) there. Some tourists may find cemetery travel to be a bit weird, but for others, this can be a lot of fun, entertaining, and informative aspect of your travel adventures.
We have had the pleasure of visiting some rather interesting burial grounds which range from famous people, the infamous, creepy and kooky, historic, and downright bizarre. Some of these burial sites or gravestones may have a bit of revisionist history, but even that specious information makes them fun. Cemetery travel is always going to be a part of our future travels, so this may turn into a serial travel feature. Some of the cemeteries that we have visited are:
Historical Cemetery Travel:
Granary Burial Ground is located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts near the Boston Common. It is one of the city’s oldest graveyards and is the final resting place of many historical figures who played a prominent role in early American history. It is located on Tremont St and is a part of the famous “Freedom Trail” walk through Boston. Some gravestones you will find in this cemetery belong to Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and many other historical American figures who were buried here.
Burial Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Massachusetts has been used for burials by town residents since the 1620s. Buried at this cemetery are many passengers of the Mayflower, the ship which brought pilgrims to the area. This town is known for the Plymouth Rock, and this cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fairview Lawn Cemetery, located in the North end of Halifax, is the final resting place for over 100 victims of the sinking of the Titanic. When the ship sank, many victims of the accident were brought to Halifax and laid to rest here. Most graves have small grey granite markers with the name and date of death, while some families paid to have larger gravestones. Over 1/3rd of the victims were never identified, and their gravemarkers contain just the dates of death and marker number. There is a marker with the name J. Dawson, which many people believe to be “Jack Dawson” – from the Movie, which it is not.
Add a visit to the Titanic cemetery to your 48-hour Itinerary in Halifax.
Salem Witch Trials
People visiting Salem, MA are very likely interested in learning more and exploring the history of the notorious Salem witch trials. A visit to the Old Burying Point cemetery in the heart of the city is a must. The cemetery was established in 1637 and is among the oldest in the country. It is the burial place for several historical figures, including many connected to the Salem Witch Trials. Thus, making this cemetery a significant tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over. However, those people convicted of being witches were not allowed a Christian burial- so they are not located here. Individual tourists, as well as walking tours, are a constant sight in the cemetery throughout the year, especially around Halloween.
One of the creepiest (and coolest) cemeteries in the USA is the Bonaventure Cemetery in the east end of Savannah, Georgia. This cemetery was a central character in the novel and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” which made it more of a tourist attraction. Bonaventure is a considerable cemetery on the outskirts of town and can be daunting to visit it all. It would be recommended to take a tour. One of the most famous gravesites in this cemetery is that of musician Johnny Mercer. Fun fact: this is considered to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the USA.
New Orleans, Louisiana
If you like to visit a cemetery when you travel, the crescent city is home to many fantastic burial sites. Due to being located below sea level, they bury their dead in above-ground crypts. Otherwise, the coffins would float to the surface during heavy rain. When you travel to New Orleans, you may want to visit these three cemeteries:
Metairie Cemetery is located in the north end of the city near the City Park, well beyond the French Quarter. This cemetery is a well maintained and the mausoleums and tombs are less deteriorated than the other cemeteries in NOLA.
St Louis Cemetery #1 is located just north of Rampart St in the district of Treme. This cemetery is very close to the French Quarter, making it one of the more famous cemeteries for visitors to New Orleans. Another reason for the immense popularity is that this cemetery has the tomb of Marie Laveau, the VooDoo Queen. This single gravesite draws millions of visitors to this cemetery who leave tokens at her crypt. You can only enter this cemetery with a certified tour guide.
Lafayette Cemetery #1 is a very famous cemetery for tourists to visit when they travel to NOLA — located in the heart of the Garden District, with easy access to it via the St Charles streetcar route. It has been featured in many movies, television shows over the years; as well as music videos and featured in books by Anne Rice. Lafayette consists of mostly family plots; there are also many organization tombs for groups like the volunteer fireman, Destitute and orphaned boys, and Home for the incurables.
