This week on the podcast we begin a two part series on the most haunted cemeteries in the entire world!
From the cursed grounds of an accused witch's murder in Salem, Massachusetts, to the site of possibly the most adorable ghost ever in Edinburgh,...
This week on the podcast we begin a two part series on the most haunted cemeteries in the entire world!
From the cursed grounds of an accused witch's murder in Salem, Massachusetts, to the site of possibly the most adorable ghost ever in Edinburgh, Scotland, to the final resting ground of New Orleans' voodoo queen, the spirit of the Lizard King in Paris, and a screaming skull in Baltimore, we tackle some of the world's most ghoulish graveyards - and the stories behind their specters.
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On our Patreon I put a poll up to see what kind of paranormal story our listeners wanted to hear next, and the votes were in - they wanted a haunted location episode! So, much like our Haunted Hollywood and Haunted Dolls episodes, I pulled together 10 stories all centered around one topic: the most haunted cemeteries in the world. Today, for part 1, we’ll discuss 5, and cover the 2nd half next week!
Now cemeteries are, naturally, creepy. They are a monumental reminder about our death and of human frailty, literally a testament to the little time we have on earth. But cemeteries weren’t always considered creepy! They used to be a hot picnicking spot in the 19th century for families and couples alike. At the time, cemeteries were really the closest thing to public parks, which weren’t common yet - they were often beautiful, with well-kept trees and other vegetation; they were quiet, and there was plenty of space. You could break bread with your family members both alive and dead and enjoy a sunny day on the grass. This was also at a time where, as a culture, we lived with death more casually than we do now. Funerals used to happen in the home, mourning jewelry and art was common, and death was generally a routine visitor to, at the time, large families. Women died in childbirth much more often, as did children and others from illnesses like yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis. When death itself became less common, due to our increasing knowledge about medicine and science, is when it, ironically, became more frightening to us...and the tale of the haunted cemetery really began to take shape.
I’ll begin with one caveat: there are 3 commonly listed haunted cemeteries I won’t be discussing in this series, for different reasons. First, Hollywood Forever in Hollywood, CA - we already discussed that one in episode 11, “Haunted Hollywood”. Second, Cemetery Hill in Gettysburg, PA - I’m planning to do a special Haunted Gettysburg episode in the future that I’d like to include that in. And last but certainly not least, Union Cemetery in our own neighboring Easton, CT. One of my favorite cemeteries of all, and one that deserves its very own episode as possibly the most haunted cemetery in America and subject of a standalone book by our faves, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
I want to say I was heavily inspired for these two episodes by my favorite episode of the now-defunct Unbelievable Podcast, “#141 - Haunted American Cemeteries”. RIP to one of the real ones - Brian, Phoebe, Sebastian, Kevin, come back!! I’m definitely cribbing a few sound bite ideas from that one but, rest assured, I’ll be profiling American cemeteries that are listed basically everywhere as the most haunted, as well as going global for the other half of them in the interest of fairness. I’m not listing these haunted cemeteries in any order, but Sean, I’d like you to rank them after each story based on how haunted you think they are, or at least seem. 1 being a literal walk in the park, and 10 being OH MY GOD SOMEONE GET AN EXORCIST!
So let’s get to it!
Let’s start with one we’ve both been to - Howard Street Cemetery in Salem, MA. This isn’t the most popular cemetery in Salem - that would be the Old Burying Point - but it’s the most haunted. Salem, as I would hope most of our listeners know, was home to the famous witch trials of 1692 and 93, wherein 19 men and women were hanged for witchcraft, and one man - Giles Corey, 81 years old - was pressed to death by heavy stones. This was America’s most famous witch hunt, and an infamous case of mass hysteria. I’ll be doing a multi part series on the Salem Witch Trials in the future, but for now, let’s concentrate on Giles Corey.
