Why pay admission to a haunted house to get spooked, when cemeteries and the paranormal seem to fit hand in glove, especially as Halloween approaches? In every state, there's a graveyard where visitors have seen, heard, or felt spirits or other unexplained phenomena -- or fallen victim to some eerie stories and their own imaginations. Almost all these atmospheric, often beautiful cemeteries are free to enter.
What brings so many ghost-hunting groups to investigate Dallas County's privately owned Adams Grove Presbyterian Church and nearby cemetery? The abandoned church, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1853, and ghosts of Confederate soldiers and a former minister reportedly walk the site.
Decay is slowly taking over at the Russian cemetery in the city of Sitka. It's abandoned and overgrown with moss, and broken crosses mark the landscape. Tree roots have pushed up headstones, making it look every bit like the dead are trying to claw their way to the surface.
One of the state's most famous cemeteries, Boot Hill Graveyard opened in 1878 and closed a short six years later. Originally named the Tombstone Cemetery, it holds famous gunslingers and many unmarked graves. Some of the headstones tell short stories, such as: "Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a 44. No les. No more." Unidentified figures supposedly have appeared in tourists' photos.
"The Westminster Abbey of Arkansas," Mount Holly Cemetery in downtown Little Rock is the burial site of state governors, senators, Supreme Court justices, and Confederate generals. Every year during the "Tales of the Crypt" event, local high school students dress up and deliver speeches as one of the dead in front of that person's tombstone.
Nortonville is an abandoned coal mining town founded in 1855 by Noah Norton. It is said that his wife, Sarah, has haunted the town's Rose Hill Cemetery since being killed by a runaway horse in 1879. Some visitors to the cemetery claim to have seen her ghost.
This cemetery was established in the early 1880s and is still used. (The Protestant section is called the Cross of the Assumption Cemetery.) Some visitors to Silver Cliff report seeing dancing blue lights in the cemetery at night, not unlike lanterns or spheres, and on some days that's enough to draw several carloads of people looking to experience a haunted cemetery.
One of the state's best-known haunted sites, Union Cemetery in Easton has drawn visits from the New England Society for Psychic Research and inspired a book, "Graveyard: True Hauntings from an Old New England Cemetery." The most famous ghost said to wander Union Cemetery is the White Lady, a woman dressed in a white nightgown and wearing a white bonnet.
There is a legend of a man with catlike features who prowls Long Cemetery in Frankford. The so-called Catman is the cemetery's former caretaker, who was buried in an aboveground tomb there, the story goes. Some visitors allege that knocking on the brick wall at the rear of the cemetery summons him.
A stop on ghost tours in St. Augustine, the Huguenot Cemetery near the Old City Gates was in use in the 19th century. Several ghosts supposedly haunt the area, including the ghost of Judge John B. Stickney, whose oddly well-preserved body was exhumed for a move to Washington, D.C., when two drunken men stole his gold teeth, prompting the judge's spirit to stick around searching for them.
Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery is sometimes called "Paranormal Central." The oldest cemetery in the area, it was opened in 1750, and some of its dead are people who fell ill with yellow fever in the 1820s or died after duels. Some believe the paranormal activity is the result of the dead not having received a proper burial. There are more than 10,000 bodies in the area -- some outside today's cemetery walls -- but fewer than 1,000 tombstones.
This cemetery on Oahu is the island's largest, and many ghostly tales are associated with the place. They claim that the spirits of buried children come out to play at night and the cemetery's 150-year-old tree may be a portal to the afterlife.
Due to flooding in the early 1900s, more than 150 graves had to be moved to the current location of Fort Boise Military Cemetery -- potentially disturbing the dead and leading to the appearance of restless soldiers, children, and a woman dressed in a black gown. As late as 1998, an additional three bodies, possibly of Civil War soldiers, were found and reburied.
Two cemeteries near Chicago are known for paranormal activity. At Bachelor's Grove, an abandoned graveyard in Bremen Township, there have been reported sightings of two-headed ghosts, black dogs, a lady in white carrying a child, and a vanishing farmhouse. About 15 minutes away in the town of Justice, "Resurrection Mary" supposedly hitchhikes in ghostly white garb to wander Resurrection Cemetery.
In the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, the Stepp Cemetery is still in use and said to be haunted by several spirits. One is the Black Lady, who watches over the grave of her son (possibly along with the family's dog). Other potential hauntings: a road worker, the former groundskeeper, and a woman who watches over her husband's grave.