Boot Hill Graveyard
The city of Tombstone, Arizona is known for the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”. This was the notorious shoot-out that took place in 1881 between Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday vs Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne. The McLaury’s and Billy Clanton are all buried here, as well as other notorious figures from the old west. In order to attract tourists, some of the Boot Hill gravesites are falsely marked, and fictitious claims of burials have been made by the cemetery’s various operators over the years.[*]
Celebrity Cemetery Travel:
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
If you travel to Los Angeles and hoping to see some stars, the best place to go to is Hollywood Forever cemetery. This place is packed with celebrities – all dead. Some of the residents are directors Cecile B. Demille, Victor Fleming, John Huston, as well as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. & Sr., Hattie McDaniel, Peter Lorre, and many more.
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park
Fans of Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Eva & Zsa Zsa Gabor, and many other famous Hollywood stars will want to visit this cemetery located near the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles.
The King: Graceland
Fans of Elvis Presley will want to visit Graceland, and while you are there, you will see his final resting place located on the grounds of his home in Memphis, Tennessee. He is buried next to his parents and brother. Even if you are not a fan you will still enjoy visiting Graceland.
The Queen of Disco: Donna Summer
In the summer of 2012, while on a road trip through Tennessee, from Nashville to Memphis, I saw a sign for Harpeth Hills Memorial Gardens. I remembered that was where Donna Summer had been buried after her death from cancer on May 17, 2012. As a massive fan of Donna Summer, I insisted we visit. As she had only passed away a couple of months earlier, her gravesite was not marked, but the staff instructed me as to which was hers. Since our visit, it has been marked and is easy to find. You will also find Chet Atkins’ grave in the same area.
If you are a fan of Mark Twain, you will want to take a road trip to Elmira, New York and visit the Woodlawn Cemetery. This gravesite is one that you will have no problem finding; they have directional markers to guide you to the site. Some people leave coins and cigars on the headstone.
Edgar Allan Poe
Baltimore, Maryland, has many sites relating to author Edgar Allan Poe, who lived here for a while and died here on October 7, 1849. At the Westminster Hall in the heart of the city, there is a tiny cemetery, with two grave markers for Edgar Allan Poe. There is a larger one at the entrance to the grounds, where visitors can learn about Poe’s life and work, and leave tokens of respect. In the back, you can also find a smaller, more obscured marker that has a raven on the headstone. This marks the original burial place of Poe, but he is nevermore. His remains were relocated to where the more significant marker is.
Unusual (and creepy) Cemetery Travel:
Ice Cream Graveyard
When you visit Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury Vermont, you will find a very unique cemetery. Ben & Jerry’s are known for their variety of flavours of ice cream, and not all last forever – some die out. In their Flavour Graveyard, you will find some gravestones for some old flavours of ice cream such as – Miz Jelena’s Sweet Potato Pie, Bovinity Divinity, Wavy Gravy, Fossil Fuel, Tennessee Mud, and many more.
While travelling through Vermont, we found the Hope Cemetery in Barre, VT. This cemetery has some of the most unique and exciting headstones you will ever find in a graveyard. There are giant soccer balls, race cars, balancing cubes, planes, chairs, chains and many other amazing works of headstone artistry.
Coon Dog Lovers
In Cherokee, Alabama, we came across the Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery. Coon Dogs are very important to the locals of the area, and they have been showing their respect for their dogs since 1937. That was when the first Coondog was buried at this location; a dog named “Troop”, owned by Key Underwood. This cemetery only allows authentic Coon Dogs to rest in peace here, and authentication is required.
Night of the Living Dead
Classic horror movie lovers with definitely want to visit the town of Evans City, Pennsylvania. In 1967, filming of the horror movie “Night of the Living Dead” took place here, and the opening scenes filmed in the Evans City Cemetery. You can see the same headstones from the movie. One of the spookiest times we have spent in a cemetery was when we visited here. We arrived around midnight on Halloween night, and there was absolutely no light, other than our car headlights. Thus, making it very difficult to take photos, especially in a hurry as it was very uneasy being there.
