Moment in Oddity - Train Accidents Depicted on Gravestones
Tree-stump gravestones were popular for a twenty-year period from 1885 to 1905. Many cemeteries in the Midwest used them because limestone was plentiful and the tradition of stone carving was a fine art. The trees were meant to look as if a tree stump had been used to mark a grave and symbolize a life cut short. This was very true for Charles F. King who died when he was only 26 years old. He was killed in 1893 at Jonesboro, Arkansas, in a train wreck on the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway. What is weird is that this accident is actually depicted on his gravestone. There is a train engine and then another rail car flipped on its side. I've never seen a car accident depicted on a marker or someone clutching the heart from an attack. Causes of death are usually not visually depicted on a stone. But as I came to find out this week, this gravestone is not unique. There is another and here's where that little synchronicity that happens around here all the time creeps in. I found the King Gravestone while searching for haunted cemeteries. A few days later, I was researching Bohemian National Cemetery for a Stones and Bones BonusCast and stumbled across a picture of a headstone there for Matej Sidlo that is also a tree stump and it depicts Sidlo's death due to a train as well. This carving shows a train hitting a beer wagon. Sidlo was forty years old and was riding on a beer wagon owned by the E.R. Stege Brewing Co. when it was struck by engine No. 590 belonging to the CB & Q RR Co. throwing him from the wagon. What are the chances that two tombstones depict deaths by train and that I would find them in the same week? All I know is that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - First Presidential Library Construction Began
In the month of November, on the 19th, in 1939, construction of the first presidential library began. This library would belong to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He laid the cornerstone next to his home in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt had donated the land, but public donations funded the building of the library, which was dedicated on June 30, 1941. Roosevelt noticed that he had a vast quantity of papers and other materials that he and his staff had accumulated during the first two terms of his presidency. He also knew that in the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed or ruined. He asked historians and scholars for their advice and they all came up with the idea of a public repository of some sort. This began a tradition that continues to this day. There are currently 14 libraries in the Presidential Library System. These libraries are not like other libraries in that they are archives and museums that bring together the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and present them for the public to study and discuss.
Haunted Cemeteries 12
As I continue to roll out these new episodes in the Haunted Cemeteries Series, it never ceases to amaze me just how wrong I was in thinking that there were very few haunted cemeteries. After all, I surmised that spirits would want to be among the living with all of their energy and not hanging out with the dead. I tend toward believing that most graveyard ghosts are residual and perhaps that is why I have managed to find so many of them. On this episode, we are going to explore cemeteries in Erie, Pennsylvania, cemeteries in Iowa, Odd Fellows Rest in New Orleans and Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. Join me on this journey through the history and haunts of these graveyards!
Erie Cemetery is located in Erie Pennsylvania and was established in 1851. The graveyard is laid out over 75 acres and is found at 21st and Chestnut streets. There are around 50,000 burials and these include General Strong Vincent, Daniel Dobbins and Sarah A. Reed. Within, one will find over 165 years of funerary art. Burials still continue there today.
General Strong Vincent was fatally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on Little Round Top. He wrote to his pregnant wife on the way to Gettysburg, "If I fall,
remember you have given your husband to the most righteous cause that
ever widowed a woman." Today, there is a statue of him at Gettysburg on top of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry monument. There is no identification on the statue because it was against Pennsylvania battlefield commission rules to place an image of a regiment’s commanding officer on a monument, but it is his likeness, not a random officer. He was buried at Erie Cemetery and his baby daughter joined him shortly thereafter. She died shortly after being born.
Sarah A. Reed was a founding member of the group who formed “The Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, and a Home for the Friendless”. They opened The Children's Center in 1871 as a place to and homeless children. Sarah served as President for 45 years from 1889 to her death in 1934. The center was named for her after her death.
There are two unique burials here that are steeped in legend.