Giles Corey...was not a good guy. He was a known jerk around the Salem area, and had even been brought to trial for the murder of his farmhand Jacob Goodale around 15 years before the trials. He testified against his own wife, Martha, at the beginning of the witch trials, and though he later withdrew his accusations, she was sentenced to be hanged. Karma came around, though, and Giles himself was accused days before Martha was to be executed. He was brought to trial to plead his case, but he stood silent. His refusal to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty was strategic - according to the law of the time, a person who refused to plead couldn’t be tried. To avoid people cheating justice, there was the English punishment of “peine forte et dure”, or strong and harsh punishment, that would be translated to him being pressed with heavy stones until he finally entered a plea. Corey refused to plead, even as his chest was being crushed, simply uttering the words “More weight” over and over again.
At one point, Sheriff George Corwin had to stuff Corey’s tongue back into his mouth with his cane when it was forced out by the pressure, and took great delight in stacking on the stones and even standing and jumping on Corey’s chest. Eventually, Corey’s chest caved in, and he never did enter a plea before his death.Why would he stubbornly keep refusing to plead, especially if he was innocent? Well, because of his silence, he died in full possession of his estate, which would’ve otherwise been forfeited to the government. Therefore it was passed onto his two sons in law, and not the very men that murdered him. Corey was buried in an unmarked grave, another statistic in the trials...and that was it, right?
Nope! Apparently before his death, Corey muttered at the cruel Sheriff Corwin, “Damn you! I curse you sheriff, and all of Salem!” Though Corey was probably not a witch, it seems his curse did take hold...since Corey’s death, all the Sheriffs - including Corwin himself - have died or resigned due to cardiac complications. As of 1991 they don’t even have a town sheriff’s office in Salem anymore, apparently for this reason.
Howard Street Cemetery was opened in 1801 on the very land where Corey was pressed to death, and probably buried thereafter. Many have stated they’ve seen his apparition floating among the tombstones, or even attested to being touched by cold, clammy hands. He’s a spirit you certainly don’t WANT to see - it seems an appearance by his ghost is a harbinger of impending doom, much like our cryptid friend The Mothman. Some saw his spirit hovering in the cemetery grounds just before the Great Salem Fire of 1914 that destroyed most of the city. And where the fire began? Near Gallows Hill...the site of Martha Corey’s hanging.
If you’d like to pay your respects to Mr. Corey and hopefully get on his good side during your stay in Salem, you can stop into the Howard Street Cemetery, and visit his memorial stone at the Old Burying Point nearby.
On a scale of 1 to 10 stones piled on your chest, how haunted do you think Howard Street Cemetery is?
Next, we have Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland! Greyfriars Kirkyard - kirkyard meaning churchyard - is said to be the most haunted place in all of Edinburgh, and perhaps even all of Scotland. The area around Edinburgh has been inhabited for thousands of years, at least all the way back to the early Middle Ages. This is an ANCIENT area of land, with the respective amount of history. So to be the most haunted place in this area...well, there must be a lot going on.
The Kirkyard was founded in 1561, and stories of hauntings in the cemetery began soon after. One of the ghosts is said to be Sir George MacKenzie, aka “Bloody MacKenzie”. How does someone get the nickname “Bloody”? Well, MacKenzie helped Charles II uphold the National Covenant and round up those not pledging to the national religion at the time - the Church of Scotland - and imprisoned them on the grounds of the Kirkyard in what was known then as the Covenanters’ Prison. These prisoners were absolutely tortured, usually at the hands of Bloody MacKenzie himself. He was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of over 18,000 Scots while working to uphold the National Covenant, with this time in Scottish history being referred to as “the Killing Time”. He finally was forced to finish his horrible work when he died in 1691 and was interred in a black mausoleum on the Kirkyard grounds.