In town, you can also visit the “Living Dead” museum and gift shop to add to your trip.
In a small Ontario town of Wellesley, known for an Applebutter and cheese festival, on a country road, you will find the Rushes Cemetery. Rushes is a tiny, unassuming cemetery that you may pass by as you travel without giving a second thought. However, in the south corner of the cemetery is one very unique grave marker you will want to find. It is called the ‘Cryptic gravestone’ and was created by Dr Samuel Bean to honour his two wives Henrietta and Susanna. People are still unsure how to decode this cryptic message.
You may not know who Jessie Keith is, but to the people of Listowel, Ontario she is very well-known. In October 1894, 13-year-old Jessie Keith was brutally raped and murdered while walking home along train tracks. This was Listowel’s first gruesome murder and resembled the “Jack-the-Ripper” style murders of the time. A hobo named Almede Chattelle confessed to the killing and was the first person hanged in Perth County. Jessie’s grave can be found at Fairview Cemetery behind the MacDonald’s in downtown Listowel.
Mother Goose (not really)
In Granary Burying grounds in Boston, Massachusetts, the same cemetery as Paul Revere, you will find the headstone for Mary Goose. She was the first wife of Isaac Goose, a wealthy landowner. After her death, he married a woman named Elizabeth, and they had a daughter (also Elizabeth) who married Thomas Fleet. Fleet wrote down the songs his Mother-in-law sang to his children and published them in book form under the title, “Songs for the Nursery”; or, “Mother Goose’s Melodies for Children”, printed by T. Fleet. Mary Goose was Not Fleet’s Mother-in-law, but the myth persists making this a tourist attraction.
Jack the Ripper (maybe)
One of the top suspects of the unsolved “Jack-The-Ripper” murders in Whitechapel, London during the late 1880s was Dr Francis Tumblety, a man who was suspected of other crimes without convictions. Tumblety was never convicted of the Ripper murders either, and they were never officially solved. After being arrested as a suspect for the killings, he posted bail and was released from custody. He then snuck out of England and returned to his home in Rochester, New York, and conveniently the murders stopped. In 1903 he died of heart disease and was interred in the family plot at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. The monument has the name “Tumuelty”.
The Giant of Cape Breton
A local legend for the people of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is that of the Giant MacAskill. Angus MacAskill was born in 1825 in Scotland, and the family moved to Englishtown, Nova Scotia in 1831. By the age of 20, Angus had grown to be 7 feet 4 inches and eventually reached 7’9” with a weight of 425 lbs. He was a member of P.T.Barnum’s circus appearing next to General Tom Thumb. He died August 8, 1863, and his final resting place is in the Auld Cemetery in Englishtown, Nova Scotia. You will want to visit the small museum dedicated to Giant MacAskill in this town as well.
On a cruise to Italy, one of the ports of call was Palermo, Sicily. When I looked up the best things to do in Sicily, one of the top results was the Catacombs. Initially intended for the dead friars of the Capuchin Monastery, the Catacombs are now home to approximately 8000 bodies of other people who had died through the centuries. While tourism to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini is allowed, (and encouraged) guided tours are the only way to see this and touching the bodies, and photography is forbidden. The Monks use tourism dollars as a way to make money to maintain the location.
Death Becomes Us.
Visiting a cemetery, graveyard, or catacomb when you travel may not be of interest to everyone, but it can be an exciting activity. It may or may not appeal to you, but I highly recommend it as a great way to learn a little history of the area. Roguetrippers love taking offbeat adventures, and visits to a cemetery often enhance our travel adventures.
If you want to find a specific grave of someone you admire, you can do so using the “Find A Grave” website. It is an excellent resource for Cemetery Travel.