The 8-foot Black Angel statue in Iowa City's Oakland Cemetery has taken on a darker color as the bronze has oxidized. Some say the darkening is due to abnormal storms, evil spirits, or a connection to the dark arts. The statue is popular on Halloween, when visitors tempt fate by touching and kissing it -- an act that is said to risk a quick death.
This Douglas County cemetery is believed by some to be near, or perhaps on top of, one of the seven gateways to hell. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry traces the tale back to an urban legend invented by a professor at the University of Kansas in the 1950s, but others say the claim is real. Either way, visiting the graveyard serving the tiny town of Stull is now considered trespassing, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Reports from Marion's Baker-Phillips Cemetery (also known as Baker Hollow Road Cemetery) tell of a large black dog that guards the grounds -- a "Hound of Hell" -- along with inexplicable sounds of music, laughter, and screams, and mysterious spirits and orbs of light appearing in pictures.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the best-known (and possibly most haunted) cemeteries in the country. It's the resting place of Marie Laveau, the "grande voodoo queen." The cemetery was closed to the public in 2015 but can still be visited by family members of the deceased and those accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
The Pinewood Cemetery in Belfast is considered one of the state's most haunted. Visitors report hearing footsteps following them through the cemetery and banging on the sides of their cars. Glowing lights or orbs also sometimes appear in people's photographs.
Antietam National Battlefield was the site of one of the Civil War's deadliest battles. More than 23,000 soldiers died over the course of a dozen hours on Sept. 17, 1862. Antietam National Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the soldiers, although some were first laid to rest in mass graves on the battlefield. Visitors report hearing cannon and gunshots out of nowhere, and paranormal groups report ghostly sightings, primarily around dawn and dusk.
Salem’s Howard Street Cemetery has ties back to the infamous 17th century witch trials, when Giles Corey was tortured to death in a Howard Street field. He cursed the town before gasping for his last breath, and his spirit is said to haunt the area.
Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek is a popular tourist destination because of the famous people buried there, including Sojourner Truth and breakfast cereal magnates W.K. Kellogg and C.W. Post. There are also tales of an odd sight in the cemetery: The statue of the Virgin Mary above a mysterious woman's grave reputedly weeps at midnight on Sundays or during the full moon.
Serving the town of Plato, Ferguson's Cemetery is a small and secluded graveyard allegedly haunted by a young boy who can sometimes be seen peeking over the top of the tombstones. Visitors leave toys and coins at his gravesite.
Supposedly haunted by a murdered family, Garden of Hope Cemetery in Gautier can be a spooky place to visit. Some say they have seen the long-dead children playing in the cemetery.
Cape Girardeau’s Old Lorimer Cemetery is one of the city's oldest (it's on the National Register of Historic Places). There are reports of a "tapping ghost" who haunts the grounds, tapping people on the shoulder and occasionally pulling someone's hair.
The cemetery in Garnet is so small that just five miners are buried there. Little is known about them but their names and when they died. Their home is a ghost town abandoned in the mid-1950s. Visitors and a few volunteers keep the place alive and tell tales of paranormal activity.
Springfield's Ball Cemetery is allegedly haunted by several spirits. A ghostly spirit sometimes called Mary Mumford sings, laughs, and occasionally tugs on visitors' clothing. There are also reports of apparitions, odd sounds when no one is around, and ghosts appearing in pictures.
On the outskirts of Virginia City, there are 15 cemeteries collectively called the Virginia City Cemeteries or Silver Terrace Cemeteries. There are reports of a number of apparitions, as well as a heavy tombstone that seems to relocate on its own.
In Hollis, Pine Hills Cemetery is nicknamed the Blood Cemetery after two inhabitants, Abel and Betsy Blood, who were supposedly murdered. Abel's tombstone changes color and design at night, people say, and reports have surfaced alleging strange voices and lights in a cemetery where the oldest remains date from the 1700s.
At the Strangers Burial Ground in Old Deptford, tombstones -- some broken or unmarked -- are all that remain of Hessian soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of the Red Bank. (The term "strangers" refers to the fact that none of the dead belonged to a local religious community.) Around 1915, the bodies were moved to their current resting place -- and moved bodies often lead to stories of hauntings.
Once a coal mining town, Dawson was abandoned in the 1950s; today little remains in this ghost town aside from its large cemetery. Iron crosses painted white recall those who died in mine explosions during Dawson's heyday in the early 1900s.
Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery opened in part because of a cholera outbreak in 1838 and now has more than 350,000 graves. It is said the land itself was haunted before the cemetery was built, and visitors may see odd lights and hear wailing and cries during the day or night.