Brown Crypt/Vampire Crypt - The final resting place of the Goodrich Family is a Mausoleum carved from a ridge. It's a beautiful Gothic structure, but quite plain with no typical stain-glassed window or even a name on the outside. There is a strange V-like carving above the entrance as though lettering has fallen away. The front gate is hewn from wrought iron. And eerily, the granite from which the crypt is made has blackened. No other structures near it have done so.
The actual owner of the mausoleum is Gertrude Brown, but she is not buried within more than likely because she is still alive and the last heir. Most of the bodies inside bear the name Goodrich, the first being George Washington Goodrich who died on November 14, 1884. Six other individuals have joined him: his wife, two of their children who died young and I'm unsure of the rest. That's all pretty basic, but somehow a legend got started that a vampire is locked within the crypt and thus it is nicknamed the Vampire Crypt.
One of the stories told about the crypt is that a wealthy man from Erie fell ill after returning home from a trip to Romania. He died soon after becoming ill. He was placed in the crypt, but people claimed that he was undead and left the crypt to attack people in the surrounding suburbs. They were found drained of blood and the classic teeth marks on their necks. Another tale claims that a young man broke into the vault and stole a ring off of one of the bodies inside. He bragged to his friends what he had done and told them that he would show them the ring the next day. His friends came over to the house, but when his mother went to fetch him, she found him dead in his room. He was colourless and his eyes and mouth were frozen open in horror. His ring finger had been ripped off of his hand.
The explanation for the V on the crypt that many claim means "vampire" is that the symbol is actually a lily with stylized leaves that are Victorian. The blackening on the tomb is most likely from rain runoff and pollution. But it sure is fun to believe a vampire lurks within this very cool looking crypt.
The other area of interest is known as the Witch's Circle. This can be found in the oldest part of the cemetery, by Chestnut Street. The graves here are placed in a circle and are very old. Two of them have darkened stones. These two graves are said to belong to the two heads of a coven. They died in the late 1800s and the legend claims that the stones were blackened when Satan came to drag their souls to Hell. At least, that is one version. Another claims that the coven practiced their magic in the circle and that the Devil sent a fire from Hell to burn up the witches and the blackening is scorch marks. People claim that you can hear disembodied footsteps, usually behind you and when you turn you will see no one, except a big black dog, who will try to attack you. Thankfully, he disappears right before he chomps.
Evergreen and Vegors Cemeteries in Iowa
Evergreen Cemetery is found in Vinton, Iowa and is located at 1002 E. 10th Street. The city of Vinton was founded in 1849 and incorporated in 1869. It was named for Hon. Plynn Vinton, a state legislator. The graveyard was established in 1853 and has over 8500 burials. Burials have continued up until our present day. There is a huge flea market held on the adjacent grounds every summer.
There are a couple of well known burials here. The first is for Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General James Loraine Geddes. He was born in Scotland, and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1837. He would go to a British military academy and serve in their army for seven years. In 1857, he settled on a farm in Benton county, Iowa. He raised a company of volunteers for the 8th Iowa infantry when the Civil War started and he became their captain. He worked up the ranks until he was wounded and captured at the Battle of Shiloh. He spent time in Libby prison in Richmond. He was released in a prisoner exchange and fought at Vicksburg and Jackson. He became a professor of military tactics and engineering at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames and later became vice president of the college and treasurer of the institution. He died in 1887 when he was only 59. He is buried beneath a draped obelisk.
Buren Robinson Sherman was Iowa Governor from 1882 to 1886. He too fought in the Civil War. He served as a State Court Judge in Iowa in 1865 and as the Iowa State Auditor from 1875 to 1881. He died in 1904 at the age of 68. His stone is granite with an American flag engraved across the bottom.
This cemetery apparently has a lady in white who rides on a horse and is seen riding up and down the train tracks. One of the areas in the cemetery is for unknown soldiers. People have reported seeing strange phenomena around a military statue there and full-bodied apparitions of soldiers hang around the area.