Perhaps Bloody MacKenzie’s torments didn’t stop when he died, however...many have reported that they’ve encountered an unruly spirit in the Kirkyard even today. Strange disembodied sounds have been heard in the graveyard, and some have claimed to feel horrible nausea while walking near the Black Mausoleum. One night in 1998 a man broke into the mausoleum and received the terrible shock of his life when he fell into a sinkhole that suddenly appeared next to MacKenzie’s tomb. The man fell directly down into a pit...full of plague victims that had been unceremoniously tossed into a mass grave centuries before. Needless to say, the man ran screaming. In 2004, 2 teens broke into the tomb and removed a number of unidentified remains, even beheading one corpse and using the skull like a hand-puppet. They were later arrested and tried under a centuries-old grave-robbing law described as “violation of sepulcher.” Thanks to the many who have attempted to break in over the years, the doors to the mausoleum remain locked, but visitors can still peek inside and recite a popular old children’s rhyme: “Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar!” Be careful, though...since just 1999 there have been 350 documented poltergeist attacked, 170 people have collapsed, and there have been reported hot and cold spots as well as bruising, pushing, and scratching from unknown assailants.
Not all the spirits at the Kirkyard are malevolent, though. In fact, there may be one that is downright adorable. This is the spirit of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier dog. Legend has it that Bobby belonged to a man named John Gray. When John passed, Bobby stood watch at his owner’s grave for fourteen YEARS. Bobby died in 1872 and was buried inside Greyfriars, not too far from where his owner is buried. After that, people started hearing the sounds of barking in the Kirkyard even when they didn’t see any dogs around. It’s said that it’s little Bobby, still guarding the grave of John Gray even in death.
On a scale of 1 to 10 ghost puppies, how haunted is Greyfriars Kirkyard?
Next is St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans, Louisiana! St. Louis #1 is New Orleans’ oldest surviving grave site, having been established by Spanish royal decree way back in 1789. In the space of just one block of space, St. Louis holds over 700 tombs and more than 100,000 buried bodies. In fact, Mark Twain himself gave St. Louis the name City of the Dead...but is it also the City of the UNdead?
One of the spirits said to haunt St. Louis #1 is that of Henry Vignes, a 19th century sailor. Vignes lived at a local boarding house when he wasn’t away sailing the ocean, and it was at this boarding house that he kept his most important possessions...namely, his papers. The papers contained legal documents and such that were necessary to save, such as the deeds to his family tombs. Upon leaving for another voyage, Vignes asked the owner of the boarding house to keep his papers safe while he was away, and to take them if he died at sea. Well, while Vignes was on the voyage, this dickhead SOLD Henry’s family tomb. He returned fine and well, but now he wasn’t able to access his family vaults or even be buried in them when he passed...which he did a few years later. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the pauper’s section of St. Louis #1.
Understandably pissed off and very much not at rest, Henry Vignes’ spirit is still seen wandering the cemetery. A tall man with blue eyes comes up to tourists asking if they know where the Vignes family tomb is located, because he’s having trouble finding it. Apparently the ghost has even shown up at funerals taking place on the grounds, asking grieving family members of the deceased if there’s any more room in the tomb for him! He’s been caught on camera, and the voice of a male spirit has been captured on an EVP saying “I need to rest!”
Another St. Louis spirit is Alphonse. This apparition has been seen gathering the flowers off of other graves and placing them on his own tomb, presumably one under the name Alphonse. He’s also been seen taking tourists’ hands and pulling them to a stop, smiling, and asking them to bring him home. Every time a visitor steps near the Pinead family tomb, Alphonse appears to warn them to stay away...does this mean he was murdered or betrayed by someone in the Pinead family? Who knows…
The last and most famous spirit at St. Louis #1 I’ll be discussing today is that of Marie Laveau, New Orleans’ famous Voodoo Queen. Marie Laveau is the most well-known voodoo practitioner in New Orleans history. She’s even had songs written about her - like “Marie Laveau”, by Bobby Bare.
[CLIP OF SONG - “can ya’ll scream like a w-witch” / cut in 1:05-1:29]
Born in 1801, Marie practiced fortune telling, created herbal remedies, and worked under a variety of occult beliefs. Marie started work as a hairdresser, visiting the most affluent homes in town to style the hair of the women of the house, and in these homes in exchange for charms, prayers, and spells, the slaves owned by the homeowners would tell Marie the family’s secrets and dirty laundry. Because of this extraordinary knowledge, her fame in mediumship and insight grew, and as her fame grew, many townspeople sought out Marie to beg her for help with problems or assistance in their own rituals and spells.
