Friday, October 27, 2017

Eastern Cemetery – Haunted by the Past

Gateway to Eastern Cemetery
From the moment you arrive, you can feel that things are a bit off kilter. Of course, the look of the place does nothing to dispel this thought.
Welcome to Eastern Cemetery, 28-acres located next to the famous and well-groomed Cave Hill Cemetery where Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali are laid to rest. But across the concertina wire, Eastern Cemetery lies in tatters, abused by the elements, and vandals, for over thirty years.

The Wake House
Eastern Cemetery was founded in the 1844 by two Methodist churches. At that time, it was known as The Methodist Cemetery and was one of the earliest burial grounds in the city to allow people of different races and religions to be interred together. The cemetery is home to some of the movers and shakers of early Louisville along with regular citizens. This includes state officials, mayors, soldiers, slaves, and musicians. Charles Clarke and Arthur Lommis designed the original Richardsonian Romanesque wake house in 1891. And Eastern was also the first cemetery in Kentucky to have a crematorium. 

But Eastern Cemetery has a decidedly dark past. Records from as early as the late 1850s indicate that bodies were being buried in graves already occupied. The New York Times did an article on the cemetery back in 1989 describing how the graves were being resold after the remains and headstones had been removed – at least most of the time. There were also indications that bodies were stacked on top of one another – some buried only a foot or so deep – in order to maximize that burial space, and make more money. In a cemetery with room for 16,000 burials, experts estimated close to 50,000 people have been “laid to rest” here.

Records shows that of the four grave maps made of the cemetery, covering the years 1880, 1907, 1962 and 1984 – all are inconsistent in grave placement from time period to time period. Sections have been redivided and renamed, all in keeping with the reburial of bodies.

 About ten years ago, an unlocked building was discovered to contain dozens of cremated remains And state investigators reported that more than 90% of infant burials were done in a foot or less of soil.
Today, the graveyard is a tangle of weeds, downed trees and toppled stones. Vandalism is apparent but not as rampant as might be expected. Maybe the negative vibe of the place is off-putting even to those miscreants. 

When you enter the cemetery, the air is oppressive and you feel watched from every corner. This is not a cemetery that encourages wandering, or even loitering. This is an in-and-out cemetery: in for photos and out as fast as possible. Rumor has it that a nineteenth century lady wanders the cemetery trying to care for the infants graves. Footsteps and voices can be heard, and ghostly figures have been seen in the chapel, and wandering the grounds. But knowing the story, is it any wonder that this City of the Dead is restless?

Today, a non-profit organization made up of a caring group of volunteers are working to take back the cemetery. Friends of Eastern Cemetery do what they can to keep the cemetery grass cut, downed trees cut up, and stones repaired. But it seems to be a never-ending job. If you’d like to volunteer, visit their web page for more information.
~ Joy

My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide is now available at bookstores across the country. Click here for book information.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Haunted Hoosier Cemetery - Oak Grove

Oak Grove Cemetery
On a wind-swept hill in broad daylight, the sounds of children laughing could be heard. But in the middle of this 23-acre cemetery, there are no children to be seen. Welcome to Oak Grove Cemetery in Washington, Indiana.

Arthur Greenwood
Oak Grove was once the burial place of the movers and shaker of the community. Congressman Arthur Herbert Greenwood served as Indiana’s representative for the 2nd District from 1923-1933, and represented Indiana’s 7th District from 1933-1939 in the US Congress. He was also House Majority Whip during the 73rd Congress. Greenwood began his foray into politics in Washington Indiana when he served as a member of the Board of Education in Daviess County from 1911-1915. He died in 1963 in Maryland and was buried in Oak Grove.

William Bynum
Another US Representative from Indiana buried here is William Dallas Bynum who served as Washington Indiana’s first City Clerk. Bynum was also City Attorney and Mayor. He was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1881 – 1885, and was elected to the 49th and four succeeding Congresses, serving from 1885- 1895 during which time he was House Minority Whip. Bynum died in 1927.

A stone is hidden by growth
Oak Grove Cemetery began to fall into disrepair at the beginning of the 21st century. With no perpetual care money left to maintain the cemetery, the grass and weeds were left to grow in the older sections. These are the sections where unrest has been felt – and experienced.