Vegors Cemetery is located in Stratford, Iowa, which was platted in 1880. Stratford was named for Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The cemetery is believed to have been a burial ground for four Native American tribes originally from 500BC to 1200AD. These were the typical mound type burials. White settlers moved into the area in the early 1800s and they did a stupid thing. Yep, they moved the bodies, so they could use the burial ground as their own. These moved tribe people would be honored in 1960 when E.H. Hawbaker erected a monument in the cemetery to give recognition to the fact that the hilltop cemetery had significance before the settlers came.
There are multiple hauntings at the cemetery. One reason for the hauntings could be the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857. In the spring of 1857, Wahpekute Dakota Chief Inkpaduta and his band of warriors descended on the homesteads near Spirit Lake, which is near the Vegors Cemetery. They massacred a bunch of people because a whiskey runner and bad guy named Henry Lott and his son killed Inkpaduta’s blood brother Sintomniduta and Sintomniduta’s wife and five children in 1854. Inkpaduta asked the military to punish Lott, but Lott managed to get away. Lott was never found, and justice was never served. Many people were massacred in 1857 by the Native Americans. Legends claim that Mrs. Henry Lott was murdered at this time and that her spirit is said to haunt the graveyard and is seen as a full-bodied apparition. At least that is the legend. The Mrs. Lott I found here has on her tombstone that she died in 1849 from exposure of Indian raid. She is not buried in the cemetery. She was probably buried near the cabin. She was the first white woman to die in the area.
Other hauntings at the cemetery include full-bodied apparitions of
Native Americans, probably because their graves were desecrated. The
beating of drums is heard on the air as well. Anonymous posted on 5/24/2017: my friends and I went to vegors many times last summer and we walked through the whole cemetery to see the really old graves and sat near the memorial of mrs.lotts and then sat on a cement bench, first we heard a whistle and then a huge sound of voices as if you were in a stadium occurred and became louder and louder and got closer to us. we decided to move around and continued hearing whistles and drums and sounds mimicking what sounded like Indian calls. we heard screams, and you feel such a presence of paranormal activity while being here it is very active.
Odd Fellows Rest
This graveyard is located in
New Orleans, Louisiana. Odd Fellows Rest is considered one of the most
mysterious graveyards in the world and there are those that claim it is
the most haunted in New Orleans. No small feat, considering that nearly
all graveyards in New Orleans claim that label. Odd Fellows Rest is
located at the corner of Canal Street and City Park Avenue near St.
Patrick Cemetery No. 2. This graveyard was founded in 1847 and its
primary purpose was to hold the remains of members of the Grand Lodge of
the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows are one of the
largest fraternal organizations in the United States. This is a secret
society that dates back to the 15th century and started in England. It
arrived in America around 1806. Most members were tradesmen with unusual
or odd professions. Unlike other secret societies, this one was open to
both men and women. The society flourished in America and reached its
peak during World War I. Popularity dwindled after that and by the late
1970s, membership was down from three million to about 250,000. Most of
the Odd Fellows Lodge Halls in the US have been sold off or left
Their burials have a very distinctive
symbol, which features three linked chains. This symbolizes the tenets
of friendship, love and truth. Many times, the all-seeing eye
accompanies the chains along with shaking hands. The dedication ceremony took place on February 29, 1849. This was a huge and elaborate event with a funeral procession that was fit for a
king. The Odd Fellows disinterred the remains of sixteen of their members that had been buried elsewhere and put them in a sarcophagus. They brought the remains in a caravan that had two circus bandwagons, one of which was pulled by sixteen horses, and a funeral
car. The single sarcophagus was to symbolize the burial of the cemetery’s first
The Odd Fellows were not only forward in their thinking about membership for women, but they were against segregation. In many cemeteries, blacks were not allowed to be buried next to whites. The Odd Fellows felt they deserved the same honors, so they opened the cemetery to people of color. They had purchased the land for $700 and expanded with the help of local donations, which they needed to do because the cemetery filled up quickly. In a few short years, the Odd Fellows had
erected two hundred vaults and the tomb of the Teutonia Lodge number
ten. Walls were named for past grand masters of
the Order and enclosed the cemetery. Plots were filled by 1930.