The most famous legend about Marie Laveau involves her being offered a house on St. Ann street in exchange for manipulating forces to exonerate the innocent son of a rich man, who had been accused of murder. How could she accomplish such a feat? After all, the boy’s lawyers had told the father his case was hopeless. She took the challenge - she wanted that house! Marie spent weeks praying at St. Louis Church, and during this time she underwent a form of self-torture as a tribute to the spirits or gods above. She would put 3 extremely hot guinea peppers in her mouth and hold them there for hours, hoping the spirits would take pity on her great suffering on behalf of her intention to free the boy. The morning of the trial she snuck into court with the peppers that had been in her mouth and placed them under the judge’s seat. Some believe the energy from those peppers caused the judge to set the boy free - either way, she got that house, and lived there until her death.
After death, she was buried in St. Louis #1. Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing the ghost of Marie Laveau wearing her signature red and white turban walking through the tombs. And for those willing and risking to disregard her or her beliefs or religion, reports exist of people being scratched, pinched or shoved down to the ground. Visitors have reported all sorts of paranormal happenings while trying to interact in good faith with the deceased voodoo queen, like feelings of being touched, becoming unexplainably ill, and hearing voices emanating from inside the tomb. Practice became common to mark the tomb of Marie Laveau with 3 x's while asking her for a favor or making a wish. Legend has it that if the wish is granted, the person is required to return and place a gift at the site of her tomb. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of vandalism, including two instances when the entire tomb was painted a Pepto-Bismol pink. The result was the Archdiocese of New Orleans closing the cemetery off to the general public after March 2015, with only licensed tours now being allowed inside. Unfortunately we missed our shot to visit St. Louis on our 2019 New Orleans trip because a sudden insane lightning storm and monsoon hit just as we were going to leave on our tour. It’s almost as if Marie didn’t want us there that day...
On a scale of 1 to 10 screamin’ hot voodoo peppers, how haunted is St. Louis #1?
Next we journey to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. Pere Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris, is the final resting place to some of the most famous artists of all time, including composer Frederic Chopin, singers Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison of the Doors, writer Oscar Wilde, French novelist Marcel Proust, and more. An estimated 300,000 to 1 million other deceased are buried there as well. It was even the site of the final battle between the Commune de France on one side and the troops of Versaille in May 1871. The fight took place on the cemetery grounds, right between the graves. Many lost their lives that day and the 147 Commune followers who surrendered were executed on the spot against the cemetery wall, which is now known as Le Mur des Fédéres. It’s a place rooted in tragedy...and ghost stories.
Let’s start with someone most of us have heard of - the lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. Morrison died tragically and mysteriously in Paris at the age of, you guessed it, 27...but it seems his spirit has not yet gone with him. There have been multiple sightings of Jim roaming the cemetery, particularly around the area where he was buried. There was even a famous 1997 claim of capturing Jim in a photograph that, according to the UK’s Daily Express, has been verified to be undoctored. The snapshot shows rock historian Brett Meisner standing next to Morrison’s grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, and in the background, there’s a translucent white figure with its arms seemingly outstretched. Perhaps it’s fitting that Morrison has become a haunt at Pere Lachaise - he himself believed in live that he encountered the ghost of a Native American after witnessing a car accident in his youth, an incident he sang and wrote about in such songs as “Peace Frog”.
It’s also been said that the ghost of Adolphe Thiers, prime minister under King Louis-Philippe in the 19th century, pulls on visitors’ clothes if they walk too close to his resting place. Other tourists have reported seeing spectral lights and translucent figures roaming through the cemetery.
Another famous ghost of Pere Lachaise is said to be Marcel Proust himself, who died in 1922 at the age of 51 of pneumonia. He had wished to be buried next to his male lover, Maurice Ravel, but due to the time period, that wish was not granted. It seems that Proust now rises from his grave each night in search of Maurice...and Maurice does the same from his own tomb, but it appears they still haven’t found each other in death.