There are not many reports of the Old Scotch Graveyard in Moore County being haunted, but there's no question it's a creepy place to visit. Scottish immigrants and their descendants from surrounding counties sent their dead to this burial ground, and today many of the headstones are broken or sunk into the earth.
Riverside Cemetery in Fargo is well-kept but still inspires legends of mysterious voices. If recording devices are put atop some of the mausoleums, they may pick up knocking sounds, as if a spirit within wants to get out.
Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus was a training ground and prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Several thousand Confederate soldiers died from disease, exposure, or malnutrition while detained here. Today it is a national park reputedly inhabited by spirits. One is known as the Lady in Gray, perhaps a woman named Louisiana Rainsburgh Briggs.
The Violet Springs Cemetery in Pottawatomie County is supposedly haunted by a woman buried there in 1917. Katherine Cross' tombstone reads "murdered by human wolves," and visitors may be able to hear growling by her grave.
Legend has it the Witch of Lafayette cursed the town and said it would burn. Since that proclamation, several large fires have destroyed large sections of the town. There is some debate about whether the witch was buried in Lafayette Cemetery, but many agree she haunts the area.
The old Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre is across the street from the general hospital. Some bodies buried as far back as the 1770s were moved to Hollenback in the mid-1800s when the city hall was built on top of the old burial grounds. Flickering lights and mysterious music are two signs of haunting from one of the site's various dark tales.
Some people know of the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church Cemetery in Exeter because of one of its residents: an alleged vampire named Mercy Brown. She died in 1892 at the age of 19 after the deaths of many around her, and when exhumed she seemed to have shifted in her coffin. Her tale may have been an inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula," written in 1897.
Oakwood Cemetery in Spartanburg has a reputation as a gateway to hell. Whether spirits haunt the area or not, it is a spooky cemetery, and there are police reports of vandals, drug use, and a grave robbing as recent as 2012.
Mount Moriah Cemetery overlooks Deadwood Gulch in Deadwood. There are a few local celebrities buried in the graveyard, including gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok, and reports of a ghost in a wheelchair rolling straight through the locked gates to the cemetery.
Stamps Cemetery between Monterey and Algood is also known as "The Witches' Graveyard." The tombstones above the unusual tented graves have stars carved into them -- perhaps pentagrams to mark good or bad witches, or perhaps a sign the person below died of smallpox or tuberculosis. There have been sightings of animal sacrifices and hooded figures walking the grounds.
In 1900 a hurricane struck Galveston Island and killed about 8,000 people. Some of the bodies are in the Old City Cemetery, but others were thrown into the sea -- only to be washed ashore, then burned on funeral pyres. Ghosts supposedly still haunt the area. (Visitors in room 501 at Hotel Galvez are particularly likely to meet one.)
Logan City Cemetery holds a 10-foot statue of a woman kneeling and weeping -- the grave marker of Julia Cronquist, a mother of eight children, five of whom died within a two-year period. Some say the statue cries during the full moon, as the woman did every day to mourn while she was alive.
The Black Agnes statue in Green Mount Cemetery, west of Montpelier, marks the gravesite of local philanthropist John Hubbard. The figure is supposed to be cursed, and anyone who sits on its lap during a full moon will have seven years of bad luck -- or die in misery.
Established during the Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery is one of the country's best-known cemeteries, as well as a national park and the resting place of more than 400,000 American veterans. The Old Post Chapel on this hallowed ground is said to be haunted, with some visitors reporting mysterious sitting figures, unexplained voices and footsteps, and a door that locks and unlocks itself.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Black Diamond Cemetery is a well-known destination for paranormal investigators. Built in the 1880s, it is the resting place for many miners, children who died from influenza or smallpox, and immigrants from Italy, Australia, Germany, and Russia. Visitors have encountered odd lights, smells, and mists.
The Dartford Cemetery in Green Lake was featured on the Discovery Channel TV show "A Haunting." It allegedly houses a number of spirits: a ghost who pushes people off an old mausoleum on the cemetery's south side, an Indian chief, Civil War soldiers, and child phantoms who were polio victims.
The small ghost town of Kane lies just west of Lovell. At one time there were several stores, banks, a school, and a motel here, but the land was condemned due to rising waters after the Yellowtail Dam was built in the mid-1960s. Visitors sometimes can see the Kane Cemetery during low tide, and it's said to be haunted by the Blue Lady -- beautiful from a distance, fearsome up close.