As is the case with
most graveyards in New Orleans, getting access to this cemetery is
difficult. The only real entrance is through The Herb Import Company
that is next to the graveyard. You have to ask somebody there to be let
in and it is at their discretion. They give you a number, so you can
call when you want to be let back out. I've also heard that due to
restoration efforts, they do not allow anybody inside. So I'm not really
sure you can peruse this one. Perhaps you could sip a tea on the back
patio of this establishment and you should be able to at least SEE the
graveyard. And it really seems as though it is a site to see with elaborate epitaphs. Other symbols seen throughout the graveyard include beehives, the mother and her children, the cornucopia, the world, the Bible, the
five-pointed stars and the initials "I.O. of O.F."
Urban legends abound here. Some people claim that zombies roam the grounds. Others declare that they have seen ghost cats. There does seem to be a ghost dog here and it is accompanied by its owner whom people call Mr. Mike. He seems to be a friendly spirit and is seen wearing a white t-shirt and dark pants and he is always walking a large dog. There is no other information about him, so I'm not sure if he was an Odd Fellow or if he hangs out here for another reason. His dress makes me think that he is not buried here.
Riverside Cemetery in Asheville
Riverside Cemetery is found in Asheville, North Carolina, in the Montford Historic District, and this is a large cemetery that holds the dearly departed remains of over 13,000 people. Some of those people are quite famous. The cemetery is located at 53 Birch St. and the oldest known grave here is from December of 1885. Some burials are so old, it is hard to see the inscriptions and as is the case in all cemeteries, some are unmarked due to loss of a marker or perhaps a family did not have the means for a stone. This is not only one of the more well known cemeteries in the state, it is said to be the most haunted graveyard in North Carolina.
Riverside Cemetery was established in 1885. The years have blossomed this cemetery into a beautifully matured landscape with meandering roads. This is a great example of a garden cemetery. One fun epitaph declares, ""Meant Well, Tried a little, Failed much." The Battle of Asheville took place in 1865, less than a mile from the cemetery. Many of the dead are buried here. There are also dead from the other wars buried here, including 18 German soldiers from WWI.
O. Henry was born William Sidney Porter. He was born in 1862 and was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He began his working career as a teenager working in his uncle's drugstore. He became a licensed pharmacist, but enjoyed spending much of his time sketching the portraits of customers. He moved to Texas hoping to get rid of a cough he had developed. While there, he worked in a bank and was charged with embezzlement. His father-in-law posted his bail, but he ran away to new orleans and then to Honduras. He eventually returned to Texas when he heard that his wife was dying of TB. She passed away and he served his time in jail. He wrote as a hobby, but pursued it more when he was released and got a job with The Post in Houston. He began his prolific short story writing career in 1902. He was a heavy drinker and he became quite ill in 1908. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1910.
Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900. He began his writing career at the University of North Carolina, where he attended college. He wrote several one-act plays and edited the school newspaper. He moved to New York in 1923 and this became his home. Three years later, he started his novel "Look Homeward, Angel." The novel was a critical success, but angered some of his friends in Asheville who recognized themselves as characters in the book. He continued publishing works, but his creativity was cut off early. He died at the age of 37 from tuberculosis of the brain in 1938.
There are claims of multiple hauntings here and many of those seem to be connected to the Battle of Asheville. The shouts of troops are heard and there is also the disarming exchange of gunfire. An entire regiment of ghostly Confederate soldiers has been seen as well. A couple of the other ghosts belong to children. Their small apparitions are seen and the disembodied laughter of children is heard. The spirit of an old man is seen wandering among the tombstones, but no one is sure which burial he belongs to.
Each of these cemeteries has its own unique features, but they are all beautiful and peaceful. Save for the spirits that seem to be at unrest. Are the legends real? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!