Then they were gone
I have visited this cemetery three times in the past few years with different people. Each time we’ve come away with otherworldly stories to tell. My first time there I discovered a large black dog roams the cemetery. I heard a large dog running up behind me with the tags rattling on his collar but when I turned, there was nothing there. When I looked over at the woods that borders the property, a man, dressed in black, stood there with his black dog. They looked at me for a moment, took one step back and they were gone.

An encounter was experienced down this lane
A friend who had never had any paranormal experiences was given quite a scare when we decided to roam the grounds to photograph graves. Meeting up later, we discussed the condition of the cemetery. At that time, it was privately owned and was not being properly taken care of. The grass in the older section where we stood was knee high. After chatting a few minutes, we each headed out in different directions. Half an hour later she came rushing over the hill. Tossing her camera into the car she asked if I had slipped up behind her and called her name in an attempt to scare her. But I and our other cemetery buddy had already packed it up and were sitting in the car talking. The fact that the spirit had mimicked my voice frightened her the most. When we drove to the location where the incident occurred, there was nothing: no sounds, no odd feelings, no one we could see.

The boy who watches
There is a lifelike statue of a small boy who died in the 1800s. He sits on his stool as if unsure what to do, but his eyes seem to follow you around the cemetery. The truly weird part is when you approach the stone - the eyes appear to go flat and are covered in lichens.

I have also encountered a portal of some sort in the middle of the cemetery, which opened with an odd sound and a quick blast of air, and closed the same way – similar to an elevator. Voices can be heard talking, but the words are undistinguishable.

An untended area of the cemetery
Apparently, some “residents” are not pleased that their burial sites have been ignored. The cemetery had not been adequately cared for in over half a dozen years, and since it was privately owned, little could be done about it. But earlier this year a group called the Oak Grove Caretakers took over the cemetery promising better maintenance and upkeep for the more than 12,000 graves.

Where children play
Several people have heard the children playing high on the hill. Their laughter floats through the air as they go about their ethereal play. Let’s hope the remainder of the spirits will be appeased once their graves are giving the care and respect that is deserved.

~ Joy

My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide is now available at bookstores across the country. Click here for book information.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Haunted Blackfoot Cemetery

Once again, it's October - a time for hauntings, Halloween - and all things spooky.  This month, A Grave Interest takes a look at several haunted cemeteries. Get ready as we explore some ‘lively’ places, and the people who make them so…….

Pike County Indiana
Located in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, Pike County is a coal-mining region and farming community. A visit to the area in October offers a pleasant and scenic drive as leaves change colors, and farmers work to bring in the harvest.

The largest town in Pike County is Petersburg, known once as White Oak Springs by the earliest settlers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Pike County Indiana boasts numerous cemeteries but the one that is rumored to be haunted is called Blackfoot Cemetery. Located in Morgan Township, there are over 800 interments in the cemetery, many of those early settlers to the region. The first burial was that of a woman in a group of settlers passing through. The Indians, thought to be Blackfoot, showed the group where to bury the woman at the top of a hill. This became the first burial ground in the region.

At one time, the Blackfoot Church was located near the cemetery. There were actually three churches by that name. The first pioneer log church was built around 1800 by the early settlers and named for the Indians. (My ancestors were part of the first settlers in this region and visits from the nearby Indians were common.) The first person buried in the cemetery after the church was built was Mrs. John Almon.

Interior of a Log Church
The second church was built in 1860 and stood until it was destroyed by a storm in 1896. The final Blackfoot Church was constructed in 1897. That church stood for almost 100 years. It was razed in 1992 after vandalism became so bad, the trustees decided it was the best course of action.

Blackfoot is a popular name in the region. Besides Blackfoot Church and Blackfoot Cemetery, there is also the Blackfoot Mine, and Blackfoot Landfill.

Down a lonely country road, Blackfoot Cemetery appears to be a quiet haven of peace, but visitors have reported seeing shadows dash past and hearing voices and noises whose sources could not be found. Legend has it that a grave set off by itself is that of a witch. When darkness falls, the cemetery takes on a life of its own – lights and orbs dart past, and the noises get louder, more intense. No one spirit is said to haunt this cemetery – maybe it is the Blackfoot tribe members, still enjoying the life they knew here over two hundred years ago.

~ Joy

My new book The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide is now available at bookstores across the country. Click here for book information.