On a scale of 1 to 10 terrible Doors songs, how haunted is Pere Lachaise?
We have one more for you this episode! Let’s bring it on back to the U.S. with the Westminster Burial Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. Formerly known as Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery, these burial grounds were established in 1786. Many well-known American Revolutionary War War of 1812 heroes are buried at Westminster, but the most famous gravesite on the grounds is that of our beloved original sad boi, Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe died under strange circumstances, which we’ll dive into someday - after all, he is the namesake of our hyperactive little dachshund, we have to give him his due - and perhaps this is the reason why his spirit is still not at rest. Poe was originally buried in an unmarked grave toward the back of the burial grounds, but in 1875 Baltimore school children raised enough money through their “Pennies for Poe” project to erect a monument dedicated to the author at the entrance of the cemetery, which also marks the final resting place of his wife Virginia Clemm Poe and his mother in law, Maria Poe Clemm. Many have reported seeing Poe’s spirit walking around his gravesite and even standing at the altar inside the nearby Westminster Hall church. But Edgar isn’t the only specter haunting the area at night.
The infamous “Skull of Cambridge” is also buried at Westminster. What skull? Whose skull? It’s unknown, but legend says it’s from the decapitated head of an unnamed minister that was violently murdered. Reports claim that the minister’s skull would scream at all hours of the day and night. These screams were said to be so terrible they would linger in the minds of those who spent prolonged time around it until it drove them to the point of insanity. The skull was even dug up and reburied, now encased in a cement block, to muffle the sounds of its screams, though some still hear disembodied screams to this day. The Skull of Cambridge is so famous, in fact, it helped inspire a b-horror movie back in 1958 called...you guessed it...The Screaming Skull.
[TRAILER CLIP - 1:33-1:46]
These hauntings not spooky enough for you? Head down to the Westminster Catacombs, said to be the most haunted place within the grounds! In fact, a grave robber from the nearby school of medicine is reported to have been hanged after an angry mob discovered his crimes, and his spirit supposedly haunts the very catacombs he once plundered.
On a scale of 1 to 10 screaming skulls, how haunted is Westminster Burial Ground?
Let’s hit up ME AND MY BOO!
The infamous Lizzie Borden Murder House in Falls River, Massachusetts has sold...to Lance Zaal, owner of the nationwide tour company US Ghost Adventures!
The residence, which was the site of the axe murders of Andrew and Abby Borden in 1892, has since the 1990s been a Bed & Breakfast open for home tours discussing the Lizzie Borden legend. The B&B was put on the market in January at a cool $2 million dollar asking price. It seems the price was right for Lance Zaal!
Zaal will be taking over the location’s business license, with plans to continue the Bed & Breakfast model and, as Zaal tells Realtor.com, “We'll be adding several different events for both visitors and locals. We want this to be a place where people can kind of come in just to have a good time as well. We really want to give more people a reason to go there—so more activities and more events.”
Zaal says he's considering themes like Victorian dinners, nightly tours, murder mystery dinners, escape rooms, ghost hunts, and more. “I would like to have ax throwing in the mix—just a couple of ax-throwing lanes, which would be a lot of fun. We're going to look at producing an official Lizzie Borden Ax—that we will provide for ax throwing, and also to sell to guests.”
Sounding like a real mensch, Zaal says he plans to retain all of the dedicated staff who work at the Borden Bed and Breakfast and would like to potentially add some new hires, as well.
We wish Mr. Zaal the best - hopefully we’ll visit once the acquisition is complete!
That’s it for this episode of Ain’t It Scary with Sean and Carrie! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @aintitscary, and check out our website at aintitscary.com. You can support the show by supporting our sponsors, and becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/aintitscary. And please, subscribe to the show and throw us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts...we’ll be forever grateful.
Special thanks to our Tier 3 patrons, Nate Curtiss, Sean O’Donnell, Jared Chamberlin, Maria Ferrante, and our Tier 4 patron, Robin McCabe!
See you next Thursday!
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